Then they sat with him on the ground. Seven days and nights they sat there without saying a word. They could see how rotten he felt, how deeply he was suffering. [Job 2:13 (MSG)]
When his life turned from riches to rags and all he loved and possessed was taken from him, Job’s friends came and silently sat with him for seven days. While this seems odd to us, it was perfectly normal in Job’s day. Seven days was the traditional mourning period and Jewish tradition held that those visiting a mourner weren’t to speak until the mourner spoke first. As it turned out, things went downhill after they opened their mouths and their compassionate silence was the kindest thing they did for their friend. Sure that his troubles were divine retribution for his sins, they wanted Job to repent so that God would stop punishing him. Oddly, although they seemed quite willing to accuse their friend, there is no mention of his friends praying for or with him. In fact, in the end, it is Job who prays for them.
If Job was a friend of mine, his name would be on my prayer list—he’d fit right in with the rest of the names. There are people with depression, addictions, cancer, MS, Parkinson’s, heart disease, and dementia. There are caregivers, sick babies, parents of troubled children and children with troubled parents. People are in mourning, in recovery, in hospice or dire financial straits. There are people who have no faith and others who are struggling to keep their faith. Unlike Job’s friends, however, I don’t blame them for their troubles but, like Job’s friends, I do want their lives to improve. I want everyone to be happy, healed, healthy and whole. I want their issues resolved, their problems solved and their goals achieved.
Unfortunately, it is not my will that will be done—if it was, they all would have happy endings to their stories. In the end, it is God’s plan that will prevail. I don’t know the solutions to my friends’ difficulties, I only know the One who has the solutions. As I offer my intercessions, I take comfort in Paul’s words that the Holy Spirit knows for what I should pray. While I may be at a loss for the right words, the Holy Spirit never is.
Heavenly Father, give us compassionate and understanding hearts for our hurting friends. Let us know when supportive silence is better than anything we could ever say to them. Help us focus our prayers on your will rather than our desires. Reassure those for whom we pray of your loving-kindness and strengthen their weary spirits. May they have peace in their circumstances, discover joy in their troubles, hear your voice clearly, follow your direction willingly, and be filled with hope for the future.