Originally published Tuesday, 01 August 2017.
Week Four Study Overview: Whether we are the mourner or the comforter, we must ask for wisdom through grief.
Key Point of Struggle: How do we comfort others through deep grief? How do we accept comfort through deep grief?
Key Proof of Comfort: Genesis 37:36
When we last saw Job, he was having an incredibly difficult conversation with his wife who advised him to curse God and die. After that, the text invites us to meet his three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.
Upon introduction, we learn these friends made an appointment to come together and comfort Job. When they caught sight of him, even from a distance, they began to cry out, tear their robes, and sprinkle ashes on their heads. This tells us two things: first, the sight of Job was frightful. Second, the friends followed strict tradition.
Do you remember when we talked about Job’s response after losing his children? We discussed the tradition of tearing the robe and shaving the head. In this scenario, Job’s friends were also following tradition. And then we learn something else…
When they approached Job, they sat next to him and said not one word for seven days. In my opinion, this is the best thing they did throughout their entire stay with Job. However, there was a reason why they had some wisdom in this area.
The Talmud is an important collection of rabbinic conversations discussing law. It is a book of study, and according to the writings within those pages, Job’s comforters would have been adhering to tradition. Comforters were not supposed to speak until they were addressed. This gives us some insight into Job’s disposition at the time. He didn’t communicate to these three men for seven days, which says a lot about the agony he was enduring.
I don’t know how you handle grief, but I like to be silent. I don’t mind texts or an occasional phone call or even a visit to check in, but for the most part, I want to process alone. I don’t want to congregate when feeling my lowest. Sometimes, it’s difficult for me to receive comfort because in all truth, I only want to receive from God. I know He’s the only One who can help me.
If you’ve followed my writing for any length of time, you know three years ago, July 16th, my stepfather died suddenly of a heart attack. For a long time, I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I hated accepting help, and in all honesty, I just wanted left alone. Two weeks ago, on July 19th, my brother died unexpectedly, and this time, unfortunately, I’m well trained in grief. To shut everyone out not only cuts myself off from support, but it also makes others feel as if they aren’t welcome in my healing process. When people make a contribution to aid in grief, they heal inside as well. Everyone needs to be part of something bigger, and grief caused by death creates opportunity for community to rise up.
I’m smack-dab in the middle of grief right now. The kind that keeps me awake at night unable to turn off my brain- The kind that makes me not eat, or eat too much – The kind that makes me want to cut myself off from the whole world as if I can run, find my brother again, hold him tightly, and fix everything. And the worst part of this pain is the knowledge no one can help me. I, most certainly, have no control to help myself. Only God.
In the story of Joseph, there’s a moment after his brothers sell him into slavery where his father refuses to be comforted. The brothers led him to believe Joseph was dead. And while his brother’s allowed their father to grieve heavily, we learn something else, somewhere else, was taking place. In Genesis 37:36 it says, “Now the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and captain of the guard.”
I have the word now boldly italicized because it’s key in God’s plan.
You see, other translations use the word meanwhile, which holds the same connotation as the word now in this context.
- In the meanwhile, God is working.
- In the meanwhile, God is able.
- In the meanwhile, God never leaves us.
- Even NOW God is faithful!
God was working a greater plan for Joseph in the midst of sorrow. Friend, I have to believe the same is true for me right now. And, for you!
If you are the one grieving, allow your community to rise up. It provides opportunity for the Spirit of God to move in other lives through your tragedy. If you are the one comforting, be a gentle support, not offering too much or too little. Ask God to give you wisdom.
Job’s friends were at their best when they quietly offered support for seven straight days.
On Friday’s Word for Your Weekend subscriber only content, I’m going to talk about a recent encounter I had with a friend who offered quiet support. We will talk about prayer through grief, and what we can do both as comforters, and grievers, to truly allow peace to fill us. If you aren’t a subscriber and would like to receive this content, just type your email address in the subscriber box at Jenniferkostick.com.
- As a faith building exercise, choose one person you know who is enduring grief. Write a prayer for them in your journal, and pray it over them each day. Consider sending a text or handwritten card in the mail to let them know you’re thinking of them and praying peace in their life.
- To prepare for next week, read Job chapter 3.