As I live through another anniversary of my mom and father-in-law’s death and coincidentally studying John 11, I’ve learned something new about grief. John 11 is about the death of Lazarus and there are key components of what grief looked like in biblical times. A quick study of Job 2 also reveals the grief process. It’s quite different than the way things are done in modern America. When scripture teaches that we are to mourn with those that mourn, they meant it literally. A grief-stricken person was given the space to cry and be sad. No words were shared. When people came, they sat with the mourner and cried with them. They also provided for their physical needs. The comfort came from their presence, not their words. This went on for seven full days. Grief from that point on took the form of how people dress for a full year, usually in black. People’s expectations were different during this grieving process. In John 11 and Job 2 we read about those that mourned with Mary, Martha and Job. It appears that they were rarely left alone during the first week.
As I consider my own time of grief, I see the value in their comfort. The people that brought me the most comfort said very little to me for weeks after my mom and father-in-law’s death. They just sat with me and when I wanted to talk, they just listened. This was also a relief to me, as I now become the comforter for others. I don’t need to figure out what to say, I just need to be present and available for them. Job 2:13 set our example. It says –
“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.”
Father, help me be a loving comforter to those that need it.