Job. Compassion.

Compassion: sorrow for the trouble of another, accompanied by (this is important) the urge to help; from the Latin “com” = together and “pati” = to suffer

“Lost their faith.” Or at least it’s badly damaged. We’ve all known someone. Maybe you’re one of those someones.

I, like most of you, suffer at times from Good God Syndrome.  When adversity leaves me broken and bleeding on the sidewalk of life, my swollen lips want to scream: “How could a Good God allow this?”

That god, of course, is not really God at all. That god is a giant aspirin, or a cosmic nanny. Or maybe he’s like a heavenly proprietor of Powell’s Sweet Shoppe, a local candy store that stocks every treat likely ever produced in the United States. The responsibility of that god is to dispense goodness. Period.

Fact is, the real God’s way of helping us process difficulty is often the gift of each other. Fellow believers. Spiritual, yet in-the-flesh, compassionate brothers and sisters.

Those times, however, when calamity strikes someone I know, and the very foundations of faith tremble, can be very disconcerting.

What should my response be?

In chapter 6, Job makes this statement: “When desperate people give up on God Almighty, their friends, at least, should stick with them.” Now, Job is not saying that he’s actually given up on God. He is asserting one of two things: 1) had he given up on God, his friends should still have shown him kindness, or 2) their not showing him kindness is the very way to drive him to abandoning his faith.

Either way, an unkind, or hysterical, or in-your-face reaction to shaken faith can hasten its demise. Sometimes all that is required is for me to simply sit in the ashes with that broken friend.

They don’t need a discourse on Why Bad Things Happen to Good People Like You.

They don’t need a discussion of motive or history.

Very often, what they need is someone near, quiet.

They may simply need a presence (careful, prayerful). A hand.

Or they may need to vent, like Job, the senselessness and fear and disbelief.

My job is to listen, not lecture. My job is to pray – in a smile, or tears, or a touch.

Several years ago, I found myself sitting on the floor of a small bedroom in my parent’s house. My father had taken his own life. My family was drowning in shock and grief. Two of my friends would call, at night, in those terrible early days. I would sit on the floor with the phone pressed to my ear and try to make some sense of the wreckage. And weep.

I could not pray.

But they listened and prayed. And listened and prayed. They sat in the ashes with me.  They knew that com pati was what I needed.

Sometimes we try to smother grief or questions or shaky faith with words. Lots of words, like Job’s friends. We act like questioning God and His reasons is a sin. Well, here’s some truth: He’s big enough to take it. And He knows when we are ready to hear what He’s ready to say. He knows when we are ready for chapter 38. Until then, our task may simply be to quietly represent God’s presence in the middle of the pain.

One reason why I love the Book of Job is the way it takes hard things, sets them smack in the middle of the table, and says: Think about this.

So here we are, thinking. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Has your faith been shaken by adversity/calamity/loss? Do you agree with Job?

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Erin Smith on April 17, 2012 at 8:34 am

    I agree, wholeheartedly with Job, and with you. It is tough sometimes, just to be that quiet presence… but I can think of times, when the pain is just too deep, too shocking to say anything… prayer and presence seems to be the only recipe. Once again, thank you for setting reality in the middle of the table and helping us to think about it<3

    Reply

  2. Posted by Erin Smith on April 17, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Also, I would like to encourage you, Sister Debra… I have watched you for the past few years, and you have lived out what it looks like to let Jesus be the Lord over your grief… IT IS BEAUTIFUL!! And you have shown us what it looks like to model our Savior through this unpleasant part of life.

    Reply

  3. This is beautiful sister Deb. May we all be those friends who will support others when needed not by our many words but through prayer and sitting in the ashes.

    Reply

  4. Posted by jeanettebreaux on April 19, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Yes, I’ve had my faith shaken by calamity, and have also had the unspeakable privilege and healing balm of “companionable silence” (cbd) of good, good friends. I look back now and understand how simply listening without judging saved my sanity. Maybe a good question to ponder is this: When is companionable silence the best love a friend can offer, and when is truth in love the best way to help a friend held captive by a spiral downward? Both have their places. And both can be misplaced!

    Reply

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