Reflections from the Ash Heap
Now that I've ranted irreverently in my previous post, I'm looking at the distress of Job. His is not just simple suffering. It's serious. He's lost his thousands of animals, his servants were killed when his animals were lost, and his ten seemingly close and caring-of-one-another children die all at once. All this seems to happen at the same time. So the news reaches Job nearly simultaneously. He tears his clothes, shaves his head, falls on the ground, and worships. Worships? Then in the midst of his grief, the troublemaker gets permission to strike Job with sores. Not just a few and not just heal-up-quickly sores. These are nasty. And they cover his entire body. So there he is in the Ash Heap grieving his losses and scraping his wounds with broken pots. This is bad.
This is so bad his friends didn't recognize him when they came to see him. It's so bad that they tore their own clothes, dumped ashes on their heads, and sat in the Ash Heap with their friend. It's so bad they are speechless for a whole week, seven whole days of silence in the Ash Heap. This is how it can be on the Ash Heap. So bad that there is absolutely nothing that can be said. Words would be empty, meaningless, even ridiculous. Silence is a gift in the midst of suffering and pain. A gift too often withheld. Personally, I like Job's friends right now at this part of the story. I know how it will turn out, but in this moment with the week of silent grief, these are good friends. These are friends who know how to give space for pain and to be a part of it right along with the sufferer.
These are friends who sit in the Ash Heap and watch Job scrape his weeping sores. They see him. They remain. They are present. They have come "to show him sympathy and comfort." This is sympathy I imagine. To get in the Ashes, get dirty, and grieve right along with the sufferer. They didn't stay clean and watch from distance. They didn't let repulsion send them back to their homes. They were willing to be in the middle of the suffering and let it be what it would be. They gave up their own joy and happiness for their friend. What does it cost to give the gift of silence to a suffering friend? And how long does suffering need this gift?