friends-775356_1280By Dr. Harold Sala

Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights.  No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.  Job 2:13

Ours today is a generation which prefers not to be involved.  “Let the government deal with this need,” we say, or we think, “I’m not qualified to handle this.”  Subsequently we excuse ourselves from even attempting to reach out to someone who is in pain.  And besides, individuals who are hurting make us uncomfortable.

The Greek word which is usually translated “compassion” literally means “to suffer with” or “to sympathize with” someone.  All the money in the Swiss banks and all the government programs in the world cannot be a substitute for an individual who cares–who gives a gift of his or her personal presence.  That, friend, is what compassion is about.  It does not require money, though it is impossible to really have compassion on someone who is in need without responding.  But it does require personal involvement.

I understand the frustration which you can experience, not knowing what to say or to do when someone you care about is in pain.  But, at times, simply being there, letting someone know that you care, that you are available and will listen, goes a long way toward helping the healing process.

The late Joseph Parker, a renowned British pastor, saw life gradually drain from his wife’s body as cancer took its deadly toll. It was a very painful and wearing experience, and as Parker faced it, he waxed between withdrawal and anger towards God.  “Where was this loving and merciful God” thought Parker, and finally, the battle was over and they buried her.  When the friends went home, and Parker’s house and his life were empty, he would often sit an entire evening brooding in despondence.

Describing later what he went through, Parker told of a friend who came to his home and sat the entire evening with him, staying up past midnight, not saying a single word.  The fact that he was there brought tremendous comfort and relief.

I am reminded that when Job walked through a deep, dark valley, his friends came to encourage and help him.  One sat there for seven days before he said a word.

Just being there can, at times, be a great help.  “I know exactly what you are feeling,” people sometimes say, not knowing what else to say.  Yet you can’t really know.  Even if you have gone through a similar experience, you don’t know the intensity of the emotions or feel the severity of the emptiness which plagues someone.

Only days ago, as I sat with a grieving widow whose husband had just passed away, this woman told of a friend who, not thinking what she was saying, tried to comfort her, saying, “Oh, someone else will come along, and you’ll get married again!”  Those words stung.  She didn’t want anyone else.  She wanted to vent her emotions and feelings.

A lot of people avoid individuals who are in pain because they simply don’t know what to say.  Yet, being abandoned by friends and family who have been close only multiplies the loneliness and pain.

Saying, “Look, I haven’t experienced what you are going through, but I want you to know how much your friendship means to me and I’m praying for you” can bring needed encouragement and help.  A passage of scripture which has helped you, which you share with a friend, may also speak to his heart.  Understanding that pain often causes a cloud which momentarily separates us from the presence of a loving Father, may help you to hold on to a friend and not let him or her slip, as you walk through that valley together.

Being there can make all the difference.  Just do it!

Resource reading: Job 2:11-13.