What makes you feel you are not alone? Right now I know many of us would say “just being with someone!”
But have you ever been in a room full of people and still felt totally alone? It can happen more easily than you might think. Sometimes we may try to drown out the loneliness by increasing our activity or by turning up the noise. But it never works, at least not for very long.
For the past couple of weeks my kids have had an on-going joke. If they are in the same room, but no one is talking, one of them will say, “Did you know one out of every of four people will say something just to break the silence?” (Of course that percentage changes depending on how many happen to be in the room).
In the first two chapters of Job we read about the travails of Job. His sorrows were deep and wide. He lost those who were dear to him. He lost his possessions and suffered financial disaster. He lost his health. Even his marriage was on the rocks.
Then Job’s friends came along. And we know they were really his friends because of what they did when they arrived. Verse 13 says, “they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.” Now the text doesn’t tell us that Job said anything either, but it does say that his friends wept loudly when they saw him because of his visible condition. That suggests to me that for an entire week the only sound Job’s friends heard was his groaning, grunting, and weeping. But still they sat there and they listened. I am sure it felt awkward to them, but I am also sure it meant the world to Job.
I wish I could say that Job’s friends finished well—we will save the rest of the story for another time. Except to say that Job probably felt more alone when they were talking and unloading their counsel on him than when they were quietly listening.
I think it’s the same with the people we know too. Often times the best gift we can give lonely, hurting people is not to break the silence with our words, but to break the noise with our silence and just listen. We may not always be comfortable with what we hear, but it will mean the world to them. We will learn a lot about them we didn’t know before. And they will learn they have a friend in us.
Prayer: Lord, turn down the volume of my words and turn up the volume of my listening.