Meditations Through Job: Sitting in Silence

Job’s three friends are infamous. They go on and on about how Job is supposed to interpret his suffering, returning over and over to the same trope: if you were righteous this would not have happened. Most of the book is devoted to those conversations and Job’s responses. But before we get into the meat of those theological and ethical debates, his friends do exactly the right thing.

After God and Satan spar over Job, and after Job’s wife counsels sin and death, his friends arrive and sit “with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for thy saw that his suffering was very great” (2:13).

Here, there is the beginning of wisdom. In the multiplication of words there is folly. In theological guesswork there is harm done. With ethical assumptions personal insults are hurled. All of that will happen, but now, there is silence and empathy and grace.

Have you ever been to a funeral reception with a large Mexican family? A Southern family? There is certainly more grace in an over-abundance of food than there is in an over-abundance of theological peacockery.

It is not easy to be silent in the face of the suffering of a friend. Or, at the very least, to limit our words to give space for grief and reflection. The temptation to jump in and fix something is great. The fear of saying something insensitive usually leads us to mumbling something insensitive. Silence allows our empathetic presence to do more work than our words. I have a lot of people who want to tell me what to do. How many do I have who will simply sit with me?

Silence gives God a chance to speak. He doesn’t always come in the fire or the wind, but often in the still small voice. Can I stare pain in the face and wait long enough to listen before I speak? Do I have what it takes to rely on the wisdom of holding my tongue, thinking and praying, before I begin to grace the world with all of my accumulated grump?

But because of the multiplication of foolish words in the rest of the book, God will need to bring the whirlwind. Nature will need to drown out the cacophony of human speech. Then, God, the only One who can be heard above a hurricane, will speak.

I need the wisdom of Job’s friends before they began to talk.

Silence gives God a chance to speak. He doesn’t always come in the fire or the wind, but often in the still small voice.

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