“Actions, not words, are the true criterion of the attachment of friends.”
The ministry of presence is a gift. It is a quiet gift. No words are needed or should be offered because often they are not helpful. Often when illness occurs or tragedy strikes, the ministry of presence is all that is needed.
When we study the Book of Job, we see a man who was a model of trust an obedience to God. He was considered blameless and upright in the eyes of God. Job 1:8 - Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." Even though Job was considered blameless and upright in the eyes of God, he still encountered suffering. Job lost his possessions, his children, and ultimately his health. Tragedy, one right after another occurred in the life of Job. Nothing could be done or said to alleviate Job's grief or his pain.
Job’s friends heard of his suffering and went to offer him comfort. Job 2:11 - 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. These three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, were not only Job's friends but were also known for their wisdom. In the end however, their wisdom provided no comfort for Job. He needed the ministry of presence. The words they delivered were often insensitive and provided no comfort. We too must be careful when we reach out and attempt to comfort others with our words. During grief and suffering just the presence of a friend provides more comfort than words ever could.
For seven days and nights the three friends provided Job with the ministry of presence. They sat with him. No words were spoken. They recognized how great his suffering was and offered their quiet presence as comfort. They cried along with Job as he grieved the loss of his children and his health. Job 2:12-13 - 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. 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. Often the best response to another person's suffering and grief is silence. When a person is emerged in the depths of pain and grief, words do not provide comfort. Job’s pain was too deep to be healed with mere words.
Often we feel like we must say something spiritual or insightful to a hurting friend when all they truly need is our presence. Continuing to read through the Book of Job, we see that Job's friends did eventually speak but their presence in the first seven days provided more comfort than their words. We need to remember that pat answers and trite quotations say much less than empathetic silence and loving companionship.
Dear Heavenly Father, help us to offer the ministry of presence to those who are hurting. I pray we will keep a tight rein on our tongues. LORD enable us to be a comfort to our friends when they encounter times of suffering. In Jesus Name I Pray.....Amen.