The bible tells us that God is close to the broken hearted and that he mourns with those who mourn. And there is the classic “All things work together for those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28. All of the aforementioned statements are true, all of them provide some comfort in times of trial, and all of them can feel like someone tossed salt in your wound when a well-meaning person drops one of these platitudes at just the wrong moment.
Job’s friends went to sympathize and comfort him. They tore their robes in anguish when they saw him in the distance. They sat in silence for SEVEN days before they opened their mouths and immediately stuck in their feet. For seven days, they said nothing because they could see how great his distress was. They just sat and there. When they opened their mouths, things went south.
I think we have a tendency to do the same thing today. We go to a hurting friend with every intention of helping, comforting, and sympathizing; but we end up saying something that doesn’t need to be said and hurts the one we are trying to help.
In our society of quick fixes and easy buttons, we want to mend our messes as quickly and easily as possible so we can get the kids to tennis practice on-time. We take this mentality into our relationships as well. When a friend is hurting and dealing with hard things, we do everything we can to snap them out of it, including quoting scripture at the most “opportune” times. I love the right verse at the right time, but there are times when silence is golden. The best thing Job’s friends did was sit with their mouths shut.
I have been trying to practice this concept lately, and I wish more people would give it a try. Recently, I’ve had two different friends receive difficult news that rocked their worlds. Their issues are as different as they are, but their needs are similar. They need to be heard and they need to be hugged and they need to be held. The fixer in me wanted to whisper reassuring promises to them and wipe away their tears, but I refrained; and I am so glad I did. There will be plenty of time for words later, the present need is just for a presence. Sitting in silence without an agenda or a five-point plan for their recovery is the best thing I can do.
Silently recognizing they hurt and listening to their emotional stories means shutting down my internal Mrs. Fixit and loving them exactly where they are and how they are in the moment. When I choose to wait with them in their pain, I give them the opportunity to process the overwhelming in quiet comfort. And sometimes that is exactly what we all need, a chance to process without being told how or what to do or how we messed up.
Listening is a lost art. Time to open or ears and shut our mouths.
I am a Christian, a wife, a mom, and a part-time basket case who wants to be a full time writer.