Woody Jarrett is the Lead Pastor of River of Life Church. Woody is married and is the father of four young adults. He currently resides in Waycross, GA.
The news was devastating. It hit with the full force of a category five hurricane. It was a swift kick to the gut, soon as you’d gulp a breath through your mouth, another kick even more punishing than the first hits again.
We heard the news of the helicopter crash that killed nine people to include Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi. The world responded with an outpouring of grief and a strong sense of loss. But nothing could have prepared the families for the dreadful loss of their loved ones. For the families, an unimaginable nightmare came, sending them into a fog of despair, shock and questions of “why?”. The answer to the “why” may never come.
We find a story from the Bible, in the book Job, of a man that was hit with a tidal wave of calamities. Job, through a series of disasters, lost his children, possessions and health (Job 1.13-19; 2.7-8). I’m almost certain that Job must have asked the same question, “Why?” Yet what Job encountered through these unwelcomed misfortunes was an iron clad faith in God (Job 1.20, 22; 2.10).
What’s intriguing about this story is the response Job’s three friends had to his tragedies.
We find their response in Job 2.11-13, which is a blueprint for our response to tragedy. We do not know how Job’s friends heard the news, nor the distance they traveled to get to Job. What we do know is that they were intentional in their determination to reach him. “An appointment together” (2.11), proved their loyalty to Job. Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar did three things. They came to Job, they sympathized with him and they provided comfort for him (v.11). They entered Job’s suffering by coming alongside him. When they saw Job from a distance, he was unrecognizable. To know a person and then come to know what has befallen them can be devastating and jolting. They knew Job in his health, wealth and prosperity, but now they know him in his disease, destitute and misery. But instead of being repulsed, they “raised their voice and wept” (v.12), an expression of lamenting and mourning. They further expressed their anguish as “each of them tore his robe and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky” (v.12). This was the same response Job displayed when he heard the news about his children’s demise and destroyed possessions (Job 1.20-21).
“Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights” (v.13). Job’s friends entered his suffering by being with him. Being with someone in their darkest most vulnerable hour is not only a comfort, it’s also an assurance that someone identifies with your pain.
“They did not speak a word to him” (v.13). No words needed to be said. What does one say in the rawness of pain and suffering? Why in some cases does silence speak louder than words?
It’s because nothing needed to be said when “they saw that his pain was very great (v.13).
Silence shouts into the depth of the mourner’s inner being saying, “I AM HERE”.
Just how Job’s friends came alongside him to partake in his suffering, so does our LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ in ours. Jesus enters our suffering through His Spirit. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; but He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, He was oppressed and He was afflicted (Isaiah 53. 3, 4, 5, 7 NASB). As He enters our pain, He remains silent to our questions because He is suffering with us. He joins us in our sorrow and weeps with us (John 11.35 NASB). Christ at times is our silent partner because “we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15 AMP).
Christ sits with us as Comforter and Friend. “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever (John 14.16 KJV). He gave us the Holy Spirit, the same as the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8.9 NASB), to be with us forever. In our personal time of grief, we are comforted by the Person and Presence of Christ. Therefore, we can say, “blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1.3-4 NASB)).
Our response to family members or friends who are suffering is to be like Job’s friends.
We must make an appointment to enter their suffering with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1.4 NASB). Even if that comfort remains silent.