Wednesday, June 6, 2007
No Words Required
It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak up and remove all doubt.
These wise words are attributed to Abraham Lincoln and were a favorite quotation my mother used in dispensing wisdom to me. This week, in our church's one-year through the Bible reading program, we studied the remarkable man Job, who experienced a series of personal tragedies and losses that seem to be too much for anyone to bear. Job lost all of his children, all of his property, all of his wealth and his health. It seems that only his wife was spared and she spent a significant amount of time chastising him for maintaining his trust in God.
After his suffering had reached its apex, a few of Jobs friends show up to comfort him in his distress and to search out the cause for his unbelievably bad fortune. Their initial reaction actually proved to be their finest hour - they said absolutely nothing and merely sat in quiet contemplation with their friend. It was only when they tried to offer counsel and speak words of explanation to solve the riddle of his suffering that they strayed into foolish speculation and off-target analysis.
Sometimes, when we seek to comfort friends who suffer, we are tempted to find some pearl of wisdom that will solve all the mysteries of the ages, explain the cause of their suffering and offer the one bit of advice that will motivate them to dust themselves off and rise above their adverse circumstances and march triumphantly into a new and bright future. The reality is that these efforts usually fall short of our lofty expectations. We shouldn't be seeking to be saviors, but rather friends and comforters.
The case of Job's friends teaches us that our primary concern for a suffering friend should be comfort and encouragement, not detective work and judgement. If you find yourself in the position of Job's friends, remind yourself of the power and beauty of silent comfort. You'll be amazed at the effectiveness of holding a hand, wiping away a tear, or just being available as a visible reminder that someone cares. Don't be put off by awkward silence - Silence really can be golden and the most valuable gift you can offer a friend in need. Until next time,