January 07, 2022
“What miserable comforters you are! Won’t you ever stop blowing hot air?” (Job 16:2 NLT)
Loss is painful. It carries depths of emotion that others cannot understand. But our lack of understanding should not abort our help. How can we effectively help the grieving?
Everyone faces loss, but no one experienced it quite like Job. He was devastated through the total loss of his children, fortune, and health in record time. He had three supposed friends who modeled how NOT to speak to the grieving.
DON’T SPOUT MEANINGLESS WORDS AND TIRED PHRASES
“I have heard all this before. Won’t you ever stop blowing hot air? What makes you keep on talking (vs. 2-3)
As you talk to the grieving, you don’t need to explain why this happened or what they should do next. The truth is you probably don’t know. Sometimes our greatest help is just to be present and listen with love and sympathy. In the absence of understanding more trite phrases are not helpful.
DON’T ASSUME YOU KNOW THE ANSWERS
“I could say the same things if you were in my place.” (vs. 4)
Anybody can come up with quick answers to tragedy. Quick answers are usually wrong answers and can bring more confusion than light. If we are not careful, our pride will tempt us to act like an authority on the issue. That’s not what a grieving person needs.
“I could spout off criticism and shake my head at you.” (vs. 4)
The last thing a grieving person needs is to have someone evaluating everything they say or forcing them to defend themselves for some of their grief-driven words. The confusion of grief sometimes pushes people to make quick judgments that may not be accurate—words that they will later see in a different light.
“I would try to take away your grief. Instead, I suffer if I defend myself, and I suffer no less if I refuse to speak.” (vs. 6)
For the comforting friend, the initial days of grief are not the time to correct their theology. It’s the time to listen knowing there will be other days to gently speak to grief-stricken thinking. What they do need is someone who will patiently, continually listen.
“But if it were me, I would encourage you. I would try to take away your grief.” (vs. 5)
To encourage is to place courage in someone. They feel they cannot continue. That there is nothing to live for. That life has lost its meaning. So, what encourages?
People need you deeply when they’re grieving. Don’t make the tragic mistake of not being there because you are afraid you won’t know what to say. The Lord will lead you as you prayerfully follow Him. Your sympathetic presence and unceasing prayers are your greatest gift.
Father, give me the wisdom and grace to be the best possible friend to those around me who are grieving. Give me the humility to realize what I don’t know and have never experienced, wisdom to wait for a God-initiated word of comfort, and the grace to keep serving while others fade away.
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