Why “dirt friends”? Because sometimes in life, words are just NOT necessary, and maybe – are more harmful than helpful. So when in doubt, it’s okay, acceptable and needful to zip your lips and sit in the dirt with them…
When life has hit you upside the head and all your best-laid plans have gone up in flames, there are quite possibly no quick and easy answers. What you need in a season like this is a dirt friend.
Job had dirt friends. “Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw his suffering was too great for words.” (Job 2:13) BAM! This is so important to remember – there is nothing worse than adding pain to injury by trying to explain away someone else’s misery. Job’s friends shared his suffering – “They began to weep aloud and they tore their robes and sprinkled dirt on their heads.”(Job 2:12)
Thus why I call them ‘dirt friends’. Sometimes the very best thing you can do for someone who is suffering is just present. Just sit in the muck and mire with them. Cry with them, grieve with them, hold their hand, dry their tears, take a stick and just draw circles in the mud. But do NOT talk.
Words are not always necessary
Job’s friends saw his loss and despair and they had no answers for him. They just sat in the dirt with him, for 7 days and 7 nights, just being there with him. What a great gift. They didn’t offer advice or try to figure out reasons they truly knew nothing about. The best they had to offer was just not leaving him alone. I have been blessed with a couple ‘dirt friends’ in my life. They have shown up in my excruciating losses and pain and offered me nothing but their presence. THIS taught me that again, words are not always necessary.
At some point though, Job’s friends felt the need to become his fixer-upper friends. THIS is when they decided to give their ‘two cents’. THIS is when they started to talk way.too.much.
This is also where they became what is known as “Job’s comforters”, but not in a good comforting way. To say to someone that they ‘got what they deserve’ is never, ever the right thing to say. “Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.” (Job 11:6) Whoa – way to crush someone’s spirit with condemning words.
Yet one of Job’s friends said exactly that. In essence, he said Job’s suffering was even less than he deserved. With a friend like that, who needs enemies! All three of his friends were looking for answers, reasons and a way out for Job – but they did it all wrong with their words. They all declared that Job was in the wrong and thus why he had such great misfortune. Guess who did NOT approve of their words? God. He said, “My anger burns against you for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:7)
I have watched a beloved homestead burn to the ground; I sat by my husband’s bedside when he died; I watched my best friend’s daughter be diagnosed with a brain tumor, I also watched her beloved homestead burn to the ground, and on and on of the pains that come in this life journey. Did my best friend silently sit in the dirt with me while I suffered? Yes. Did I sit with her silently in her dirt pile while she suffered? Yes. We had no answers – we didn’t try to make them up – we didn’t throw the blame on God (‘God’s will’.) We suffered together. And we silently held each other up until GOD spoke.
Wait for GOD to speak into the suffering. HIS words bring life and healing and truth.
Yes, God can use others and use us to speak counsel and life and maybe loving rebuke into someone’s life. I think we need to offer any words in fear and trembling if the words are to someone who is in extreme despair. God will never require you to use words of destruction and hopelessness. Our words should be like apples of gold. If they are not, then we need to be quiet.
You know that it’s okay to not have answers, right? I would much rather have a friend who honestly says – “I got nothing. But I won’t leave you.” Don’t try to make sense of my pain. Don’t judge me. Don’t try to figure out if I did something to deserve this or if I missed something. Just sit in the dirt with me. Truly, silence IS golden in times like this. Just because you can talk, doesn’t always mean that you should.
“If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.” (1 Corinthians 12:26)
If you want to truly help someone who has lost a loved one or experienced some excruciating painful life event, just be present. Show up with a pie and hot coffee, and just eat it with them in silence. Give cards that just say thinking of you with love. My next door neighbors were a family with 6 children – after my husband died they would walk a mile to my house and leave me homemade cookies, handwritten notes, and wildflowers at my door.
For weeks they did this without one word spoken. Now all these 15 years later why do I still treasure that? You tell me why. There are a million little loving ways offered in silence that will mean way more than all the best-polished speeches could ever do.
Again, sometimes words are just not necessary. Remember that, and just BE. See your friend over there weeping in the dirt pile? Go sit with them and stay there.
For more by Corinne Channell, also read: Learning To Be Alone But Not Lonely