Silence Isn’t a “Fixer.” Silence Is A Listener

IN THE TRENCHES! Stay All Day! — Part 3

What Job’s Friends Got Right.
Principles for Friends Who Get “In The Trenches”:

In the last two posts we covered the four things Job’s friends got RIGHT. In this post, we’ll wrap up this series on Job’s friends with the final two principles.  

5. They STAYED, and, at first, they were SILENT.

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 2:13 NLT

Imagine sitting with someone in complete silence for seven days. Just a few seconds of silence makes most of us antsy. But imagine seven days of absolute silence. When Job’s friends first arrived, their first act was just to sit with him in silence for seven days and nights.

What a gift.

Jewish people refer to this act as “sitting Shiva.”

This act by Job’s friends was so powerful that it ultimately became a part of Jewish life. To this day, Jewish people will speak of “sitting Shiva” – that is, literally sitting “seven days.”

“Sitting Shiva”
Shiva is a Hebrew word meaning “seven” and refers to a seven-day period of formalized mourning by the immediate family of the deceased.

In other words, when a member of someone’s immediate family passes, a friend or group of friends will come over and mourn with the person who has experienced the loss for an entire week.

That’s what Job’s friends did. They showed up at Job’s house, walked out to the garbage heap of the city, tore their clothes, put ashes on their heads and then sat with Job in stark silence for seven days as a symbol of their solidarity with Job. 

This is a beautiful demonstration of what Paul was challenging us to do when He wrote, “…weep with those who weep.”

“In The Trenches” Principle #5:
Covenant friends STAY ALL DAY (and night). They display the STRENGTH of their friendship in
SILENT SOLIDARITY.

They realize, silence isn’t a fixer. It’s a listener.

For several decades, Paul Walker served as the senior pastor of Mt Paran Church in Atlanta. As a leading pastor in the denomination I was raised in, Dr. Walker inspired many of us, including myself, with his life, teaching and ministry.

One story that I’ve never forgotten is a story Dr. Walker shared with a gathering of pastors. It’s probably been 30+ years since I heard the story, so please pardon me if I somehow forget some of the details.

One of the members of Mt Paran Church was in serious condition in an Atlanta area hospital. Dr. Walker made his way to the hospital to be with the family who had just received devastating news. When he walked into the hospital room, the wife was pacing back and forth while her husband lay unconscious in the bed fighting for his very life.

The room was somewhat spacious, so when Dr. Walker saw the wife of this man he deeply loved in such distress and emotional anguish, he didn’t say a word. Instead, he empathized with her pain by simply taking her hand and then pacing back and forth with her in that room for the next few hours. During that time, she wept, she cried out to God, she pleaded for God’s intervention in the life of her husband, while Dr. Walker simply held her hand, walked back and forth with her and wept.

After a few hours, the wife stopped pacing, turned to Dr. Walker, hugged him, thanked him for coming and thanked him for his wisdom and insight.

That day Dr. Walker taught those of us gathered an important principle about presence. Sometimes, it’s not what we say, it’s simply the fact that we are there. Our silent solidarity and presence communicate far more than our words ever could.

What a lesson.

It’s interesting that after seven days Job’s friends would eventually speak. What they said, would get them into a boatload of trouble. Their words were not so great… But, their SILENCE was BRILLIANT. Their SILENCE was a GIFT. 

Their silence may have been one of the reasons Job could struggle with God with such honesty, vulnerability, authenticity, courage and persistence. Perhaps Job could get real with God because he was blessed to have a group of friends who were willing to take on his sorrow and mourn with him for seven days and nights? Their presence and silent solidarity helped Job carry the load of his grief so that it didn’t crush him beyond the point of no return.

Do you have friends who will do that for you? Do you have people who will just sit with you when trouble strikes? Friends who don’t even have to say a word…  They love you enough just to sit with you and allow you to feel what you need to feel so that you can get through what you’re going through?

Are you a friend like that?

Several years ago I had the opportunity to hear Cliff Schimmels speak. Before his passing, Cliff was an extraordinary educator, Baptist minister and speaker. In this talk, He shared the story of a little elementary school girl who lived close enough to her school that she walked home from school every day. One day she was late coming home from school. Terribly late. So late that her parents were scared out of their minds.

When she finally got home her parents went ballistic. They were so worried that they looked at her and said, “Where in the world were you? Why were you so late?”

The little girl looked up and said, “Because Mary lost her doll.” 

