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. 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. 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 (ESV)
Job was a righteous man who was ‘the greatest of all the men of the east’ according to Scripture. Few people in the world have ever been more blessed and wealthy—and then endured more excruciating loss—than Job. By the time you finish chapter one, Job has lost virtually everything, including 10 children! Halfway through the second chapter, Job is afflicted with a terrible skin disease. His wife tells him to curse God and die.
But it is in this second chapter of what is a very long book that we are first introduced to Job’s three friends. While they get the reputation for being foolish as the story goes on, they make a great start. They show up when they hear about Job’s affliction. They can’t even recognize their friend! They ‘raised their voices and wept’ and ‘tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads’, signs of grief for their friend’s pain. But what is truly amazing about the account: they spoke no words for seven long days. They simply sat with Job on the ground. They were simply present with him.
Sometimes when we encounter a friend or family member or student who is facing a crisis, a loss, or some other adversity, we are tempted to do many things: say the right thing or deflect the conversation to another topic, or avoid them altogether. But don’t underestimate the power of silent, compassionate presence. Simply be there and love them. Express your sympathy. But don’t rush into an explanation of the adversity. And after sufficient time has passed, prayerfully consider what it is that you might say or do for them.