Aside from his wife, Job had lost it all. His children, his livelihood, his health – all gone within minutes. Three of his friends showed up to try to comfort him, and they did – for a while. But then they opened their mouths…
On and on they went trying to explain to Job what had happened to him. Worse yet, because they believed that bad things only happen to bad people, they blamed Job for his many losses. Soon their trip of comforting and consoling turned into a barrage of accusations. Let’s allow Job to tell us what he needed – and what he didn’t:
Listen closely to what I am saying. That’s one consolation you can give me.
Bear with me, and let me speak. After I have spoken, you may resume mocking me…How can your empty clichés comfort me? All your explanations are lies! (Job 21:2-3,34,NLT)
While much could be said about the empty clichés we tend to throw out to those who are suffering, I’d rather focus on what Job said he needed in his darkest hour. In short, he needed his friends to patiently listen. Period. He needed to vent; to let out his frustrations; to air his many questions. To Job, their silent, listening presence was consoling.
“Consolation” in this verse comes from a Hebrew word which meant “to sigh or to breathe strongly.” It was used to express sorrow, pity, and comfort. Folks, sometimes a sincere sigh brings much more comfort than well-intended words. During deep sorrow, our words tend to ring hollow. Instead of uttering empty clichés, let’s practice the ministry of our silent, supportive presence.
When hearts are heavy, it is more important for us to be present than to be heard. Consoling is done more with our ears than with our words. –Dave
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