Lessons from Job, Comforting Those Who Mourn

by: Stephen Marsh

December 14, 2011
 Job has some wonderful lessons.  For example, Job’s sufferings are not complete when he loses all of his possessions.  They don’t reach a fullness when his children die.  No, as he sits in the ruins of his house, covered in ashes and using a potsherd to scrape the boils from his body, his suffering reaches its peak when his home teachers show up to badger him into submission.

Doesn’t everyone know that when you have grief or sorrow, what your life really needs is someone to shout at you?

Of course what they are really doing is trying to make sense of Job’s problems.  They want:

  1. The universe to make sense.
  2. The universe to make sense in a way that assures them that they are inoculated or protected against bad things happening to them.
  3. Job to get over it so he is not a cloud in their lives. 
  4. To “help” without actually having to do anything.

To do that they are quite willing to increase his suffering, accuse him wrongfully, ignore the truth and mock God.  Which is why when God speaks from the whirlwind at the end, he condemns the so-called friends.

It is useful to compare the “friends” to a typical sister dropping by a meal packaged up so that there is nothing that needs to be returned.  Quick stop, a kind ear, food, and maybe a second sister with her to take turns with children or light cleaning while the other sits and listens.

So, how do you comfort those who mourn?  Are you like one of the more prominent biblical figures in what you do and how you do it?  At this time of year, when many need comfort as the recession grinds along into Christmas, what do you plan to do?  Who do you plan to avoid?

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10 Responses to Lessons from Job, Comforting Those Who Mourn

  1. qusetion on December 14, 2011 at 4:32 PM

    was Job a real person?

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  2. Stephen M (Ethesis) on December 14, 2011 at 4:34 PM

    Could be, probably was a Job, though how accurate the current account is, well that is another question.

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  3. Paul on December 14, 2011 at 4:50 PM

    Stephen, I have a blog posting in the morning on a very similar subject.

    I remember a year ago when my wife had back surgery. She needed someone with her 24/7 for a couple of weeks, and I had to get back to work, so a number of RS sisters volunteered to come and sit with her.

    She was so amazed at the positive response, and people’s willingness to come and sit. Often she was napping and could not speak to them, but they still came. Some brought food. Others cleaned a bit. And others just visited and cheered her up. It was remarkable to her that so many were willing to help in that way. (It did not surprise me at all; our ward members love her! But it surprised her.) We were fortunate to have that experience.

    I learned a hard lesson a few years ago when a friend in church decided to divorce his wife. I was their bishop and their friend. I wanted to meet with him as his bishop and tell him all the reasons he was wrong. When I called to see if I could stop by, he asked if I was coming as his bishop or his friend, and I said as his bishop. He hung up on me.

    I went anyway. On the way to his home (a twenty minute drive) I prayed to know what to do. He let me in. I said very little, except, “J, how are you?” He spent over an hour talking about what he was going through.

    There was nothing I could do to influence his choice. He had made it. What he needed was someone to love him and to listen. By the time I left, he said he felt he had been heard and he thanked me.

    When I got home, I saw an email he sent after our phone call (and while I was driving to his house). It said, “You should have said you were my friend.” I’m glad that I got that message from the Spirit en route to his home.

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  4. Stephen M (Ethesis) on December 14, 2011 at 5:33 PM

    Paul, that was well said.

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  5. hawkgrrrl on December 15, 2011 at 7:24 AM

    Job is a great story, and I love how you’ve made this familiar by making his “friends” his home teachers.

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  6. Ray on December 15, 2011 at 3:43 PM

    This is an excellent post – and it really doesn’t matter if the original story is historically accurate or not. There’s much to learn from it, and we don’t get this post’s lesson enough, imo.

    One of the stereotypical problems we have, I think, is that many of us (especially the men) are problem solvers – when, often, all those who suffer need is a listening ear and shoulder on which to cry. Sometimes, we just need to know we are loved – not to understand the “why” of our suffering, or even that others understand.

    In many, many cases, the absolute worst thing we can do is try to provide a reason – since, especially in the middle of grief, we never know who someone else will react to what might make sense to us.

    Paul, your post is excellent.

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  7. Ray on December 15, 2011 at 3:45 PM

    Paul, I meant to say that your post AND your comment both are excellent.

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  8. FireTag on December 15, 2011 at 4:16 PM

    As a man, I DO want to solve problems, and I DO NOT want to be the one catching flak from the ones in the anger or denial stages of grief, particularly if the anger is an obstacle to solving the (apparent) problem causing the anger in the first place.

    I have a lot to do in disciplining myself to put the needs of grief above my own desire to protect myself.

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  9. Leslie on December 17, 2011 at 2:35 AM

    Thanks so much for this post, I really needed it!

    The best thing to do to comfort someone is simply be willing to Listen. People always think they need to fix things when quite often the best thing you can do is listen.

    Thanks again for this wonderful post.

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  10. ha on December 18, 2011 at 7:23 PM

    someone asks if job was a real person and it gets 4 dislikes? that is a mean thing to do

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