Three of Job’s friends heard of all the trouble that had fallen on him. Each traveled from his own country—Eliphaz from Teman, Bildad from Shuhah, Zophar from Naamath—and went together to Job to keep him company and comfort him. When they first caught sight of him, they couldn’t believe what they saw—they hardly recognized him! They cried out in lament, ripped their robes, and dumped dirt on their heads as a sign of their grief. Then they sat with him on the ground. Seven days and nights they sat there without saying a word. They could see how rotten he felt, how deeply he was suffering. Job 2:11-13 (The Message)
This passage from the book of Job in the Bible always struck me as a great lesson in the importance of “presence”. Job had just experienced devastating losses of family and possessions, and he was in great misery. His friends from all around the area conferred with one another and went to comfort their friend. Upon arrival, they simply sat with him. They were so moved by his pain that they experienced suffering themselves. They said nothing, perhaps too stunned to know what to say, and wise enough to say nothing. They just wanted to be with their friend in his time of need.
It was only after they started to try to give him advice that they caused him some additional emotional pain. That however, is another story. The point is that they cared enough to plan together to travel to see him, and they just sat with him to show their love and support. That, it turned out, was the real healing they brought to their friend Job.
This COVID-19 crisis caused us to be much less present with one another physically. Yes, we are blessed with many modes of electronic communication, and that is of incredible value. But we missed physical presence. There is something about just being with others, connecting, hugging, touching, that had been taken from us. I missed it, and thankfully, it is now being restored.
Just today, I had the opportunity to reconnect with people I have not seen for many years. What a blessing it was to see them, hug them, and tell them in person how much I value them.
I trust that one of the lessons we take away from the COVID crisis is to never again undervalue the importance of being simply present with one another. What a gift that is.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for building us to be in need of one another’s presence. We often feel your presence when we are with others, Amen