When Bad Things Happen, Job 2:11-13

Never fail, shortly after a serious tragedy, the question of God and evil surfaces.  How can God be all-loving and all-powerful and still we see bad things happen?  One answer suggests that that God does not exist.  There are serious flaws in the structure of this answer, but at the same time, hurting people suffering in the shadow of sorrow and heartbreak have every reason to ask such a question. And we can see how they might easily lean on the “no god” solution, as sad as that may be.  
There are all kinds of philosophy and apologetics books that work to answer this question, but I’d like to offer a different look at this problem.  When we sit with a grieving, questioning person, our first thought is to try to “fix” the person.  Many times, before they even ask tough questions about bad things, we’re already feeding them the argument, the preemptive strike.  We’re locating scriptures at the end of the book of Job to show what God says to Job about tragedy.  While those passages are beautiful, and do indeed show a wonderful picture of God and facing life’s devastating moments, I’d like to look at a passage toward the front of the story.

A righteous man (Job 1:1) named Job has just suffered a series of major blows.  Within a matter of minutes he learns that all of his livestock were stolen and some were slaughtered, his employees were murdered, and the house where his ten children were having a party collapsed, killing them all.  His wealth, business, and most significantly all of his children were taken from him on the same day.  Then, to make matters worse, Job is plagued with painful sores from head to toe.  His wife—looking at Job’s situation—tells Job to “Curse God and Die” (Job 2:9).  Then Job’s three friends arrive. 
(11) Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. (12) And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. (13) And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.  (Job 2:11-13, ESV. Bold added for emphasis.)
Notice first that this passage does not say that Job’s three friends came to argue with Job about the goodness of God (although eventually they all offer lengthy, but incorrect arguments about why this must have happened to Job).  It does not say that at this point they wanted to "fix" Job.  No, it says they wanted to sympathize with Job and offer him comfort.  And how did they go about sympathizing and offering comfort?  They sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights, not saying a single word.

I can imagine they started at the fire.  Occasionally one of them poked at a dusty black log and sparks went high up into the night sky to compete with the stars.  It was uncomfortable and quite.  Seven days of this.  Seven of the longest days.  Likely, they were fasting.  If so, they were hungry.  Sounds might have been grumbling from their stomachs.  But still, they just sat, nothing being said.  They grieved with Job.  When we go to grieve with a person that has just suffered a tragedy, we don’t even remain quiet for seven minutes. The quiet is awkward so we fill it with meaningless noise.  It could be that the deeper healing is through the grieving.  And while it might be quiet on the surface, the Holy Spirit might be working deep on the person’s heart.

So the next time you are offering support to someone who has just faced a tragedy, be it an individual, a community, or even an entire nation, remember Job and his friends.  Close your mouth and grieve; grieve for as long as it takes.