Job 2:11-13 (click here)
Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. 12 And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. 13 And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great. (Job 2:11-13)
Silence. This was the best gift that Job’s friends gave him…the simple gift of presence. In fact, once they eventually get into conversation, Job will wish they had just remained silent: Job 13:5, “Oh that you would keep silent, and it would be your wisdom!”
What is ironic to me is that we are quick to see the value of silence with Job’s friends. I am quick to judge them for opening their mouths. They should’ve realized there was nothing they could say to make things better and just been there with their friend. We are quick to see silence as a gift from people…but…the irony is that we do not see silence as a gift from God.
We chastise Job’s friends for speaking and we question God for his silence. He will not speak until chapter 38 and we wonder why!?!? Perhaps God is giving Job the gift his friends are not. Perhaps God is simply being present…with Job amidst his pain. If God were to speak, what would we want him to say? Is there an explanation that he could give that would make Job “feel” better. Or is the best thing just being with Job.
Amidst all our pain, when God is silent, I don’t believe his silence equals absence…quite the opposite. I believe he is ever present, with us amidst pain offering us the greatest gift…himself. We can know that we never suffer alone and unseen. God is with us…even and especially in the silence.
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.