The soldiers spoke quietly among themselves and the first soldier then turned to the village elders. "Your tired fields have left you nothing to share, so we will share what little we have: the secret of how to make soup from stones."
They ate and danced and sang well into the night, refreshed by the feast and their new-found friends. In the morning the three soldiers awoke to find the entire village standing before them. At their feet lay a satchel of the village's best breads and cheese. "You have given us the greatest of gifts: the secret of how to make soup from stones", said an elder, "and we shall never forget." The third soldier turned to the crowd, and said: "There is no secret, but this is certain: it is only by sharing that we may make a feast". And off the soldiers wandered, down the road. (The Story of Stone Soup, Traditional Story)
Compassion, Shared grief. The soldiers brought worthless stones, threw them in a pot, and out emerges a delicious stew. Jobs friends brought stones, threw them in a pot, kept throwing more ideas/considerations, causing Job to respond, finally God thunders from the heavens, and out emerges a renewed Job: “now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5). We travel in and around Sumas, nothing but stones, no power, no great wisdom, no magic answers, sharing our stones, and somehow through our inadequate words of compassion, incomplete acts of kindness, God thunders into the lives of the struggling, and out emerges people filled with hope. “It is only by sharing that we may make a feast.”
This series from Job is about a bruised heart. Everyone’s pain is the worst…Today the importance of shared grief – Easy to poke fun at Job’s friends for saying all the wrong things. But there is one thing that stands out above all else //// Job’s friends were there for him. They shared their worthless stones, and God used them to renew Job’s Spirit.
You do not need to have all the answers to bring a measure of comfort to those who are struggling – sharing the burden is more important than having the right answer. Take a meal to somebody who is fresh out of the hospital, and you take two gifts: you and the meal. The friends of Job meant well, they did their best, they loved Job, cared, ended up fighting with him instead of comforting him, but at least they were there. They brought their rocks. I’d rather see people in this community love each other awkwardly when there are those with a bruised heart rather than stay at a distance. Job’s friends said many things wrong, hurtful, placing blame in the wrong place, yet the one thing they did well that towered above all the awkwardness // they were there for Job. People need to share their grief with others for healing to begin. A stumbling friend is superior to aloneness.
Job’s friends said some awkward things, but they were there… I read Job 2:11-14 last week, here it is again…the importance of shared grief... It isn’t long before the word gets out to Job’s friends that Job had suffered a number of setbacks. They were perhaps wealthy business friends who had time and money to leave home. We can link some to Edom and northern Arabia. But can’t locate them exactly. The point is they came from different places in order to “sympathize with and comfort” their friend. It was deliberate and purposeful. It cost them something… through the awkwardness, the friends cared.
I’d like to glance at some of the awkwardness, then a better way. Remember, though, a stumbling friend is better than no friend. Job’s friends did not get it completely right, but they cared. Share the grief, even if all you have to offer is stones.
First the awkwardness. This is a borrowed outline which I find helpful (Roger Barrier). The beatitudes in Mathew 5 says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Job’s friends forgot to read this beatitude, in their style of comforting, they end the beatitude differently. Here’s how the beatitude would end if we listen to Job’s friends: “BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO MOURN…
“…FOR THEY SHALL BE TOLD WHY THEY SHOULDN’T FEEL THAT WAY.” Job 4:1-6: You don’t have it so bad Job. You’ve been a great help to others, so why do you feel the way you do now… Job’s friends try, they are there, they are awkward.
“…FOR THEY SHALL BE TOLD HOW TO FIX IT.” Job 5:8.
“…FOR THEY SHALL BE TOLD WHY IT IS REALLY THEIR FAULT.” Job 8:1-4 Bildad blames Job’s kids. It’s their own fault this happened.
“…FOR THEY SHALL RECEIVE A PEP TALK.” Job 8:20-22. Cheer up. Don’t be so depressed. Isn’t this what’s behind the idea of taking a grieving friend out to have a good time so they will forget about the problems. Isn’t this is what about drinking too much to forget the problems. We offer our stones to others. At least we are there.
“…FOR THEY SHALL BE LED INTO AN ARGUMENT.” Job 11:1-5…also Job 20:1-3 Zophar upset because Job dares to rebuke him.
