by Michael Smith
Reading from Job, 2:1-13
1 One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. 2The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 3The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.” 4Then Satan answered the Lord, “Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives. 5But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face. 6The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life.”
7 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes.
9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.” 10But he said to her, “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
11 Now when Job’s three friends heard of all these troubles that had come upon him, each of them set out from his home — Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They met together to go and console and comfort him. 12When they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him, and they raised their voices and wept aloud; they tore their robes and threw dust in the air upon their heads. 13They sat with him on the ground for seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.
After Job has been afflicted body and soul by the loss of his children, his possessions, and his health, he is visited by three friends. Although they will have much to say in the chapters ahead, in today’s lesson they respond appropriately to a friend in grief: “they sat with him on the ground for seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.”
Many of us shy away from people in great grief and sorrow because we do not know what to say. The secret is that most of the time there are no words to help, but the act of showing up itself is a blessing to a friend in pain. In my own experience, while traveling to situations in dire need of pastoral care, my prayer has often been: “Lord, you had better show up with me because I do not know what I am doing or what to say.” And God honors that prayer. Oftentimes ministry is simply sharing a cup of coffee, a piece of pie, and visiting with people about whatever it is they want to talk about — just showing up.
“Showing up” is complicated during these days of social distancing, but there are some skills we can develop or perhaps need to revive such as letter writing, phone calls, and delivering meals. Expressing concern in tangible ways makes a healing difference in the life of the grief-stricken.
Come to think of it, there is a sympathy card I have been meaning to write.
The Rt. Rev. Michael G. Smith served as Bishop of North Dakota for fifteen years and is Assistant Bishop of Dallas. He is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. He and his wife, the Rev. Lisa White Smith, are the parents of three and grandparents of nine.
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