A couple of weeks ago my wife was driving to Florida to meet her aunt. About 8:00 that night, somewhere around Yazoo City, Mississippi, she decided to call some friends in Jackson and ask if she could spend the night. Keep in mind she was 45 minutes away, late at night, and was arriving practically unannounced. Our friends said, “Of course! Just ignore the absolute mess the house is in.” That’s what real friends do. They open up their homes (and lives) just as they are, no pretense, no whitewashing the ugly spots, no pushing the dirty clothes under the couch.
The story of Job is a great example of the contrast between real friends and pretenders. The pretenders took the chance to tell Job exactly what he did wrong, why it happened, and how to fix it. Never mind that he was going through unimaginable agony – physically, spiritually, and emotionally. The real friend sat quietly in the ashes with Job. Did he have opinions and observations? Probably. But he kept them to himself. He knew his presence was what Job needed, not lectures.
Here in the South we have a term “sitting with a sick friend.” Sitting with a sick friend meant just that. You sat next to him. And sat. If the friend wanted to talk, you talked. If he didn’t, you didn’t. My dad knew how to do it. He would go over to his friend Spud’s house after Spud’s stroke and sit with him. The two old friends would sit silently for hours until Spud needed something or wanted to talk. Dad never considered the time wasted.
There is just something about the presence of another human being that is both uplifting and therapeutic. And often silence is golden.
What about you? When you’re sick or under stress, how do you want your friends to treat you?