Into spring air, tiny spheres of white and blue released. The hands below – white, black, golden – fell to the sides of silent students and teachers. The wails of his mother washed over us. His father and brother cradled her between them. What would we say? I reached the end of a long line of mourners. I embraced her. Her eyes reflected grief. What could I say? I knew she would not remember my face or recall my name.
Her son, my student, had passed away. A drowning. His friends had begged him to keep going. They had grabbed an army blanket to net his body and pull it to the surface. But the channel swirled and fought against him. It wore out his body and sapped his strength.
His vacant desk filled the classroom and his classmates sat in silence. I cannot forget the way his teammates, his best friends, wept. I told my second period class that I loved them. I could not say anything more.
It’s a vivid memory that surfaces from time to time. It’s surfaced again in light of this weekend’s events. My new school family lost a sophomore boy – a varsity football player – on Friday. A drowning. My in-laws had been at the same lake. They had arrived just as the divers submerged into green waters.
What will I say on the first day of school? It is a small school, a close-knit family. The graduating class might top ninety this school year. Their pain brings back memories, but it is not my pain. I have yet to meet them. Still, I feel love and compassion for them.
I’ve come across three profound and simple statements this month. I believe they have prepared me for such a time as this. Perhaps you, too, grieve today. Or perhaps someone you know is grieving. You wonder what to say or do. Consider the story of Job, the man God allowed Satan to test.
“In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:22).
Job lost it all in a day. And he fell to the ground in worship. I picture a torn man with a torn robe and somber face. The lyre did not play, the tambourine did not shake in his worship. It was a thick voice compelled by raw emotion that acknowledged it is the Lord who gives and takes away (Job 1:20-21). In all his grief and mourning, Job did not accuse God of injustice. I’ve asked God “why?” time and again. God has known my childlike anger. I am not like sinless Job, and yet God loves me. And Job’s response awes and inspires me. His world had crumbled. The dust had not yet settled and he humbly fell to the ground in worship.
Oh, to worship like Job.
“Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10)
When illness strikes Job, his wife instructs him to “curse God and die” (Job:2:9). Who could resist such temptation? The Lord had allowed death and illness to test Job’s faith. He had allowed tribulation to rattle Job’s very core. Now his own wife – perhaps still alive for this very purpose – encourages her honorable husband to blame God and end their grief. Job says, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble” (Job 2:10)? Truly, who are we that God blesses us? How swiftly we forget the meaning of grace. We are quick to feel wronged when tribulation shakes us.
“No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was” (Job 2:13).
When I hear people say, “weep with those who weep” (Roman 12:15), I always picture Jesus weeping with Martha and Mary at the tomb of Lazarus. Now I think of Job’s friends. They gather around him to sit in silence for seven days and nights. They do not speak. What can they say? They do not even recognize their cursed friend. He is shaven, gaunt, and riddled with sores. There is no feasting in his household, no herding of cattle and sheep on his property. His land is a wasteland. He rises to meet them and they weep for him.
What can we say to those who mourn, to those accompanied by grief, to those that know loss and heartache? To weep with those who weep is to show love. To sit with them in silence is to show love. Those in pain know you struggle for the right word.
Listen in silence. Even if there are no words, only tears.
Prayer: We thank you, Lord, for our innumerable blessings. Please teach us to worship in humility. Teach us to listen in silence and weep with those who weep. Heal us in our pain and carry us through grief.