Job 1:13 “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.”
She was taken off of life support yesterday. She was eight years old. She had been a healthy young girl until December 20 when she got sucked into a snowblower. That her mother was operating.
Several of us were processing this yesterday morning with the colleague who would be with the family as they pulled the plug. The colleague who was charged to be Christ in that moment and in that place. We all prayed and cried with him before he went. We talked amongst ourselves about the uselessness of words in such a time and we remembered the story of Job and his friends…the friends who at first seemed to understand the importance of just being present, as they sat with Job and his suffering in silence.
But, as one colleague put it, “Job’s friends were fine until they opened their mouths.” Which is true. They grew impatient in their waiting and after their seven days of silence, they began to offer their explanations and advice to Job…explanations and advice that God condemns at the end of the book.
Most of us would do well to pay attention and learn from Job’s friends. When friends or loved ones are experiencing great suffering, even if it does not seem so great to us, they do not need our words. They don’t need us to explain God’s actions, which we can’t do anyway, and they certainly don’t need us to tell them to get over it and look for the silver lining. When we enter the world of another’s suffering, we should come with a roll of duct tape to be applied liberally to our lips. It is a time simply to be present.
We can do things. We can make dinner, replace the tissues, run the errands, or simply sit and read a book while they take solace in dreams. We should never, under any circumstances, say anything remotely like “God has a reason for this,” unless, of course, you are trying to make an atheist out of them. All God says in those moments is, “I love you,” and those are the words we may speak in the darkness.
Do pray this week for that mother, for her husband, and for their other children, who saw the accident. And learn from the friends of Job.
Help me, God, to learn simply to be present with those who suffer.
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