When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. Job 2:11-13 (NIV)
Youngest son competed in his first full length triathlon on Saturday. In four hours, two minutes, he swam two miles in the gulf, biked twenty six miles which was two trips around Siesta Key, and ran seven miles, four of which were on the beach in the sand. This was twice the length he had ever gone, and he was one tired and sick puppy when he was done. Part of his problem was that since he has been in EMT school, he has not had as many opportunities to run. Before, he was running five miles with a pack on his back three to four days a week. He biked several times a week as well. Now, with his hectic schedule of work and school, he rarely has time to exercise other than swimming during his lifeguard job. While we have told him over and over how proud we are that he even finished, he doubts he will ever do a full triathlon again. During the run portion of the race, his girlfriend and I grew concerned at the length of time it was taking for him to finish. We did not know that he had slowed to a walk, but did know that as the morning wore on and the sun grew higher, it was getting unbearably hot. We decided to walk a ways down the beach to see if we could find him. As we went, we complained about the heat, the sand, and our thirst. We imaged how bad he must feel after four hours if we were miserable after walking for thirty minutes. When we came upon him, we encouraged him to start running again. He was only a mile from the finish line, and he took off at a trot eager to finally put the race behind him. Then, we were faced with a return walk down the beach and slogged along complaining once more. We decided we had better not share our agony with him, however. He probably would not appreciate our attempt at sympathy when we could not ever really understand what he had gone through. So, it is with those we know who are suffering. Pain of illness, grief, uncertainty, fear, worry are common to the human race, but none of us really know what a person goes through unless we have been in their exact situation and that is very unusual. When we try to tell of our own experiences, give advice or encourage, our words can be like salt water in an open wound. Job’s friends’ first impulse was the right one. They sat in silence with their friend while he grieved. Sadly, the rest of the story in Job tells how his friends then, analyzed his situation, gave him answers and told him what to do. Do you have a friend who is hurting? The best thing you can do is give them a shoulder to cry upon. That’s better than a thousand words you might say.