As a writer, words swirl through my mind. Sentences demand attention during the midnight hour, inconveniently parading like so many rebellious sheep refusing to be counted. I cherish these moments of a pen scratching against a paper with nouns and verbs taking shaping to create something meaningful. Something beautiful. As a writer, I have so many things to say.
Yet, as a pastor’s wife, I’ve learned to cultivate something else. Something altogether difficult when the thing I crave most is to speak. To inform. To guide. To encourage. Perhaps the hardest discipline is silence. I’m not talking about a detached silence, but honest-to-goodness listening that digs deep into another person’s core. A silence that allows that person to think out loud and wrestle with what is troubling them. A silence that provides a safe place for grief to be expressed.
It’s in that moment when someone else is aching, living their Job scenario as the world around them crashes, I realize that I simply do not always have the right words.
I may never have the right words no matter what raw experiences I bring to the table. I can only listen, sit side by side with that individual, and pray.
In the book of Job, his friends nearly got it right. At first, they wept with him and empathized with his plight of losing family and finances. They even rubbed themselves with dirt while sitting beside Job. The display of comfort didn’t last long. Within days, Job’s pain was far too much a burden for them to carry. So, they spoke. Lots of words. Perhaps well-intentioned and certainly pious. The words carried accusations and plenty of blame. Did Job sin and bring the calamity to himself? Wasn’t he to blame for all this tragedy?
In the quest for answers and comfort, it is easy to slip out platitudes that sound as sweet as cotton candy but have little substance. It’s all for the best. God never sends people more adversity than they can handle.
In Romans 12:15, we are advised to: Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
We recognize that we do not have all the answers, and sometimes, the road of suffering is a long, long journey of which we never leave the side of the individual walking it. That kind of friendship takes commitment and a willingness to deposit the burden at the feet of Jesus.
We walk with those hurting, but we cannot take their load.
So instead, we remember that it is God who sustains during the dark valley. He alone has the strength and wisdom to deal the situations that overwhelm us. He alone carries us to safety. He alone can remove that burden. However, there is tremendous comfort when friends stay the course with the one who is hurting.
Isaiah 46:3-4, “Hearken to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am He, and to gray hairs, I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.”
If we are to speak, we refer back to God’s words.
In our so-called “worldly wisdom”, the comfort is often misplaced. God, however, speaks to us through His word, bringing wisdom and clarity to the situation at hand. Years ago, a miscarriage following the death of my mother, left a devastation I wasn’t prepared for. Yet the friends who ministered to me through casserole dishes, gentle tears, and whispered prayers, left a profound mark and a lifetime of lessons regarding love and service, each act pointing me back to Christ.
Psalm 69:18, Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Selah
They listened and when I was ready to hear, they spoke.
1 Thessalonians 5:11, Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.