When Job’s three friends came to see him after his tragic losses, the scriptures say they sat down with him for 7 days and did not say a word to him for they saw that his grief was very great (Job 2:13). Sometimes there is just nothing that can be said. Sometimes all one can do is just be there. Words are not necessary, just your presence is a comfort to those who are grieving.
I understand all that but still I contend that there are appropriate words to be spoken in times of mourning. I remember when my mother was dying from pancreatic cancer. We knew she did not have long to live. On this particular Saturday afternoon Teresa and I were on our way to her home. When we rounded the curve to come into view of her house we saw the yard full of cars….and we knew. This was before we had a cell phone and she indeed had passed while we were on our way to her home. She had been gone about 20 minutes when we arrived.
I remember walking in the door and seeing all those friends, and going into the bedroom to find my brother and sister still sitting by her then lifeless body. I will be very honest, but for one exception, I don’t remember anything that was said that day. But I do remember it was a great comfort to have all those friends nearby. Just their presence is something I remember.
I do remember one thing that was said. My very good friend, Vance Hutton, who happens to be the preacher at the home congregation, had not arrived yet when I got there. He came shortly thereafter. And I will forever remember the first words out of his mouth. They were not the normal “I am so sorry” or other things we typically say in those situations.
His first words were “Psalm 35:14 says, ‘and I bowed down heavily, as one who mourns for his mother.’” You must know that in times like these there are no words of comfort except those from the Scriptures. And Vance knew that. And he knew that that was what would comfort me. On that day, I lost my mother, I don’t remember anything else that was said but I will never forget what the Scriptures spoke to me by way of Vance.
It reminds me of another trip I made to Double Springs a number of years ago. When I was a young man growing up in that small town, there was a man who served as one of the elders in the local church. I was not a member of the church or even a regular attendee but I knew who he was. He was a man of utmost integrity and character in the town.
I was probably more familiar with his wife because she was one of my high school teachers. She was a stern woman but one that I respected and grew to love. Later in life when I would go back to visit home and attend church there, she was always one of my favorite people.
A number of years ago, the gentleman became sick and died. I made the long trip back to Double Springs to pay my respects. I remember standing in a very long line to get to this older widow. Her husband was well loved by the community and I doubt there have been many visitations that large in such a small town.
After waiting in line for some time, and reaching my former school teacher, I observed her standing there, snow white headed, having just lost her life’s mate. And like Vance, the first words out of her mouth when she saw me were not “thanks for coming” or any such thing. No, what she said spoke volumes about who she was. Her first words to me were “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD.” This was a quote from Psalm 121. This godly woman has long since passed as well but I will forever remember her example. She too was drawing comfort on the Scriptures that had governed both their lives for so long.
Scriptures tell us that GOD is the GOD of all comfort (2 Cor 1:3). Often we are void of what to say but there is always comfort in the Scriptures. May we be knowledgeable of them to be able to use them wisely.
And I am thankful for godly examples like Vance Hutton, Loyce and J.H. Whitson, and others.