The book of Job is very long. It may seem like the beginning and the end are the only parts worth reading as there is lots of bickering in between. If you feel this way, I would recommend you read The Gospel According to Job by Mike Mason. This book will give you an in-road to a deeper relationship with God through pain and suffering.
There are some wonderful lessons in Job on how to comfort those who are hurting as well as some insights on how we can do it all wrong. We’ll look at both and apply them to a parent who is trying to comfort a hurting child.
What to do when your child hurts:
- Get comfortable. Right out of the gate, you may find that sitting with pain is hard for you. Fix-it mode may kick in right away. We love our kids and hate to see them suffer. But the quick fix may be a detour around God’s plan. Get comfortable letting them have the experience.
- Sit with them in supportive silence.
- Stay engaged during the silence. Hugs, a tissue, a back rub are all good ways to stay engaged without saying a word.
- Listen without comment. Initially, Job’s friends listened as he expressed his anger towards God and his despair in his circumstances. He was allowed to vent without judgment or rebuke. We can say supportive things like, “Tell me more about that,” “I am so sorry” and “I love you.”
- Cry with them. Job’s friends also wept with him. They shared his sorrow and gave expression to it freely. It is okay to let your child know that you share his pain. Be careful not to overwhelm sensitive kids who may then feel the need to care for you.
- Ask if they want/need help. A simple, “Can I help in anyway?” is a good starter.
- Realize that problem solving may come later. Your child may need time to process. There may be a time when you can problem-solve together, but it may take a while for him to get there.
What NOT to do when your child hurts:
- Avoid camouflaged “I told you so’s.” Job was a wealthy and powerful man. Everything he did prospered. He was likely the focus of much jealousy, even amongst his friends. It is not hard to imagine that their efforts to comfort him were tainted by some jealousy and a sense that now Job was “getting his.” If your child’s hurt stems from something he did, avoid the need to point it out right away. Maybe you had warned him many, many times. There will come a time when you can connect his acts with the consequences.
- Don’t rescue God. If your child is mad at God, don’t feel the need to jump in to rescue God’s reputation. He’ll take care of that. Let him express his feelings. There are many godly people in the Bible who had some choice words with God during difficult times.
- Don’t ignore it in the future. Depending on how deep the hurt was, you may need to re-open the conversation to see how the hurt is healing. This can be hard because you may feel that you would be causing your child to think about it all over again. Chances are, it is already on his mind. He needs you to give him permission to revisit it. A well-timed, “How are you doing with ____?” may be all it takes.
- Don’t forget to pray. For all the talking Job’s friends did, there was no evidence of prayer. We can communicate hope by praying with and for our child. Even if he doesn’t want prayer at that moment, assure him that you will be praying.
- Don’t quote Scripture to minimize the pain. Job’s friends used Scripture passages out of context to pass judgment on Job and to question his righteousness. Scripture can be very comforting in the moment if it is used as a healing ointment rather than an abrasive scrub brush. You can write a comforting verse and tuck it under his pillow or in a lunchbox.
If you want some more information on how you can listen empathically, check out this article.
[photo credit: hotblack from morguefile.com]