Once when we were walking through the ruins of Petra in the country of Jordan, a woman in our group became dizzy and lay down on the sandstone floor. I stayed with her while the rest of the group continued the tour. In a short time, a number of the local men came and sat nearby. I could see compassion on their faces, though they never said a word.
I was immediately reminded of Job—in the Bible. Job endured one catastrophe after another. He lost all his animals, his servants and all his sons and daughters. After that he was stricken with boils from head to toe. Three of Job’s friends came to sympathize with him. The Bible says 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 2:13 NIV).
Job’s friends would have achieved their goal to comfort him if they had remained silent. But after that they took it on themselves to try to explain to Job why he was suffering. They should have kept their mouths shut!
But, face it, sometimes when we go to visit a friend who is suffering or who has endured a loss, we too don’t know what to say or do. When Jesus was about to face the agony of crucifixion, my author-friend Gail MacDonald points out that Jesus asked two things of His disciples—that they watch with Him and pray with Him (Matthew 26:38, 41).[i]
These are two things we can do for our grieving friends. We may not know what to say. But any of us can sit with them and pray with them. You may be amazed how much comfort doing just that will bring to your friend!
[i] Gail MacDonald, A Step Farther and Higher (Sisters, OR (Multnomah Books, a part of Questar Publishers, Inc., 1991), 177.