Is there anyone out there who feels just really comfortable visiting with someone who is grieving? Seriously, if you're out there I'd love to hear from you. Do you feel like God just gifted you for reaching out to hurting people? Or do you have the spiritual gift of mercy? Or maybe life has just caused you so much grief that you are accustomed to the awkwardness, the silence, the helplessness of it all. I know it must seem like a strange and unwelcome gift at times, but I'd truly call that a gift of God. That ability to rush right to the side of someone who is experiencing loss, pain, grief, distress.
I have a hard time visiting or calling someone who is grieving. But because I'm married to a pastor who seems to do a pretty good job of it, I've tried to overcome my fears and feelings of inadequacy enough to get out there with him for at least a few visits. I've even made a few bereavement calls (I thinks that's the technical, ministerial term) on my own without my husband. But it's not been easy for me. God generally has to take me by the shoulders, turn me around from
the extremely important task that mundane thing which currently occupies my attention, point me in the direction of the hurting person, and give me a divine shove to get me moving. Even then I tend to pray all the way there, get out of the car only by the grace of God, and desperately hope there are others there visiting the grieving widow or hurting mom so they can carry the conversation and I won't have to.
You see that's my biggest problem. What do you say? What do you say to someone who is experiencing something you haven't yet gone through? What do you say to someone who is bravely bearing so much hurt, so much pain? What do you say to someone who has lost a loved one due to a senseless accident, a drunk driver, a drug overdose, or gunshot to the head? What do say to someone who has just lost the baby they carried for nine months? What in the world do you say?
When we study the book of Job, the one who lost so much so quickly, we often scoff at the friends who visited him during his grief. More than once these men certainly put their collective feet in their mouths. But today, as I read the initial chapters of this rather lengthy account, I saw something I hadn't seen before.
It turns out that, at least for a while, these men did just what they should have done for their grieving friend.
When the three men arrived at Job's place, what was left of it, and saw their hurting buddy they were shocked. He didn't even look like himself. You've probably noticed that is quite common when someone has been dealt a severe blow. They usually don't look like themselves. True, on top of losing most of his family and possessions Job had also been struck with boils all over his body. But my bet is that it was his disposition, his sadness and sorrow, that caused him to look so foreign to his friends.
Grieving people often look different than normal. And that can just add to the difficulty of the situation. You see your friend, your co-worker, your relative and they are hurting so badly that they don't even look like the same person you saw just yesterday. And, like Job's friends, you hurt. It breaks your heart to see your loved one like this. Their pain weighs heavy on you, their grief pulls at your heart, and you wonder if you can keep it together for their sake.
Jobs friends grieved with him. I think that was the right thing to do. Maybe we shouldn't tear our clothing or sprinkle dirt on our heads like these three middle easterners did, but like them we may shed a tear.
Then Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar did the most important thing.
So they sat down with him
on the ground seven days and seven nights,
and no one spoke a word to him,
for they saw that his grief was very great.
Now I'm not sure the three men should have stayed all seven days and nights. That may be why they eventually started saying some things better left unsaid. But I do find it commendable that they "sat down with him" and "no one spoke a word to him."
I've heard from those who have grieved that this one act of sympathy and kindness is often the most appreciated and the most appropriate...to just sit there. Not to rattle on with opinions or ill-timed suppositions or misinterpreted Bible verses or even "remember whens," but just to sit there, to be companions, to be with.
So if the Lord has you by the shoulders today and is in the process of pointing you toward someone who is grieving, someone who is hurting, and gently nudging you in their direction, why don't you simply do what these three friends did? Just go be with your friend. Don't worry about saying the right thing. Just don't say much of anything. Instead listen, hold their hand, get them a glass of water, or just be there. Not for seven days, mind you. Probably, unless you're a best friend or family member, not even for seven hours. But just go be there for a little while...long enough to let them know you care.