The Ministry of Presence

“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place-Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him.”—Job 2:11 (NKJV)

Physical, emotional, and spiritual pain are a part of life and affect all of us. In more than thirty years of ministry, I have counseled countless hurting individuals. I have walked alongside families grieving the death of a loved one. I have visited sick and heartbroken people. And I have personally experienced sorrow as well.

In the Old Testament, we read Job’s life story. It is tragic, fascinating, and wonderful. It not only addresses the human experience of pain and loss, it also reveals Job’s relationship with God, God’s loving care for Job, and what Job learned.

Job was a righteous and wealthy man with a large family. When tragedy struck, three of his friends immediately came to his side and sat silently with him for seven days. Interestingly, that was the greatest service they gave him. It is called the ministry of presence. Unfortunately, the seven days of silence were followed with unkind opinions and hurtful words that added to Job’s pain. 

Joe Bayly, an author and publishing executive, wrote a book about the loss of his three sons—one at 18 days following surgery, one at five years old from leukemia, and one at 18 years of age after a sledding accident.

At the various funerals of Bayly’s sons, many folks said things they thought were helpful, but only added to the family’s grief. One friend; however, simply said, “I am so sorry.” The man offered Bayly a hug and handshake and then moved to another part of the room. He stayed a while, then left.

In recounting the experience, Bayly said the man gave a wonderful gift just by being there—the ministry of presence.

Do you know someone who is suffering? Here are some simple and helpful ways to offer sympathy. First, intentionally reach out to the one who is hurting. Don’t ignore them. They need your presence. Second, remember that words aren’t always necessary. And finally, if you want to say something but you’re not sure what, it’s always appropriate to express how sorry you are for what they’re going through, that you’re praying for them, and to ask how you can assist during this time.

DIG: Psalm 46:1 says, “God is . . . a very present help in trouble.” How does the Lord show Himself present in your pain?

DISCOVER: Take time to look at the lives of Jesus, Job, and Paul. How did their pain turn to joy?

DISPLAY: Intentionally show care and comfort to those who are hurting.

About the Author

Jeff Seward