I was in college when two of my classmates died in a boating accident. We were part of an intimate group of friends, and upon hearing of their death, we were utterly devastated. While I had been to several funerals up until that time, I felt the death of those young men stung me so much more…maybe I was at a level where I could understand the meaning of death or maybe I realized how young and vibrant they were when they breathed their last breath.
I remember flopping down on my dorm room bed and sobbing while a friend comforted me. We couldn’t believe it, couldn’t bear it. There were not many words, just sobs and tears in that room. What was there to say? Even though we tried to figure out all the details of their accident, we couldn’t grasp the reality that they were gone. The details didn’t matter, their silence did. As a group of friends, we recalled the good times that were shared and encouraged each other. There was a lot of silent moments of pondering.
Isn’t it like us when we face an unbelievable situation in life that we try to hash out the details and the reasons and make the story fit into a little box in our minds? We usually end up with more “what if’s” than answers.
How about when comforting a friend who is going through a devastating loss or a life event that seems unfair? We want to come up with a reason or want to play “the blame game”…when in reality they don’t need an explanation, they need a shoulder.
Job’s friends failed him when he needed their comfort the most. They blamed him, and they came up with a list of reasons for his losses. That’s not what Job needed. Job responds to their words in Job 16:4: “I also could speak like you, if you were in my place;” He says if the tables were turned, he, too, could speak. Yet, the difference would be that he would “encourage” his friend to bring him relief (Job 16:5).
What a lesson in how to handle a difficult conversation when you’re with a friend! If you decide to speak, let it be words of encouragement. If you decide not to speak, that’s okay, too. Your presence alone speaks volumes.