Weakened and ravaged by disease, shell-shocked by torturous loss, and with a soul so crushed in spirit, I cannot imagine how Job could utter a single word.
His physical strength, the strength he had depended upon for the majority of his days was extinguished.
The joy and pride he took in his work and livelihood had disintegrated.
His aptitude, competency, talent, and potential held no value.
His children who inspired his delight, comfort and satisfaction had perished.
Three companions sat by his side. Perched upon seats of self-righteousness, they considered their words to be encouraging and correct. Yet, time and again, the three friends questioned Job’s character, his integrity, his position, and even his relationship with God – seeking answers as to why Job had descended to such a wretched point.
Job had lost every.single.significant.thing that mattered to him.
His friends believed Job must be responsible for these losses. Nothing so terrible and so incomprehensible happens without some kind of explanation or reason – that’s what Job’s friends thought. And even today, this is what many think as well.
Many years ago, I descended into a black, black, black pit of despair. Even now, I can envision the pitch-dark cavern that imprisoned me while I searched for hope and meaning emanating from a heart-rendering loss. The last thing I wanted or needed was to be with people who believed they knew the answers for my devastating situation.
Weakened and brought low because of abandonment and betrayal, I had little strength to receive and then harness the words of others – no matter how thoughtful and caring their words may have been at the time. My sorrowful heart had no room for platitudes. Not yet.
Thus, I retreated.
I sought refuge in a space where I let few family members or friends in as I sought healing and hope.
I really couldn’t talk about what had happened or why. Shame engulfed me.
Therefore, as I read Job’s replies to his friends, I am amazed by his ability to articulate his feelings related to his loss. I believe his rebuttals to his friends’ remarks shows tremendous restraint and yet, firm resolution and courage. He speaks in a way that I could not.
In one instance, Job states to his three friends, “What strength do I have, that I should still hope? What prospects that I should be patient?” New International Version, Job 6:11
Job confesses that his physical and emotional strength are no match for the overwhelming weight of his suffering and desolation. To be strong is to be firm, resolute and showing power. Job had none of that. With this in mind, he asks a sincere question:
Should I still hope?
Should Job still tarry on in life when the prospects before him offered no confidence, no hope, and no meaning?
This is the sense of hope that Job addresses. The hope that Job describes comes from the Hebrew transliterated word, yachal. Yachal means to wait, to trust, to expect, and to tarry or linger.
Job considers all that has happened to him and considers that his future looks even less bright, thus, why should he hang around, why should he tarry, and why should he endure?
It’s difficult to see the point – especially with friends like Job’s – who continue to bury him with their lifeless words of discouragement, dishonor, and disapproval.
Like I shared, it takes strenuous effort to be around those who have all the answers for what has happened in your life and who offer little, but say so much.
What is most needed in a season of deep sorrow is silence.
What helped me most during that difficult time were my family and friends who quietly sat with me. They allowed my grief to flow from my heart without condemnation, without answers or suggestions, and without judgment. Honestly, there were only a few trusted people in those early days of despair and for the months that followed with whom I could share so freely. I knew how broken, uncertain, and lost I was – I had never experienced such misery before and the darkness of that time required a silent space.
In time, I did recover.
I remember the day when I climbed out of that dark cavity into the Light of grace, forgiveness, and enduring love. It took time to get there. A lot of time. Yet, one of the central reasons I survived that pit of despair was because of an intimate group of friends and family who offered me an abiding hope through their silence.
Consider the grace-giving and tarrying hope of your quietness and how its healing powers may be just what your hurting friend or family member needs from you – the next time you are given the opportunity to listen. Too often today, we want to speak into the mess of life, when what is most needed is our caring, engaged and supportive silence.
There is power, hope and strength in a silent friend.
Job needed that.
I know I did.
I believe we all do.