Q: My friend had a little brother with cancer and autism. He was and is her favorite person and she just absolutely adores him and loves him. He just passed away, and she comes to me to talk about everything. How do I help her in this situation?
Wow–that’s tough! I recently lost my mom to cancer, so I understand that your friend must be hurting deeply. “Being there” for your friend is the most important thing you can do, but I think we can all learn a little something from the book of Job when it comes to “grieving with those who grieve” (Romans 12:15).
If you’re not familiar with Job (or need a refresher), he basically had all a guy could want: a great family, plenty of wealth, good character and a solid love for God. Through a series of difficult-to-understand events, God allowed Satan to take everything from Job–his family, his property, and even his health. From a human standpoint, Job got worked! And he was understandably heartbroken.
He had three friends who came to comfort him in his grief:
When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him. Their names were Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.
One Bible commentator argues that the only thing Job’s friends did right was to sit silent with Job for those seven days. Once they opened their mouths and tried to make sense of the tragedy, they did more harm than good. Even though they meant to help, they had no idea what God was really up to. So they tried to offer Job reasons for his misfortune out of their own puny human intelligence, but what Job really needed was their quiet, unconditional support.
That’s not to say you should never offer encouraging words to your friend! I’m sure there will be times when she needs to be reminded of all the wonderful blessings she still has to look forward to in life. But just know that you don’t have to have the “perfect words” to help your friend heal. That’s not your job–it’s God’s alone. I’m confident, though, that He will use you to help your friend get through this difficult season as you choose to love her the way that Christ loves her: unconditionally.