Across the Pastor’s Desk: No words — In times of suffering, grief, God calls us to be present

Published 10:34 pm Thursday, January 18, 2018

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Shane Koepke

In the book of Job 2:13, we meet Job at the bottom of his grief, at the lowest he can be. Job has lost everything: his character, his property, his health and even his children. The loss of one of these things can be devastating, let alone all of them at once. And Job responds how many of us would, with a deep depression, unable to see life (or hope) in any direction.

Shane Koepke

Now, verse 13 lets us meet Job’s help, his holy moment. When Job has lost everything that he has held dear, and his friends learn of this tragedy, they come from all over and they keep Job company. And here’s the best part: For seven days they come and sit with Job, but don’t say a word. Nothing. Because his friends saw that his suffering was “great” they didn’t dare say a word. Their silence is the best they can do.

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Too often we feel like we need to fill the sad places with noise, with stories, with songs and celebrations. And yes, those things have their place in the healing process, but so does silence. Listening to the grief of your friends and being patient with them and yourself as you endure the heartache before you. Our world wants us to hurry up and get over it, but it’s not that easy.

Every year, my mother calls me in September to remind me that her daughter, my sister, who died in infancy, would have been one year older. Almost 40 years later, the grief remains. Yes, the grief is different than it was in 1978, but it doesn’t disappear, it just doesn’t leave you. So every year I listen. Grief changes us forever, and God invites us to live into the reality of grief as much as we live in the reality of life. God remains in the depth of our grief, sometimes quietly, but still constant as we process our lives after great loss.

Job tells us that being a good friend to someone going through something terrible often begins with a tear and simply your presence. We don’t have to have all the answers, we don’t have to provide the perfect pick-me-up. All we are called to do is show up, be present, and let the journey to healing begin with a silent prayer and a listening ear. 

Shane Koepke is pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Albert Lea.