Sometimes the Best Thing to Say is Nothing
When Job’s friends try to comfort him, their words only deepen his distress
The Bible tells the story of Job, how Satan took everything from him: his possessions, his children, and his health. Left in deep pain with an unsupportive wife, four of Job’s friends come to offer comfort, but they fail. Most of the book of Job records the back and forth dialogue between Job and his friends.
They give pompous speeches as Job struggles with his tenuous grasp of his faith in God. His friends do not help him feel better (Job 16:2-3). A reoccurring theme throughout the book of Job is that his friends’ words are unhelpful and received as torment (Job 9:3, 11:2, 16:2, 19:2, 21:3, 26:2).
Job grows exasperated with their failed attempts to offer support. He wishes his friends would just keep quiet (Job 13:13). He says that by speaking no words, they would actually better display their wisdom (Job 13:5). Though this might be a bit of hyperbole on Job’s part, he offers us some wise advice.Job’s friends could have helped him more by simply being present and saying nothing. Click To Tweet
Often words are inadequate, and sometimes words hurt more than they help. Job didn’t need his friends to try to explain his situation, offer a theological response, or interject their own personal experiences. They could have helped him more by simply being present and saying nothing.
Offering others our presence may be exactly what they need, but we can mess that up when we attempt to offer them our words, too. Anyone can go and just be with a friend in need. The best friends know when to talk and when to be quiet. And the best gift is often the gift of silence.
Just ask Job.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.