Posted by MK | Filed under Bible Study
Their friend was crushed. Emotionally, spiritually, even physically. His life had been decimated and he wept in the dust. So they went to him.
Three friends. Three comrades. Three fellow travelers on earth. They went to him, and they sat there beside the broken remnants of the great man they once knew. And for 7 days, that’s all they did.
And in those days, they said nothing. No words of sympathy. No expressions of sorrow. No “feel better” phrases. They simply sat along with their friend, and that was the best thing they could do. But then, after those 7 days, they began to speak.
Once they started, they couldn’t shut up.
The friends of Job got it right at first. They went to their friend offering not their words but their presence. That was the best thing they could do. But then they messed everything up by opening their mouths.
Sometimes, for those in grief, nothing is the best thing you can say. We have, as Christians, an amazing propensity, to say dumb things to those in pain. The things we say might be theologically accurate (or in the case of Job’s friends, they might not). Regardless, just because they’re “right” doesn’t mean they’re helpful. Not in that moment.
But still we feel the need to speak. We feel the need to say that everything will be okay, that all will work together for good, that he’s in a better place now. All true, and yet none offer the balm of healing that lessens the pain in the moment. In fact, I have to wonder what the motivation might be behind such statements.
Is it that we want to offer a word of hope? A consolation of truth? Or is it that we are so very uncomfortable with deep, real, gut wrenching pain, that we are actually trying to make ourselves feel better so that we don’t have to sit in the middle of that much and mire?
Careful here, because I’m not saying that the gospel should not be proclaimed at funerals. And I’m not saying that there is never a time to point the grieving back to the words God has given us for comfort. I am saying, however, that truth like this must be wielded carefully and thoughtfully, lest we bring it down onto the heads of the grieving like a theological sledge hammer.
Jesus knew this, I think. He knew that sometimes the best thing you can say is actually nothing. And He knew it better than we do. So when He came in John 11 to the grave of His friend and the grief of Lazarus’ sister Mary, He offered no theological treatise, no simple explanation for death, not even a statement of His own actions that had led to the death.
There would be another time for that. But not right then. Right then, in His great compassion and wisdom, Jesus offered something equally right and yet infinitely more helpful: