When my heart aches

25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” - 1 Corinthians 12:25-26

My life has been extremely blessed! I have never lost an immediate family member, whether it be my wife, children, mother, father, brother or sister. I have never experienced the anguish of a close family member being diagnosed with cancer, and then the subsequent months of chemo treatments. While never experiencing this sorrow, I am surrounded by brethren who have experienced or are experiencing things simply beyond my comprehension. The depth of their hurt, despair, depression, anguish, and pain is one that I cannot comprehend, but it motivates my heart to ache on their behalf. My heart aches because their pain and suffering is a reminder of the darkness which fills this world. My heart aches because I want to help carry their burden. My heart aches because I love them.

The apostle Paul instructed the Corinthians to remember that the local congregation is likened to the human body (1 Corinthians 12:27). Therefore, each person plays an integral part in the overall success of the body. There are no “vestigial” parts in the body of Christ, but rather there is a purpose for every member in a local congregation. When this attitude is exhibited and every member feels connected to the other, Paul’s admonition of caring for those who are weak reigns paramount in the heart of every Christian. We are willing to sacrifice and search for opportunities to serve one another, because our love for one another motivates us to action. Our love motivates us to go to those who are struggling and lend an helping hand.

The man Job suffered greatly during the days of his life. In the midst of these trials, Job’s three friends heard of all his adversity and came to sympathize and comfort him. The distance of their travel did not stop their willingness to come and support their friend in his darkest hours. While their visit may not have ended on the best of terms, it was their actions at first that help build a foundation of what to do when someone has experienced a tremendous loss. The text reads:

12 When they lifted up their eyes at a distance and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept. And each of them tore his robe and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky. 13 Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great. (Job 2:12-13).

The three friends wept, mourned, and sat in silence for their friend, Job. Would I be willing to do the same for my brethren?

I have often contemplated the excuses these men could have used to hinder their joining in Job’s anguish. Certainly, they could have never left home and simply sent word through a servant or a letter. They could have witnessed the despair of Job and just kept on walking. They could have justified their absence by saying, “There’s really nothing we could have done anyways,” but none of these excuses were used, because they came to suffer with their friend. They tore their own clothes while lamenting the loss of Job. They sat in silence for seven days and nights, while their friend wept for the loss of his livelihood, his erring wife, and his children. These friends manifested the very attitude that Paul called for in 1st Corinthians. When our brethren need us the most, will we be there?

The greatest discipline that we can learn from Job’s three friends is the time they spent in silence with him. While our first intention may be to speak a thousand words of comfort, there are times when silence serves as the greatest unspoken word. Our greatest gift may not be in the form of audible words, but rather in the warm embrace, soothing presence, and unheard prayers. Where Job’s friends would ultimately make the mistake of speaking, may we learn contentment in just being there with someone. May we learn to sacrifice our wants, desires, and time when our suffering brethren need us the most.

We live in a fallen creation, full of darkness and sin, but even now God gives forth light to help lead us back to Him. May we create within us a heart like David who wrote, “My soul waits in silence for God only; From Him is my salvation” (Psalm 62:1). Certainly, we may suffer on this earth and at times feel all alone, but in the silence, God is still here. Even when the entire world seems to have forsaken us, if we remain faithful, God will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). May we be ready to go to our brethren whenever they are in need. Let us fulfill the command of Paul and suffer with those who suffer and rejoice with those who rejoice!