Archives For grief

Silence. Please.

Pilgrim in Progress —  December 16, 2012 — Leave a comment

I thought this was a great post over at the Internet Monk.

I am convinced more and more every day — and especially in the light of tragic events yesterday — that the wisdom Christians in the U.S. need to learn is found in the Book of Job.

Read the full posts here: Silence. Please.

 

You may recall that I blogged a bit on the book of Job here and here.

 

image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

tired man ID-10032629

 

 

When we left our three friends in the previous post they were doing so well with Good Grief Guidance.  But then things started to go terribly wrong.  So wrong, in fact, that Job states:

“A despairing man should have the devotion of his friends, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.  But my brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams, as the streams that overflow when darkened by thawing ice and swollen with melting snow, but that cease to flow in the dry season, and in the heat vanish from their channels.  .  .  .  Now you too have proved to be of no help; you see something dreadful and are afraid.   Job 6:14-17,

So what happened?  The short answer is “they opened their mouths.”  The longer answer is that they were wrong as to the reason for Job’s calamities.  Forgive me if you think I am being too simplistic, but this is a blog post after all, not a dissertation!  The ancients believed that there was a connection between one’s actions and the ensuing blessings or curses.  If one is obedient to the commands of the Lord, blessings will follow.  If one is disobedient, curses will follow.  Hence, wealth is a sign of God’s favor.  And we know from the first chapter of Job that he was considered a righteous man who had been blessed abundantly.  As readers, we are privy to the behind the scenes machinations that lead to Job’s cataclysmic losses.  However, his friends are not.  Therefore, they assume that since his life has turned from blessings to curses, Job must have acted disobediently toward God.

So Job finds that not only has he lost almost everything, but his friends are now turning on him!  He protests his innocence, but to no avail.  His friends have assumed his guilt and are now intent on gaining his confession regarding his disobedience.  Sadly, Job’s friends did not stand with him and they proved to be undependable in the midst of his despair.

So what does it mean to be a dependable friend to someone who is on a difficult journey?  And how can we become a dependable friend?   We as men are often too quick to diagnose things and then attempt to “fix” whatever we believe to be the problem.  If you are one of these troubleshooting “fixer” types, your brain begins to erupt like lightning when a problem presents itself.  You rapidly process facts, problems, possibilities, outcome scenarios and then, viola!  You deliver the Coup de grace!

Unfortunately, we can be a bit to rapid with our conclusions.  When our friends struggle it is easy (just like Job’s friends) to assume certain things without knowing all of the facts.  Perhaps it would be better to suffer alongside of them, to listen to their lament, and be supportive as they search for answers.  Job was part of a drama far bigger than he.  He was a  pawn in a powerful game which neither he nor his friends were aware of.  Who know but that we and our friends are involved in a drama much bigger than we?

Job cried out for friends who would remain devoted even in difficult circumstances.  What, then, is the key to the devotion, loyalty, integrity, respect and consideration that we all crave in our relationships?  Love.  Not the silly, saccharine kind of love portrayed in movies and television, but rather the kind that would lay down its life for the sake of another.  A love that sacrifices itself for the benefit of the one being loved.  St. Paul eloquently expresses the meaning of real love in his first letter to the Corinthians.

  It’s too bad that Job’s friends did not have the benefit of this letter.

But we do.

 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self‑seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.  I Corinthians 13:4-8

So what constitutes a devoted friend?  One who always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, always protects.

And now you know what the three friends did not.  Will it change how you live?

What are your suggestions for remaining a devoted friend to those who are going through difficult circumstances?  I want to hear your ideas!

So what do you do when a friend falls on hard times?  How do you bring comfort to a person who has lost a loved one?  How do you bring strength and encouragement to someone whose body is wasting away?  Most of us are very uncomfortable in these situations.  We know we should extend some consolation, some means of grace, but we often shy away because we feel inadequate to the task.  At a loss for what to say or how to act.

The Bible tells a story about a man named Job.  He is described as “blameless and upright” one who “fears God and shuns evil.”  And he was also very rich — in material possessions and in family relationships.    However, tragedy strikes Job and he loses virtually everything.  His material possessions, his children, his health.  Let’s let the text tell us what happens next:

When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.  When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.  Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.  After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. Job 2:11-3:1

It is important to note that Job’s friends start out on the right track here, and we can learn something from them.  They realized that their friend Job had suffered great tragedy.  They cared enough to take a journey to his place for the purpose of bringing him comfort.  They grieved deeply with him for the suffering and tragedy that he was experiencing.  And they offered him the gift of their presence — and silence.  Recognizing the depths of his grief, pain and suffering, they were wise enough to keep their mouths shut.  Really, what can you say in a situation like this?  “I understand?”  Of course they don’t.  “It will all work out?”  “It’s part of God’s plan?”  How could they know that?

So often when we are present with those who are grieving we think we have to say something.  Even worse, we think we have to say something profound, or witty, or spiritual.  I submit that the best thing we can do is keep our mouths shut.  And wait.  I think there is something comforting, something life giving, something strengthening when offer the gift of silent presence to those who are suffering.  And when we are caring enough, when we are loving enough — to wait for them.

We are often impatient when confronted with those in grief.  We want to push the process forward.  We want to offer our part and then move on.  But true love, true compassion — is patient.  Job’s friends patiently supported him with their quiet presence until he was finally ready to speak.   And when he spoke, the pain poured out.

I confess that I used to run from situations like Job’s.  And I hated the Christmas Carol events at nursing homes.  I didn’t know how to act or what to say.  But I learned what Job’s friends demonstrated here:  I didn’t need to have the right words.  I didn’t need to perform.  I just needed to be present.  To smile, to touch, to cry, to love.

How about you?  What have you learned about being with those who have suffered loss?  How do you bring comfort to those in the midst of suffering and sorrow?  I would love to know, because this is an area where most of us need to grow!

Oh, and Job’s friends?  While they start off the story with some great guidance regarding those who grieve, they turn into three goofs as the story goes on.  But that, as they say, is for another day!