“When Job’s three friends…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…they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud…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.” Job 2:11.
The Jewish foundation for mourning was a ritual called sitting shiva. This ritual involved friends and family surrounding their suffering loved one for a period of seven days in presence and relative silence. When Job’s friends heard of all the adversity and suffering that had occurred to their friend they went to him to encourage and comfort Job. Job had suffered financial loss, property loss, loss in his livelihood and was in immense grief in the deaths of all of his children. The final straw was when his health also was impacted. I want to stop here in this story to examine the love and support of friends during our adversities.
It was the beginning of February of 2009. My grandmother, my spiritual mentor had just passed on to heaven. My dad’s cancer had spread to his liver and we were literally watching the earthly life leave my sister as the heavenly life settled in. My husband was 8 weeks towards recovery of his knee replacement, still experiencing great pain. My son-in-law had relapsed and left my daughter and three children, leaving us wondering if he was even alive. As if these adversities weren’t enough to bear, my 17 year old daughter received a phone call that her boyfriend of 2 years had been killed in a motorcycle accident. The culmination of that month was insurmountable in pain and inscribable in words. Had it not been for my family and friends who traveled through this journey with me I fear I would have lost my mind.
Throughout the Bible we are told that the number 7 is symbolic for completeness. Our friends never left us and sat around us in every pain, every suffering and every tear until the healing was complete. Many days they offered nothing but precious shiva – their precious presence and quiet spirits. While they might have searched their hearts for the right things to say, their comfort was given in their presence and not in their words. There were no words, just arms to hug with, shoulders to cry on and lips to whisper prays for us.
I will never be able to express in words the comfort and encouragement from my friends in a time when I could barely get off the ground. They surrounded me with sitting shiva and I will never forget their sacrifice. We are often tempted when we hear the devastating news of a friend to pull back out of our own discomfort. We must be the friends who come to the side of those friends we love and sit with them in silence. Thank you to all my sweet friends who allowed God to flow through them in a time when I was broken.
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