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Sitting in silence

July 25, 2017

Have you ever sat in silence?  I mean for more than a few minutes.  If you’ve done this with someone nearby it might feel awkward, maybe even rude.  Of course, if you know the person well it doesn’t feel as awkward.  How about sitting for 7 solid days with someone without saying a word?!  That would feel like years!

In the book of Job, we have an account of 3 men doing just that.  They sat with their friend for 7 days in total silence.  If you’ve been around church any length of time you know parts of the story of Job.  You at least know that he lost all his children, all his livestock, and all his servants in one day.  You also know that he was struck from his head to his feet with infected boils and blisters.  You know that his three friends showed up and talked to him, a lot.  Their words were of no comfort to Job.  In fact, they had the audacity to blame Job for this turn of events!  The Bible says that Job experienced these things because God allowed Satan to bring this into his life.  God knew that Job would still praise God amid tragedy.

There are many lessons we learn in this story.  I want to focus on 2 little verses that we often overlook.  In chapter 2:12-13, Job’s friends have arrived at his home, they wept, tore their robes, and put ashes on their heads.  This was a sign of mourning.  Then, they sat down with Job in silence for 7 days.  No talking for 7 days.  Just sitting quietly.  Why did they do this?  The Bible says they were silent because they saw his suffering was very great.

In Romans 12:15 we are told to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.  We get the rejoicing part.  We do that very well.  The mourning part is harder for us.  After all, who enjoys being sad.  We are usually no good at mourning with others.  But God created us to live with one another.  We need each other.  We need to share joy and we need to share sorrow.  Too often our response to someone’s tragedy is, “I don’t know what to say…”  Then we go on to talk while saying nothing helpful.  Instead, we could simply be quiet.  We could say, “I don’t know what to say” and then just sit in silence with the one who is hurting.  Is it an uncomfortable silence?  It sure is!  Is it difficult?  Usually.  Those who are suffering tragedy don’t need to be instructed.  In fact, there is nothing you can say that can ease their pain.  We see that in the next few dozen chapters of Job as his friends have very unhelpful advice.

After the 7 days of silence, Job began to speak.  He started by wishing he had never been born.  Did he really feel that way?  At that moment, he did.  But he was really just lamenting.  If you are with someone who is in deep pain, let them lament.  You don’t have to respond to their every statement.  You don’t have to try and fix them.  You don’t have to help them get over it.  You just need to be there.  Sometimes in silence.  Mourn with those who mourn.  Just show up.

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