11 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. (Read the rest of the chapter, here.)
Job’s friends get kind of a bad rap later in this story for providing cold or false comfort, but here, at least, we can learn from their example: Sometimes just being there is important. And that is what these friends did, sitting with Job for seven days and nights, in silent support.
It is uncomfortable, sometimes, to “just be there.” When a loved one is ill we see them in ways that are hard to forget: A strong father grown weak, a gregarious friend turned listless. It breaks our hearts and scares us. It also makes us feel helpless when there is nothing we can “do” to make them feel better. But even if you are just sitting there, in silence, you are doing something. Scientists have found that strong friendships – and being around friends – reduce our level of stress hormones, which in turn can reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure.
Just being there doesn’t just apply to illness and death, either. It applies to stressful times, both good and bad, that we may face in life. A new baby is a perfect example. Of course you don’t want to overwhelm a new mom with visitors, but one of the biggest challenges I faced in the first few months after each girl was feeling so isolated. It was so hard to go anywhere and I was thrilled to have grown-ups around whenever they were there, even if it was just to talk to me while I continued about my daily routine. Again, I didn’t need anybody to “do” anything (though I did and still do always appreciate help with the dishes!), I just needed someone to be there.
I think we can all agree that being there for people is something we should all do. But we are all busy, and it’s hard to make the time to do so. Sometimes we don’t even know someone needs help – I was shocked to learn of my friends’ hospitalization and second degree burns over most of her leg – a year after it happened! We had spoken in the interim time, but with all the weddings and babies in our lives I guess it never came up.
I don’t want to stress you out with one more thing to do, but I encourage you to reach out to one person this week that you haven’t talked to in while. Maybe you can meet them for coffee, maybe it’s just a phone call, but reach out. You will both be strengthened by the connection and more able to face the challenges ahead.
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