We’re reading through Job in college at the moment. By a curious God-incidence this has come at the same time as very good friends of ours having a miscarriage.
When stuff like that happens you struggle to know what to say, and the temptation is to come up with answers, clichéd at that. But Job teaches us a very simple lesson.
At the end of chapter 1, having had all manner of horribleness happen to Job, we read this:
Job 1:20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” 22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
So, at the end of chapter 1 Job has the right response. God gives, God takes away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.
But, by the time we get to chapter 38…
Job 38:1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: 2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Dress for actionlike a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.
..and it’s obvious that Job now has the wrong attitude to God.
So, what made the difference?
The answer, surely, is obvious! It was Job’s friends, yapping away rather than simply keeping quiet. In attempting to rationalise and provide neat tidy answers they only served to push Job into unfaith. How much better it would have been to remain silent and mourn with those that mourn. There are no easy answers and when we think that there are all we end up doing is to provide the wrong answers.
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The biggest thing I remember from any number of priests teaching me about the work of pastoral care is that being there, in the Name of and standing in for the Lord, is far more important than anything you can say to one who is grieving.