Wednesday, June 12, 2013

And Then They Opened Their Mouths

“When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, 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 from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 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 2:11-13 (NIV).
I had just poured out the details of a heartbreaking situation to a friend and the emotions were starting to catch up with all I’d shared. The tears welled up as soon as she wrapped her arm around me. All I remember her saying as she comforted me was “I am so sorry.” She didn’t try to cheer me up, give advice, promise me that everything would be okay (she’d heard enough to know better), quote Scripture, or remind me to trust God as if it hadn’t occurred to me do that; she just rode out the storm with me. Even now, I am grateful for her precious gift of knowing when to stop speaking. For that sweet few minutes, regardless of what she might have wanted to say, or how awkward the silence mingled with a friend’s weeping may have felt, she was willing to be quiet and let me be a mess. When it was time to talk again, her words reflected the heart of a sister in Christ who remembered what it felt like to be so devastated that nothing anyone said could make it better.
Two years later almost to the day, I sat with another friend. I finally had closure in the situation that I’d shed so many tears over. After five days of numbness, the ice was melting. I asked her if we could pray, but suddenly found myself fumbling over what I needed prayer for. She took my hand. Her prayer lasted less than a minute. Then we sat in silence. I eventually found my voice, not because she coaxed me, “Come on, just say what’s on your heart,” but because those quiet moments as we waited for the Holy Spirit to work freed me. Once again, I thanked God for sending a friend who knew when to speak and when not to.      
If I had to choose one thing that surviving crisis has taught me, it would be this: sometimes the best, most helpful, most Christ-like thing we can say to a hurting friend is nothing, at least until God gives us words that will sooth instead of sting. I think God wants me to cling to this lesson, because it has come up in conversation twice in the past two weeks, both times with people who have experienced the beauty of quiet comforters and the burn of unchecked words.   
“Look at Job’s friends,” one lady said when a bunch of us were talking over coffee one Saturday, “They sat in the ashes with him for seven days.”
“And then they opened their mouths,” two of us responded at once.
And sadly, they are remembered more for their hurtful talk than those quiet days of sharing Job’s grief. How often have we heard, “Don’t be like Job’s friends?”
Actually, I do want to be like Job’s friends. I want to be like they were before they started talking and became, as one writer put it, “slightly less awesome.” (I love that description!) I pray that I will hold on very tightly to both the sweet and painful examples of how to, and how not to, help someone through a trial, and that moments with hurting sisters in Christ will end with them feeling comforted instead of wishing they’ll poured their soul out to someone else.
When has a friend comforted you through her presence alone? How have you learned the power of being silent when someone is hurting? Thank God today for those who have shown you what it means to be a Christ-like friend.   

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Blogger Kaystrom said...

While all my Christian friends seemed to stumble over each other giving me platitutes and cherry picked scripture verses, a neighbor came to my house and sat with me. Then she said, "Go, take the afternoon off. I'm staying with your husband today." Oh, what a gift! What a gift!

7:10 PM  
Blogger Jeanette Hanscome said...

This is a gift! What a precious friend. Thank you so much for sharing that!

7:14 PM  
Blogger Ryan LaChapell said...

"those quiet moments as we waited for the Holy Spirit to work freed me" beautifully express another reason why we should value silence in these moments. Thank you for this new insight. You are "slightly more awesome" for your transparency and for the lessons you take time to share with others. Pamela

7:16 AM  
Blogger Jeanette Hanscome said...

Thank you, Pam! I have definitely learned to value silence over the need to have something to say. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

9:10 AM  

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