When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. Job 2:11 NIV

The book of Job for many people, is a tough one. It frustrated me for a long time – but as I begin to understand it a bit better, it has grown less confusing and aggravating.

One thing I’ve noticed, especially in my most recent time reading, is how many windbags there are in this book. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar have plenty to say – and so does Job. Even “friend #4” Elihu gets his words in edgewise. There is a lot of talking in this book – and very little of it accomplishes its purpose.

And it’s like that in our own lives sometimes, too. We argue with folks, and they don’t change their opinion. We defend ourselves, and the others don’t trust our words. We seek comfort and get criticism. We ask for confession and get insults.

We often talk about what poor comforters and sympathizers Job’s three friends were (and if you look at the verse quoted at the top of this post, you’ll see that WAS their initial purpose). But they didn’t start out that way. Not only were their intentions good, but one of the first things they did when they arrived, reported in a single verse in this book of forty-two chapters, is something many need in struggle, and so few provide.

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

Sometimes, when someone is suffering, we don’t know what to say. Have you ever considered that it is because we aren’t supposed to say anything? That our presence is the greatest comfort we can provide? That our silent prayers are more helpful than our spoken suggestions? That silence is a ministry – one even the Holy Spirit practices.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26

Sometimes, God gives us the words to say (Mark 13:11) to comfort, and other times, He wants us to use the gift – the ministry – of silence.

Heavenly Father, help me to know the best way to comfort my struggling friends, whether it be with words, admonitions, or silence. I want to listen to your guidance so I can bring Your comfort to those who struggle. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) In the name of Your precious Son I pray. Amen.

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