Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12:15 NIV)
Some time ago, I gave unwanted advice to a friend, who was facing a crisis. My gracious friend knew I intended to help, but I realized my error and knew that my silence was needed more than my words. Soon afterward, I read the book of Job and learned a lesson from his friends, who came to comfort him after he lost his children, his property, his wealth, and his health.
When Job’s friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, heard about his tragic loss, they traveled from their homes and met together to visit him. They wept aloud when they saw the grief-stricken Job, who was barely recognizable. For seven days and seven nights, they sat with him in silence. But their good intentions turned into fruitless lectures, accusations, and heated debates about why he was suffering. They reasoned that he had sin in his life, and God was punishing him. But God had a different perspective and called Job a blameless man (Job 1:8).
Job’s friends did well by coming to him and giving him their time, but they lacked wisdom and talked too much. Their false accusations send a message: we must be careful what we assume to be true in someone’s life. The human instinct is to ask why, but God’s ways are unlike ours, and we do not have all the answers. Silence, a hug or a listening ear are often the best responses to someone’s suffering. Our job is not to overanalyze the problem or to blame the victim. We need to be a friend in Christ. Our suffering friends need to know we care.
Father, help us to be sensitive to the needs of those who suffer. Give us the wisdom to know when to speak and when to be silent. In Jesus’ name. Amen.