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“I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, for all the blood that they’ve shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened.”

– Dostoevsky

Suffering is inevitable.  

At some point in our lives, we will encounter people who are going through a difficult season.  At some point in our lives, we will go through a season of tremendous difficulty ourselves.  As I have encountered both of these scenarios, I wanted to offer a thought on what to do during those times.

Listen well.

The Book of Job is believed to be the oldest book in the Bible, and it also proves to be the most challenging to digest.  Without getting into the exegetical aspects of Job, I want to offer one observation from the narrative.  When Job suffered for no fault of his own, he was able to express his great frustration in the silence and mystery of a mighty God.  When Job was drowning in sorrow, he lamented that he was in a tempest and that God would not let him catch his breath.

He was treading water and his friends were present.  So far so good.

Be present.

Job was treading water and his friends knew it.  But his friends offered advice, moralizing sermons, and asinine comments.  They did not sit with Job in his pain, but instead told him what to do instead.  They were present in an unhelpful way.  While comments of God’s justice and power are true, those comments were not helpful.  Romans 8:28 is a wonderful verse, but it is not helpful to share with someone who just experienced tremendous loss.

Grieve with those who grieve.

During seasons of lament, we have permission to grieve and mourn.  As friends of the mourner, we need to provide an atmosphere where the suffering person can be upset and process their grief.  Whether it is the loss of a marriage, a job, an identity, stability, or family member, there needs to be a safe place to unload our emotional burdens.

We need friends who mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep.  We need these friends who listen well and will enter into our pain through purely being present, instead of offering cheap platitudes.  There will be a time for action, but perhaps that time is not in the initial days of grief.

In short, mourn with those who mourn, so that one day you can rejoice with those same people who will one day return to rejoicing.

Photo Credit: michaelyan- via Compfight cc