Her parents were not phased. They looked at her and said, “What do you mean, Mary lost her doll?  Did you stop to help her find it?”

The little girl responded, No! I stopped to help her cry.”   

“I stopped to help her cry.”

That’s the gift a true friend offers. It’s what Job’s friends initially did. They stopped everything for seven days just to help their friend cry.

This is one of the biggest reasons that being part of a small group is so important, even essential!

Don’t wait for day you end up in the land of Uz. Don’t wait for the devastation to hit. We all need to be in the business of building relationships with people who love, care for and support us even when the bottom falls out of life. Eventually, all of us end up spending time in the land of Uz, and it’s the relationships we build when nothing is going wrong that give us the strength we need when everything is going wrong.

It’s the relationships we build when nothing is going wrong that give us the strength we need when everything is going wrong.

No one should have to sit on the garbage heap alone. We all need friends who will “stop to help us cry.” Small groups can help provide that.

“In The Trenches” Principle #5:
Covenant friends STAY ALL DAY (and night). They display the STRENGTH of their friendship in SILENT SOLIDARITY.
They realize, silence isn’t a fixer. It’s a listener.

After seven days of silence, Job decided to speak. If he could have just said what he said at the close of Job 1, the book would have been a really short book.

Because at the end of Job 1, he looked at all the devastation and managed to say,

“I was naked when I came into the world. I’ll be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had. The Lord has taken it away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” —Job 1:21

But that’s not what Job says in Job 3. He cuts loose. He vents vertically. He wishes that he were never born or that he would have been still born. He admits that “what [he] always feared had happened to [him].” That “what [he] dreaded, had come true.” He says, “I have no peace, no quietness or rest. Only trouble comes.” (Job 3:25-26)

This man is completely broken. He is totally devastated. He wonders what has happened and why God has suddenly gone AWOL in his life.

Job’s friends listen to this man pour out the anguish in his soul and they decide to respond.

Eliphaz was the first to speak, (probably because He was the oldest). The gist of what he said was basically, “Sorry to let you know this, Job. But, you reap what you sow, buster… And God has come to collect. He is punishing you for your sin.…”  (Job 4:1-3, 7-8),

In Verse 12, Eliphaz even goes so far as to claim that He had received “a word from God.” He basically said, “Job, this is a word from God. A word was secretly brought to me, as though whispered in my ear. It came as a vision in the night.  This isn’t just information, it’s a word, man…”

What’s the word? “Innocent people don’t suffer, so, you must not be innocent.” 

Eliphaz sounds like a lot of religious people I’ve met over the years.

Bildad was the next guy up. He gets even more direct, because in Job 8:2-4 he basically says, “Job, you just lost ten children, right? Well, it’s because they sinned. They had it coming. You are getting what you deserve (18:21).”

Zophar steps up to bat next. He basically says, “This is bad, but you deserve worse (11:6). If you just shape up, things will get better.”

The essence of what all three of Job’s friends had to say was: “Job, you’re suffering because you sinned. If you hadn’t sinned, you wouldn’t be suffering. And, if you would just repent and get right with God, you won’t have to suffer any longer. Good people don’t have to experience pain.”

No wonder in Job 16:2, Job looks at these guys and says, “You are miserable comforters, all of you.”

Job refuses to give an inch to their arguments. He lets them know in no uncertain terms, “You can take your theology back to Walmart where you bought it, because it doesn’t add up. Your ideas don’t square with what I know to be true about God or myself.”

God eventually shows up. He reveals Himself to Job in an awe-inspiring display of His sovereignty. The revelation of God’s presence was so staggering that Job crumbled before God. He now understands so much more of God than he understood before his world blew up. He reaches the following conclusions:

  • First of all, God is sovereign. “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you.” (42:2)
  • Second, my wisdom and perspective is limited. “I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me.” (42:3)
  • Third, God’s presence is enough. “I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said…” (42:5-6a)
  • Finally, I repent. “I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” (42:6)

Amazingly, God begins a restoration process in Job’s life that ultimately ends with this description:

When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before!  11 Then all his brothers, sisters, and former friends came and feasted with him in his home. And they consoled him and comforted him because of all the trials the Lord had brought against him. And each of them brought him a gift of money[a] and a gold ring.
12 So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. —Job 42:10-12 NLT

After saying so many harsh and cutting things to Job, words that doubtlessly hurt and wounded him more than they would ever know, it’s challenging to me that Job’s restoration hinges on the first line in Verse 10,

“When Job prayed for his friends…”

Which brings us to the sixth thing Job’s friends got right.

