Job 16:2 – I have heard all this before. What miserable comforters you are! (NLT)
Regardless of where she went, she couldn't find comfort.
Leah and her husband were never apart. They even volunteered at the same place after they retired. Both appeared to be in good health, so you can imagine Leah's shock when her husband dropped dead. Jeff was outside cutting grass. He'd had no recent health concerns. But when Leah saw him stumble in the doorway and say that he wasn't feeling well, she could see that something wasn't right. Within a few minutes, he had slumped over, never to recover.
Although months have passed since Jeff's death, Leah still mourns and suffers with anxiety and depression. She has been to counsellors, pastors, and friends, but nothing seems to soothe her pain. She can't focus, and she struggles to make it through each day. She left her old church, saying that she just couldn't stand to attend without Jeff. Leah longs for lasting comfort, but she can't find it anywhere.
Job didn't find it with his fair-weather friends either. He had lost almost everything that a person could lose and still survive. What's worse, God permitted his woes to prove to Satan that Job would maintain his loyalty to God despite extreme adversity. The only comfort that Job's friends could muster was telling him that he had sinned. "Confess, and things will get better" was their advice. Job, however, had nothing to confess. He maintained his innocence and muddled through his pain and sorrow.
Job's friends did what is typical. They thought that they had to say something to soothe his grief — and they did. But what they said didn't do the trick, nor was it biblically sound. Telling someone that God needed another angel or that we know how they feel is hollow comforting. God doesn't take life to get angels, nor do humans become angels after death — and no two people experience similar episodes in the same way.
Presence in the midst of grief is better than words. Sharing truth from God's Word can be comforting, but timing is critical. Sitting and listening and letting the person cry on one's shoulder is better. When the time is right, they'll ask, and then we can share words of wisdom that they might need to hear. For the moment, silence is golden, and practical help is priceless.
Comforting those who grieve is tricky business. Before we speak or act, let's pray and ask God for direction and wisdom.
Prayer: Father, give us wisdom to know how to comfort those who are hurting with grief. Amen.
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