Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

Job 6:1-13:

Then Job answered: 2“O that my vexation were weighed, and all my calamity laid in the balances! 3For then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea; therefore my words have been rash. 4For the arrows of the Almighty are in me; my spirit drinks their poison; the terrors of God are arrayed against me. 5Does the wild ass bray over its grass, or the ox low over its fodder? 6Can that which is tasteless be eaten without salt, or is there any flavor in the juice of mallows? 7My appetite refuses to touch them; they are like food that is loathsome to me.

“O that I might have my request, and that God would grant my desire; 9that it would please God to crush me, that he would let loose his hand and cut me off! 10This would be my consolation; I would even exult in unrelenting pain; for I have not denied the words of the Holy One. 11What is my strength, that I should wait? And what is my end, that I should be patient? 12Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh bronze? 13In truth I have no help in me, and any resource is driven from me.

I told you a while back I am now working my way through the book of Job. Well, so far, Job has been picked on quite a bit. His children all die in a freak accident. He became covered with sores (in a time when there were no steroids or Benadryl, no less!) His friends are showing up and trying to be helpful, but basically they're giving him shit advice. ("God's trying to tell you something.")

PUH-leeze. God can tell me something without covering me with sores and killing off my family.

But you know how it is. Your friends MEAN well. But they are not great at "grieving." We often try to be too "helpful" when people are grieving--we distract them, we try to cheer them up a little too much, we try to solely put the blame on someone else as the source of their troubles. They mean well but it just never quite works. In those last few verses, we see what Job really wants--he WANTS to let out his misery and just be with it.

But it is so hard, when you are a friend, to let this happen.

I always think of the story my grandmother told me about "me as a toddler." If I fell, I did NOT want to be picked up. I wanted to sit there and wail a little bit. Then eventually, I would pick myself up and actively go to someone to be consoled. To interrupt the process just made me more upset, and actively go, "NO! NO!" and push people away.

What is it we can do, when our friends and loved ones really, truly, want to grieve, and grieve in a hard and loud and gut-wrenching way?

1. WE LET THEM. Maybe we go in the other room and leave them be. Maybe we just stay in the room and say nothing, hard as it is.
2. We let them tell their story if that is what they need. Be an active listener. Let them tell their story with very little interjection from you--be an active listener. (This is always personally hard for me, because they often tell me something that seems to be an opening to interject, and I really have to fight myself to say nothing or save it till a little later. I don't trust my memory to get back to it under stress. So I don't always do that one right, myself. But I do keep trying to get better at it.)
3. We prepare ourselves for that moment they want to get up and be consoled. Sometimes that can feel a little weird or embarrassing. It's not always easy to deal with "raw." We are never quite sure what to do when that person comes to you and does something like bury their head in your chest and sobs, or takes your hand and put it in theirs, or needs that BIG hug, when you are just feeling kind of "shellshocked and blank" about the whole thing. But I have always found the best thing is just roll with it, and "love 'em back."
4. We pray for them. Sometimes it feels good to just get the opportunity to pray together with them. I have found I can do some of my most earnest praying this way. Sometimes, it feels more appropriate to tell them that you will pray for them, and do it on your own time, and they in theirs. But I think I just go with my gut on that. But pray. Hard. For everyone, even the people you are angry with. Even if that prayer for the person you are angry with is simply, "Bless so-and-so, change me."
5. We spend quiet time about it. Sometimes, when someone else is hurting, I just go sit in the yard, or light a few candles and turn down the lights, and sit still and see where my thoughts go. Sometimes I think about what it must feel like to be them, at that moment. Sometimes my imagination takes me to images of that hurting person doing something that puts them within the grasp of God--seeing a hawk in the sky, or feeling the wind, or taking a walk in the woods with Jesus and imagining the conversation they are having. But quiet time when you are alone is a very important part of that, too, for thoughts that turn to them, and thoughts that turn to how you "fit in" with all of the stuff involved.

Job is our reminder that grief is not easy, but it is meant to be experienced just as much as joy or contentment.


Thanks for this, Kirk--we will be burying a much-loved parishioner this afternoon. We buried another two weeks ago. It has been a hard time for our parish, and it is good to be reminded of the need to be present for those who are grieving.


Funny--we just had a funeral yesterday for the brother of a lady in our parish. He was not a member, but she is, and it made me realize that doing his funeral was "the right thing to do" even though he had never attended our church. To be a real church family and be there for HER meant we needed to show love and respect for the life of someone close to her.

In an interesting sort of irony, last week we were at church enjoying the baptism of her niece's baby. When that baby was still unborn, it was part of what led her mother to our church, because of the mother-to-be's recognition that this baby needed a church family.

Isn't this ol' circle of life something?



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I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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