How do you comfort a grieving friend? As one who has given and received comfort in times of grief, I can tell you it was not what I thought it would be. It was so much more simple than I had ever imagined. What do I mean by that? Letâ€™s look back at the life of Job for a great example of this:
â€œNow when Jobâ€™s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own placeâ€”Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him. And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven. So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great.â€ (Job 2:11-13)
I want you to imagine your best friend losing a child. You go to his or her house and the grief on your friendâ€™s face seems to be crushing them. What do you do? What do you say? You do what Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar did with their friend Job: â€œNo one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was great.â€
We so desperately want to make our friend understand that things will get better; that the pain will eventually lessen and the grief will be less traumatic. I know this to be true having lost my only son in Iraq. I also knew that intellectually before Eddie was killed, however, until you know experientially, it is only a concept. There is probably no more a feeling of inadequacy than if you try to utter such words to a grieving friend. And yet we still do it.
Take it from someone who has given and received comfort in times of grief; silence is not only golden, but it is a loving salve. Former Yankee great catcher Jorge Posada tells the story of the time his very young son was having brain surgery for the birth defect craniosynostosis. The surgery is very delicate and very dangerous. While Jorge was thankful that he was blessed with the resources to get the best medical care for his son, it was still a desperate feeling waiting while his son was being operated on. While sitting in the waiting room, his friend and Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter walks into the waiting room, sits down next to Jorge and never says a word or even touches him. Derek just sat with his friend and waited, and silently prayed.
That is the salve that comforts greatly. To know someone loves you so much to go silently through something with you, letting you know they are not just â€œthere for youâ€ but actually with you is a great comfort. The Prophet Isaiah exhorts us:
â€œâ€˜Comfort, yes, comfort My people!â€™ says your God.â€ (Isaiah 40:1)
True comfort in times of grief is knowing that you are not alone. It is sensing and receiving the love of family and friends and understanding in the depths of your soul that you are going to survive the trauma. Of Jobâ€™s friends, Matthew Henry writes:
â€œMuch of the comfort of this life lies in friendship with the prudent and virtuous. Coming to mourn with him, they vented grief which they really felt. Coming to comfort him, they sat down with him. It would appear that they suspected his unexampled troubles were judgments for some crimes, which he had veiled under his professions of godliness. Yet to visit our friends in sorrow is a rule of life. And if the example of Jobâ€™s friends is not enough to lead us to pity the afflicted, let us seek the mind that was in Christ.â€
The lesson here is even if we believe the grief our friend is going through is somehow self-afflicted, we must still visit our friends.
That is what Jesus did and would do.
That being true, then so should we…
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Copyright Â© 2012 David Jeffers