6. They acknowledged their mistakes and pursued RECONCILIATION. (For his part, Job PRAYED and FORGAVE his friends.)

Here’s how the book of Job describes what happened after God wraps up his conversation with Job, and, after Job is shattered and put back together in the presence of God.

As God begins to put Job back together, he turns to Job’s friends. By the way, it’s possible, that Job’s friends have already returned home, probably thinking they “set Job right.” Then, God shows up and speaks to them. Check out Job 42:7-10.

After the Lord had finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has. So take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer on your behalf. I will not treat you as you deserve, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has.” So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite did as the Lord commanded them, and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.
10 When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before! —Job 42:7-10 NLT

God calls Eliphaz on the carpet, probably because he was the oldest, but God has the same message for all three friends:

“You guys blew it. You should have kept your big mouths shut. You thought you were expert theologians, but the dude you criticized and condemned actually knows a lot more about me than you. Job’s theology isn’t perfect, but it’s better than yours… And, you’ve got to square things with your friend.”

It’s interesting that God doesn’t let them square things with a simple prayer of repentance in the comfort of their home or private closet. He actually says, “No way on the private, “at home, in your closet” option! You’ve got to go back to the dude that you criticized and condemned, back to the guy you hurt and wounded… In his presence, you need to offer sacrifices to me and, then, ask Him — yes, the one you said I would never hear (Job 22:23-27)— ask Him to pray for you.”

I think God may have smiled to Himself when He said, “My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer…”

Again, back in Job 22:23-27, Eliphaz basically said, “Job, if you would just clean up your life… Give up your lust for money and throw your gold in the river (yes, he actually says that)… If you would repent, then God will hear you…”

Now, as God sets things right, He looks at Eliphaz, smiles and says, “That guy that you said couldn’t pray until He cleaned up His life, well, it’s His prayer that will turn your situation around… Are you going to be prideful and remain stuck, or will you ask him to pray, so that you can move forward?”

This is such an important principle:

The only way Job’s friends can be reconciled to God is by first being reconciled to Job.

It wasn’t enough for them to humble themselves before God. They had to humble themselves before their friend. This brings us to the final principle:

“In The Trenches” Principle #6:
Covenant friends don’t give up on a friendship without a fight. They work thru conflict, admit mistakes, give and receive forgiveness and always pursue reconciliation.

Amazingly, Job and his three friends did exactly what God prescribed. And when Job 42:11 the celebration or feast attended by brothers, sisters and friends, three of those at the party, were the very men who had so hurt and wounded their friend. But somehow they were humble enough to admit their mistakes, ask for forgiveness and pursue healing and reconciliation.

Is there someone you need to work through conflict with? Admit your mistakes? Ask forgiveness from? And, pursue reconciliation with?

Why not take the first step today?

Here’s what we’ve covered over the last three posts. Here’s what a COVENANT FRIEND who gets “IN THE TRENCHES” looks like:

  • Covenant friends are INTENTIONAL about staying connected.
  • Covenant friends know that what gets SCHEDULED gets done. They create SYSTEMS and SCHEDULES to strengthen their friendship.
  • Covenant friends know that our PRESENCE is one of the most powerful gifts we have to offer.
  • Covenant friends practice the art of EMPATHY.
  • Covenant friends STAY ALL DAY (and night). They display the STRENGTH of their friendship thru SILENT SOLIDARITY. They realize, silence isn’t a fixer. It’s a listener.
  • Covenant friends don’t give up on a friendship without a fight. They work thru conflict, admit mistakes, give and receive forgiveness and always pursue reconciliation.

ACTIVATION: Ask God to show you one person you can show up for this week.

ACTIVATION: Ask God to help you become more empathetic.

ACTIVATION: Reach out to the people you would call your “band of brothers” or “sisterhood” and thank them for being there.

ACTIVATION: Make a list of 3 ways you can be more intentional in your covenant relationships. Remember, “what gets scheduled gets done.” Schedule time to connect with the people who are most important to you.

Published by Chris Goins

My name is Chris Goins. I live in Birmingham, AL where I serve as the Lead Pastor of A2 Church + a certified John Maxwell Speaker + Coach. Welcome to my blog - a collection of ideas, quotes, insights, message notes + dynamic content intended to motivate you to reach your God-given potential + live a life of freedom and significance.

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