"When someone is going through a storm, your silent presence is more powerful than a million empty words."
Can anyone else relate to the quote above? I know I can. In the midst of some of my deepest, darkest storms, I have not been comforted with flowery words that I know have little substance behind them. No, what comforts me most when words seem inadequate is the still, quiet presence of other people beside me. It's those people, the ones that choose to stick by my side when life has never seemed so dark, who I know care deeply for me. I was reading Job 1-2 in the Bible today. In those chapters, Satan came to the Lord and asked permission to harm Job emotionally and then physically to try and get him to sin. The Lord grants permission but refuses to allow Satan to kill Job. Satan destroys his livestock and his children and covered Job in painful sores all over his body. And yet, he did not sin against God; he maintained his integrity. Towards the end of Job 2, his three friends came to Job to grieve with him-they "sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights" (Job 2:13). Words would do nothing. Trying to get Job up and at 'em would do nothing. Pushing him to talk about what happened would do nothing. They knew they needed to sit and bear Job's burden with him, weeping alongside him, grieving as if it were their own sorrows. Job was in the midst of the worst storm he had ever been in, and his friends came to offer initially nothing more than their silent presence.
Don't get me wrong, I love words. I am a big words person. I think they can be used effectively and have the power to dramatically help another person. I also think that other acts, like cooking meals, doing chores around the house, and giving small gifts can significantly help someone in the midst of a major life event. However, I am also a big believer in the power of just being with another person. When life gets hard, the first thing I tend to crave is another person to walk through the storm with me. I want authenticity and kindness and compassion. I want to know that someone loves me enough to drop what they are doing and simply offer their presence. God has made us for community, not just so that we can show others the kind of love God has for us and encourage each other in our faith, but also so that we can bear one another's burdens and hardships. Part of that means that we need to slow down enough to grieve with one another before taking action. We need to weep with one another and offer our quiet presence, without feeling awkward for lack of words or strange for not doing something to fix the situation. Trust me, I am aware of feeling like I need to have the exact right words to say when a friend is going through a really difficult time. However, I think God has been showing me that sometimes, words fail, and that's okay. Sometimes, we need to just sit and be with our struggling friends, not trying to jump into fixing things immediately. You have no idea how much it means to your friend when you voluntarily walk through the storm with them and choose to share their sorrow as much as you can. Who knows, you may be giving them just the love they need at that time. If you have a friend going through a storm, offer your presence. Even if you aren't physically in the same city as them, offer your time and allow them to share their heart with you if and only if they want someone to talk to. Most importantly, go forward asking God to lead you and consistently praying for your friend. God is good, and even when the road seems unclear, He is sovereign!