“My appetite disappears when I look at it; I gag at the thought of eating it!”
Job 6:7 NLT
Confession time: I am a HUGE hypocrite about something. Whenever I have had a bad day, I ask my husband to just listen and withhold advice. However, when he has a bad day, the first thing out of my mouth is a 3-step plan. When it’s not my own job, friends, or passions on the line, answers seem to come as smooth as silk! It’s extremely challenging to fill the role of active listener when everything inside me is primed to win “Armchair Quarterback of the Year Award.” And I don’t just do this with my husband; I’m guilty of it with my friends, too. For some reason, my go-to response is to try and help them think their way out of the suffering as quickly as possible. For the very same reason, it seems cruel and a little awkward to “just” listen, ask questions, and empathize.
However odd it seems at the time, on the receiving end, the most soothing medicine isn’t the “right answer.” The person I craved to be around the most when I was suffering was someone who was comfortable with suffering. It’s a personality equivalent to that one unique individual who is comfortable with a screaming baby. That person doesn’t nervously try to shush the angry, crying infant; he or she just holds the baby until the sadness has passed or sleep comes.
Within the first two chapters of the book of Job, he had lost all his children, his house, his servants and animals as well as his physical well-being. In chapter three we hear the depth of his sorrow and pain; he was in so much misery that he cursed the day he was born. Three of his friends had come to stay silently beside him in his mourning, but even that only lasted so long. Soon, “Armchair quarterback friend #1” (Eliphaz) speaks up to offer advice. He believes that Job’s present suffering was due to some kind of sin Job had not repented of and went on for two chapters about it. Sounds helpful, right? Job’s response shows just how much pain this kind of “help” causes.
Don’t I have the right to complain? Wild donkeys bray when they find no green grass, and oxen low when they have no food. People complain when there is no salt in their food. And how tasteless is the uncooked white of an egg! My appetite disappears when I look at it; I gag at the thought of eating it! (Job 6:5-7 NLT)
My study notes explain that the “tasteless, uncooked white of an egg” is referring to his friend’s advice. His appetite disappears when he looks at it and he gags at the thought of eating it! WOW! What a visceral response! This carefully calculated attempt at being helpful has only served to irritate an already miserable man. That really makes me re-think the way I allow my words to serve others in pain. I don’t want to gag on tasteless, uncooked egg white and I certainly don’t want to make anyone else do so!
In the Garden of Gethsemane, right before Jesus was arrested, put on trial, and crucified, he asked his three dear friends to be with him. Mark 14:34 tells us his simple request for his friends:
“He told them, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and watch with me.'”
This sounds like a much better way to offer love and support to a friend in pain. Stay here and watch with me. Be with me. Not “tell me what to do” or “force me to look at the bright side.” Just stay and watch with me.
Dear Lord, I’m so sorry for all the times that I have caused my loved ones to gag. Please guide me and teach me in the art of being comfortable with suffering. Remind me that I don’t always need to use words to show love. Instead, let your Holy Spirit’s presence within me be the healing force you use as I spend time with those in pain. Amen.
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