I attended a funeral a couple of days ago for a young man I never met. It was gut-wrenching.
I have a son just six months younger than this young man was at his death. It’s scary to see this kind of thing happen. The specific circumstances are not relevant to my purpose, but suffice it to say that the young man’s family has been devastated by this tragedy.
I see around me people here and there dealing with struggles of various sorts. As a pastor, it’s expected that I will be one of those who walk in where the hurting are even when everyone else is staying away. People look to me and hope for words of comfort, insights of wisdom…something. But what I have learned is that no words or deeds can take away the pain.
I’m reminded of one of the strangest stories in the Bible – the account of the life of a man named Job. His name is equated with patience which is the word we use now instead of the old term “long-suffering.” In one day he lost all of His livestock (which is equivalent to losing one’s life savings, retirement fund, and reserves – just about everything) and all seven of his sons and his three daughters. ONE. DAY.
And somehow Job, in the midst of his heartache and sorrow managed to acknowledge the sovereignty of God. He did what grieving people did in those days and sat in the ash heap. He was broken and hurting and confused.
Now Job had three friends who were probably better friends to him than most of us will ever be. (Bible scholars, hear me out here before you brand me a lunatic or heretic or any other kind of ‘tic.) These dudes – Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar – heard about Job’s tragic circumstances. And they did what good friends do – they came to him.
We tend to zoom out and see that Job’s friends gave him horrible counsel and really called him out for his lack of repentance. That’s true. But we overlook the part in between. In the last verse of Job chapter two, we read this powerful account of their compassion:
“And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.”
Seven days and seven nights they sat with him. They didn’t say a word. They just sat with him – on the ground, in the ashes, in the dust.
Why do I say that these men were great friends? Because they just sat and listened and waited until Job felt like talking. The problems started when they tried to give advice and perpsective on things that they could not possibly know. They tried to interpret the circumstances through the ever-so-limited perspective of men. If they had just kept doing what they were doing – listening to Job, hurting with Job, just sitting with him there in the ash heap – we would think much differently about these men than we tend to do.
The lesson I have learned from my own time sitting in the ash heap? SHUT UP. Quit trying to say something to make it better. Just be there. Cry. Pray. Listen. When it’s time, laugh. Laugh and cry at the same time.
The old familiar phrase we’ve heard so many times – “don’t just stand there, do something!” It’s no good. When hearts are broken and wounds are hurting, we need to turn it around.
Dont just do something, stand there.
A couple of different friends have shared this image and I think it’s very insightful.
One of the greatest tricks of our enemy is to convince us we’re all alone in our pain – and by doing so make it worse. Don’t let him do that to people you love.
Don’t just do something, stand there.