“…FOR THEY SHALL BE TOLD, DON’T CRY. IT’S NOT SO BAD.” Job 15:7-13
“…FOR THEY SHALL BE GIVEN LOGIC AND REASONS.” Job 20:1-29 is a long lecture explaining God’s ways, and how the wicked will receive their punishment in the end even though we don’t see it right now…on an on…. Explanations never mend a broken heart.
“…FOR THEY SHALL BE TOLD HOW TO DO IT BETTER NEXT TIME.” Job 22:6-11…let this be a learning experience for you Job….that’s really what people need to hear that are in the middle of grief. Before one particular funeral the family was worried about friends saying awkward things: i.e. “God needed him more than you.” The family understood behind it all was a caring spirit, a desire to bring comfort…
“Blessed are they who mourn, FOR THEY SHALL BE COMFORTED.”
ONLY MOURNING AND COMFORTING HEALS HURTS. Yet we go with our stones. The wrong things may be said, yet Job finds strength. Job is challenged, God thunders into his life, and Job is renewed. It’s better to be awkward, uncertain, and yet share the grief. At the end of the book, one of the wonderful touches is a response of Job towards his friends: READ Job 42:10. Shared grief is important. If you are hurting, you need friends, even if they don’t have all the answers…. Here are some better ways:
COMFORTERS CARE ENOUGH TO COME UNINVITED. No one sent a message to the three, “Would you please come and bring some sympathy and comfort.” They simply came because they knew it was right. If a friend has a coronary, it’s not long before you’re down at the hospital beside your friend. You don’t wait for an invitation. These friends loved Job and cared enough to come without being asked to come.
COMFORTERS LISTEN CAREFULLY SO THEY CAN MINISTER TO THE
EMOTIONS AND NOT REACT TO THE WORDS. Job’s friends never did seem to get it quite right. We might make the same mistakes as them, but we can also learn. The friends of Job never listened to what was going on inside of Job. They only listened to the words. Listening goes beyond the words. What is really being said.
A man asked his wife, “If you could have anything in the world for one day, what would you want.?” She said with a smile, “Well, I’d love to be six again.” Early the next morning, the morning of her birthday he got her up and off they went to a local theme park. What a day. He put her on every ride in the park—the death slide, the screaming loop, the wall of fear—everything that was—five hours later she staggers out of the theme park. Her head is reeling, her stomach is upside down. Off to MacDonalds next. He ordered her 2 Big Macs along with extra fries and thick chocolate shake. Then off to an animated movie, the latest Hollywood blockbuster. They ate hot dogs, and popcorn, and M&Ms and Pepsis. It was a fabulous 6-year-old adventure. Finally she wobbled home with her husband and collapsed into bed. He leaned over and lovingly asked, “Well dear, how did you like being six again?” One eye opened, she said, “Well, actually, I meant my dress size.”
These guys miss Job’s needs by miles. They come at Job as if he needs sermons and condemnation and illustrations and philosophical thoughts and examples from nature.
Comfort meant that I listen and respond to their emotions and not react to their words. Here is what comfort sounds like. Comfort is emotional, feeling words. ”I am so sad that your friends treated you harshly . . .That hurt so badly.” ”You were so embarrassed when they teased you on the school bus. I am so Saddened, hurt, pain…
COMFORTERS ARE NOT TURNED OFF BY DISTASTEFUL SIGHTS.
You’re not turned off because the room doesn’t smell good. You’re not turned off because your friend weighs half of what he used to weigh. You see beyond all of that. You’re not turned off because they’re lying there in a hospital gown. Or because the bottom has dropped out of their lives and they are at wit’s end. That doesn’t turn you off and make you turn around and leave. That draws you in. These guys wept and sat down on the ground with him– and for 7 days and nights without a word.
COMFORTERS SAY VERY LITTLE. Seven days of the friends saying very little… it was actually a long time before they spoke….
Compassion, Caring, Shared grief. Stones are boiled in a pot, and a stew is created. Jobs friends brought stones, threw them in a pot, and out emerges a renewed Job. Our words may be imperfect, our actions incomplete, but as we travel in and around Sumas with nothing but stones, no power, no great wisdom, no magic answers, sharing our stones, inadequate words of compassion, incomplete acts of kindness, God thunders into the lives of those with bruised hearts, and out emerges people filled with hope. Don’t tough it out alone when your heart is bruised. Be available to those that are struggling. You do not need to have all the answers to bring a measure of comfort to those who are struggling – sharing the burden is more important than having the right answer.