Continuing my walk through Job…
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15
I remember attending a weekend women’s retreat several years ago with like-minded women.
We were discussing in our small group after a morning teaching session what a true friend should look like when we’re facing hard things.
The question was asked,
“If your friend was lying on the ground, feeling depressed or discouraged, and couldn’t pick herself up, would you tell her to get up and stop feeling sorry for herself or would you lie on the floor with her and share her tears?”
(Or something like that.)
I was the only one honest enough to say the latter.
‘Cause that’s me. It’s how I’m wired.
I can’t even tell you how often I’ve been the one on the floor myself and I haven’t easily forgotten how lonely it can be down there.
In the words of Anne of Green Gables,
“Can’t you even IMAGINE you’re in the depths of despair?”
That’s how I want other to feel with me sometimes.
Even if you really don’t get it, just IMAGINE how I feel.
For one single minute.
Please and thank you.
Of course, despair is a strong emotion. It means, “the complete loss or absence of hope.”
I’m not making light of those who truly live in it.
I know without doubt these are despairing times for some people. I can imagine the grief is really real. This pandemic is nothing to joke about or make light of no matter how it has affected you. It has stolen life, financial security, jobs, and social interaction. It has created loneliness, isolation, and fear. It has birthed disappointment, discouragement, and very real depression.
For some it’s a hopelessness I’m not sure I really understand, but I have felt in times past that certain situations seemed hopeless unless God intervened. In a way, I feel this pandemic is one of those situations.
We don’t just need God to intervene. We have to believe with all our hearts that He can and will.
And therein lies the heart of Job.
At times it seemed his despair was real, but his friends weren’t living it so their lack of imagination kept them from offering real hope to Job.
They weren’t the lying-on-the-floor-and-weeping-kinda-friends. They may have cared deeply for Job, but I wonder how much they truly loved him. In crisis it’s so hard to see our friends suffer, but if we don’t try to put ourselves in their place we’re missing a key ingredient of love.
We’re not all wired the same way and we can’t expect someone else to react or respond in hard times the way we would. Different people need different things from us in different circumstances. That’s why we need the wisdom and discernment of God. Job seemed to have more of both than his friends possessed. I love that no matter what they said, he didn’t cave.
“I have heard many things like these. You are all miserable comforters. Is there no end to your empty words? What provokes you that you continue testifying? If you were in my place I could also talk like you. I could string words together against you and shake my head at you. Instead, I would encourage you with my mouth, and the consolation from my lips would bring relief.” 16:2-5 (bold letters mine.)
Oh, Sweet Jesus, this breaks my heart.
And it convicts me.
I don’t want to be a miserable comforter.
I don’t want to string empty words together just for the sake of speaking. I want my words to have meaning and depth, to encourage with my mouth. I want the consolation from my lips to bring others relief. And you know? Sometimes tears are just better than words.
What encourages me so much about Job is that his friends just couldn’t steal the hope he had that God heard the cries of his heart and God would be his saving grace.
The love of God says rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep.
Because the love of our Father is compassionate.
Love can turn despair into hope. v. 19
Job knew this.
Love keeps our prayers pure when our faces are red with weeping and darkness covers our eyes. v. 16
Job said his.
Love enables a righteous person like Job to hold to his convictions and strengthen him. v. 9
Job lived this.
The love of God can make a comforter out of anybody.
We don’t all have to be get-down-on-the-ground-with-your-friend-kinda-people, but maybe we can at least try to imagine heartache.
There’s a time when laying on the floor is no longer desirable and it takes tough love to help a friend rise again, but let’s be the kind of friend who knows the time and place. Seasons of grief are as different for each of us as are our responses to the hard things that come to us.
So maybe, just for a little while, it wouldn’t hurt to share some real tears together.
Maybe…maybe…we can offer real hope by loving others well.