“When they saw him from a distance,
they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud,
and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.”
Job 2:12 (NIV)
“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 (NIV)
Today I had lunch with a man I have known for decades. He has faithfully sought to follow Jesus in his professional life, his home life, and his church life. Many people have been blessed through his witness and example. I took him out for lunch because he was grieving the loss of a beautiful woman who had been his wife for many, many years. All of us who knew this lovely lady loved her as a godly person. She worked faithfully for the Lord for all her adult life. She too blessed many by her Christian life.
As we chatted, the man mentioned the worth of “wordless comfort”. Apparently he had numerous people tell him the obvious. His wife was enjoying a wonderful life in heaven apart from him. That truth was not in question by the widower. He knew that. But all he wanted was to be by the side of this wonderful woman. The separation was excruciatingly painful.
Sometimes well meaning people say the most inappropriate things. This is where Job’s comforters were doing well as long as they kept their mouths shut. There is such a thing as “wordless comfort”. We need to be listeners in such tragic moments and not preachers expounding wonderful truth from Scripture.
My friend will come to appreciate the truth that his wife is very happy in heaven and enjoying herself to the full. Right now he is full of pain at the separation that may go on for some years until he joins her in glory. The pain of his loss drowns out the comments of her joy, and understandably so.
Sometimes saying you are sorry for the loss is all you need to say. Or you may comment that Paul did well to call death an “enemy”. For indeed death does steal loved ones from our side and it breaks our hearts.
Seek to bind up the broken hearted by “wordless comfort”. Usually a hug, a hand on the shoulder, a tear is all that is needed in the presence of great suffering. Do not try to be “super spiritual” and say true things that will only bring comfort months or a year or two later. Instead—
“Weep with those who weep”
Sometimes the only sensible thing to do is weep with the suffering and keep our mouths shut. Jesus once said to His disciples,
“I have many things to say to you but you cannot bear them now.”
May God grant us all insight into the beautiful ministry of “wordless comfort” and may we exercise such a ministry when opportunity permits.