The Right Words Don't Exist
John Edgerton
May 10, 2022

“Then Bildad the Shuhite answered: "How long will you say these things, and the words of your mouth be a great wind? Does God pervert justice?” ~ Job 8

I grew up in Chicago, so I know the difference between stuffed pizza and deep dish. I know that when attending a game where the Cubs play the Sox, the safest sartorial choice is a Bears jersey (54, natch).  I know that when ordering a hot dog, the only acceptable reason to request ketchup is a concomitant purchase of fries. And I also know that calling Chicago “The Windy City” is not a comment on our weather. It’s a dig against our politicians, a roundabout way of calling them windbags.

But even a Chicago politician would have to tip their cap to Bildad the Shuhite. Bildad goes on and on, insisting that if Job has suffered, there must be a good reason. But Bildad is not trying to comfort Job. Bildad is trying to make himself feel better by having “the right thing to say”. Bildad goes to a grieving person and tries to explain it all away. This isn’t so hard to understand or imagine in our own context.

“Heaven needed another angel.”
“God never gives us more than we can handle.”
“Everything happens for a reason.”

I have spoken to Bildad before. Heck, I’ve even been Bildad before. When terrible things happen to people we care about, it is easy to want to have the answers. It is easy to feel like what is needed is to “say the right thing”. But in being with a grieving person, I can learn how to treat them by reflecting on where Bildad went wrong: he tried to find the right words but the reality is that it’s not possible to talk someone out of heartbreak.
Better to weep alongside a grieving person, or to sit in silence, knowing that if I cannot think of the right words, it is because those words do not exist.

Prayer: Help me be an instrument for your caring presence to the grieving, interceding with sighs too deep for words.