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Silence and Spiritual Walk: The Silence of Empathy

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Silence and Spiritual Walk: The Silence of Empathy

June 20th, 2018 | Job 2:11-13

Visiting people in the hospital and sitting by sickbeds is very often a ministry of listening and silence. What we might want to say to comfort and encourage them is very often the wrong thing or mere platitudes—nothing truly helpful, and sometimes things that are actually harmful. But to just listen and be with people is a ministry of presence that can bring God’s comfort and encouragement.

When Job’s friends came to visit, they started well with the silence of genuine empathy. Job had recently suffered the loss of his considerable earthly goods, his social status, all his children, and his health. He did not know what readers of the book know about the council in heaven, but he had nonetheless stood steadfast in his faith in God (1:20–22; 2:10).

Having heard the stunning news, Job’s friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar agreed to meet up and go to “sympathize with him and comfort him” (v. 11). Despite what happens later, their desire to console him was apparently genuine. When they saw him, scraping his sores as he sat among the ashes, they were utterly shocked. They hardly knew the man they had called a friend. They wept aloud, tore their clothing, and sprinkled dust on their heads—all signs of intense grief and mourning (v. 12).

Then the three of them sat silently with him for an entire week (v. 13). This showed a deep empathy for his physical, mental, and spiritual suffering. It also showed respect—Job should be the one to speak first. Perhaps words seemed powerless in the face of what had happened. Perhaps they were afraid of making things worse by speaking (as did indeed happen). If only they had never opened their mouths at all (see Job 13:1–12)!

APPLY THE WORD

If your church has a visitation ministry, consider volunteering for it. If not, consider helping to start one. There is much pain and brokenness in this fallen world. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what to say. In fact, it might be better that way, for this is a ministry primarily of presence not of words (see Rom. 12:15).

Today in the Word’s Devotion is a production of Moody Global Ministries

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