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  • Writer's picturekara-duncan

Fewer Words

Some of you know that I’m reading through the Bible Recap (a one-year guide to reading through the Bible) for the third time this year.  This reading plan is setup chronologically, so you end up reading the book of Job pretty early into the year.  Job can be a difficult, yet beautifully redemptive story to read.  What always humbles me each time I read it is how his “friends” try to comfort him.  His friends have positive intentions at first in trying to comfort and correct him, but their efforts always seem to cause Job further pain.  It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Rick Warren, “the deeper the pain, the fewer the words”. 

When someone is in deep sorrow, such a Job, it’s only human nature to want to help “fix” the problem.  We’d much rather find the words that will bring them the encouragement or solution that they need.  The harder work is to instead hold space for someone else.  To simply show up and be a witness to their pain.  To mourn with those who mourn, and weep with those who weep.  Not to despair over them, because there is always hope, but to give them allowance for the season that they’re in. 

Job’s friends did get this right at first, “When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him.  When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him.  Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief.  Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights.  No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.”  (Job 2:11-13)

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know if I could go seven days and nights without saying a word to a suffering friend.  That takes a lot of self-control.  But I do recognize how powerful this can be to someone who is suffering.  I’m reminded of a time years ago when Denis and I had just experienced our failed adoption.  Our dreams were shattered and it’s all we could do but to assume our normal daily lives.  When I came back to work, I did my best to keep things business as usual.  But my closest coworkers knew what had happened.  One coworker in particular came into my office upon my return.  She told me not to say anything.  She gave me a giant hug and then left.  She gave me a moment of space to know that my pain was observed at work but didn’t try to fill the void of silence with awkward words or fleeting words of encouragement.  She knew a hug and silence is what that situation called for at the time.

And what comfort we have in knowing that God is our ultimate friend who always hold space for our suffering.  In great suffering we don’t even have to use words to pray, we can simply sit before God in prayer and know that He sees our pain and cares deeply for us.  And sometimes that simply all we need at the time, is to know that our pain is not lost and doesn’t have to be hidden.  It reminds me of Amy Grant’s song, “Better Than a Hallelujah”.  Below are some of the lyrics:

God loves a lullaby

In a mother's tears in the dead of night

Better than a Hallelujah sometimes

God loves the drunkard's cry

The soldier's plea not to let him die

Better than a Hallelujah sometimes

We pour out our miseries

God just hears a melody

Beautiful, the mess we are

The honest cries of breaking hearts

Are better than a Hallelujah

May you be encouraged that you can share your pain with a God who will always listen.  And may you also be encouraged that in return, when it’s your turn to be a witness to someone else’s pain, that it’s ok to use fewer words. 


Link to Amy’s song if you’d like to listen:

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