Sitting in Silence, lessons learned from Job’s Friends

7th print from William Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job, pub. 1826

How often, when people are going through loss or tragedy, do we lament that we just don’t know what to say? Maybe that even holds us back from approaching others in their time of grief. The friends of Job may have plenty of words to say to him in his time of great suffering, but they don’t make up with quantity what they lack in quality. They come to bring comfort, but instead accuse him. I think we fear having wrong words like those three and that fear holds us back in a state of inaction.

To their credit they begin their time with Job with a great show of solidarity and compassion. The three come to him, tear their clothes, cover themselves in ashes, and sit with him. They sit with him in silence for seven days and seven nights. Here was a man who had lost so much and was enduring great physical pain. Did they have the perfect thing to say that would make everything better? Of course not. What could they say? But Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar come to be by Job’s side.

They show compassion, a word whose root means to suffer with. They sit and suffer with Job, and that at least can be something we learn from them.

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