Dealing with Grief

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July 3, 2013 by lellielieb

Grief is difficult to handle and Job was carrying a lot of it.  In the second chapter of his book, Jobs’s three “friends” show up. (note quotation marks)  I think they had good intentions, and, at first, they behave wisely.  They sit silently:

 “So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.”

Then they listen for a whole chapter while Job begins to talk out his grief.  This is a really necessary step.  Talking, writing, journaling–in some form or another the grief with its jumbled, angry, frightened thoughts has to come out.  C.S. Lewis did this after the loss of his wife in a series of notebooks that eventually became the book, A Grief Observed.  Lewis, the great Apologist, the man who told us that pain is “God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world,” suffered pain himself and it wasn’t pretty.  The book was published under a pseudonym at first because the things it says are just too different from things people would have expected Lewis to say.  That’s grief.  In one of my favorite lines in the book Lewis says, “Perhaps the bereaved ought to be isolated in special settlements like lepers.”  Grief can take away our sense of belonging for a time. Grief shakes us to the core.  People who are in the midst of grief will say and think things they would never normally say or think.  Job does this.  As I read his words, my own grief comes back to me.  I said and thought the same sorts of things.

Unfortunately, this is where Job’s friends go wrong and begin to earn their quotation marks. In chapter four Eliphaz finds he can’t stay quiet any longer:

“If one ventures a word with you, will you be impatient?
Yet who can keep from speaking?”

He should have tried.  His words reveal the fact that he has been a little jealous of Job for quite a while.  He takes the “You thought you were so great” approach to grief followed by the “Obviously, you must have had this coming!” refrain. So helpful!

” Behold, you have instructed many,    and you have strengthened the weak hands.Your words have upheld him who was stumbling,    and you have made firm the feeble knees. But now it has come to you, and you are impatient;    it touches you, and you are dismayed. Is not your fear of God your confidence,    and the integrity of your ways your hope?”

He’s not saying anything that Job hasn’t already thought about, and his words are certainly not comforting or motivational.  Of course Job is talking out of his head, of course he is saying things he doesn’t really mean.  He’s in shock.  Also, Eliphaz and the others make assumptions about why things have happened to Job, things that we, the readers, know are not true.  This is the main problem with trying to explain pain or talk people out of grief.  In order to make a case, we make assumptions.  Those assumptions, especially when they have to do with spiritual matters, are probably wrong.  The lesson here is to keep our mouths shut.  Nothing Job’s friends say is of any help.  Some of the things Job is saying are way off base, but it is God who will finally show him that, God who will finally bring him comfort.  We need to be there for those who are hurting, but we need to be quiet.  We need to pray rather than preach.  This isn’t true only in grief following the loss of a loved one.  There are other kinds of loss and grief.  No matter what a person is grieving, the role of a friend is to sit, to listen and to pray.

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