When Words Aren’t Necessary

We’re doing a study on Christian fellowship this quarter. Today, I spent time in Romans 12.15-16 and mainly focused on the second part of 12.15: Weep with those who weep.

Following through on this can be extremely difficult and unpleasant. I don’t know of anyone who is ever excited to run out and cry with someone as they roll through a situation that’s full of grief, betrayal, or extreme pain and sorrow. But, I do know from personal experience what it means for the person who is going through difficulty.

Last week, I was called to help out with a family in our community whose son drowned in the Little Miami River. When I arrived, the mother, two sisters, and a brother were gathered around their car in the parking lot. The emergency trucks and their flashing lights could be seen across the field next to the river bank. The young man’s youngest sister was unconsolable. Everyone else was just staring at the emergency personnel who were going back and forth. They were in stunned disbelief. Also gathered were three teens who jumped in the river to try to save the victim. They almost drowned in the swift muddy water trying to pull him out. One in particular, still barefoot with sand all over his legs and feet, kept holding out his hands as he replayed the events in his mind. What do you say in such a situation? Nothing. You just give a hug where you can and let them know you care.

I am reminded of the story of Job, whose deep and grave trouble came upon him suddenly and with no expectation. Not only did he lose all his material possessions and offspring (Job 1), he lost his health (Job 2.1-10). Upon hearing this, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar came to comfort him. We read:

“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.”

(Job 2:11–13, ESV)

What is said here is very moving. Just read the words slowly and let them sink in:

  • Job’s condition was so bad, they did not recognize him.
  • His suffering was very great.
  • When they saw him, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads…
  • They sat with Job on the ground, …and no one spoke a word to him.

Sometimes, all you can do is be there. The grief is so overwhelming, astonishing, and stupefying, that no words are adequate. In these situations, there is a reverential awe with which we approach the sufferer and a tender caution with which we address them. It is almost as if any words spoken would be out of place.

The only thing that matters, is your presence.

Last Saturday, I had another opportunity to visit with the family who lost their son. When I walked in, the mom said, “I don’t remember your name, but I do remember your face.” And you know, I realized at that moment she wouldn’t have remembered any words I would have said the previous Tuesday night. But she did know that I was there. And, as we talked on Saturday, you could tell it meant quite a lot.

Never forget that your presence in such situations speaks to them in a language which they cannot but understand and feel. And that, is far more powerful than any carefully crafted words of persuasion could ever be.

“Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor,” (1 Corinthians 10:24, ESV).

 

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