Is it possible to make a difference in someone’s life just by sitting down beside them? You may think, as you pull a chair beside someone that you are just casually sitting by them, nothing more. “Just sitting” beside someone seemed insignificant to me for many years, but I have since learned its importance. This lesson concerning the importance of “just sitting” pierced my heart while in a stark and dingy hospital room in Romania during the late ’90s. The scene before me changed my worldview and gave me new, deepened convictions, compelling me to grow my heart. I was so struck that I captured the moment by photo (with an old-fashioned camera). I’ll never forget this boy’s dark hair and simple cap framing his sunken face. He was obviously ill. I took this picture because I never wanted to forget him, or the woman sitting beside him. My heart went out to this young boy, whose life would end before the day was over.
I wondered about the significance of the woman sitting beside the bed. I learned she was not related to the boy; she really didn’t even know him. But, in her travels, she had seen children like him die alone, as orphans. She put her life in Ireland on hold, and volunteered her time, simply by sitting alongside the sick children as they died. She believed that no one should have to die alone. My heart still swells with emotion as I write this memory.
In the Scriptures, we can read about Job’s illness and suffering. Job’s friends understood the importance of sitting beside their friend:
When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.
When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.
Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. (Job 2:11-13)
Job’s friends acted fabulously—that is until they began to open their mouths to explain all the reasons why Job was suffering. Then, they became “unhelpful,” and discouraging. They teach us valuable lessons. We must discern when it is best to talk and when it is more helpful to just sit and be with someone. Most of the time we don’t know the reasons “why” someone is ill, except that we live in a temporary, but fallen world. Let the one who is suffering give the cues as to what is most helpful.
Wisdom comes when we take the time to listen in order to understand. When we do this, we will know better what to say and how to respond. Wyndham always excelled in this quality. When we practice this. we may even find ourselves, like the woman pictured above, sitting with strangers. She saw a need, and out of the compassion in her heart, she responded.
I love to walk and talk with others. It is not as easy for me to sit and be silent; however, I have had to learn to do so through my current situation. Daily, when I transfer Wyndham to his hospital bed in our room for his late afternoon rest, I bring our big, black office chair into the room. From this chair, I feed him dinner when he awakes, and most every night from 9 PM until 1 AM, I can be found sitting in that chair beside his bed. I am usually studying during this time, while he watches something on television; thus, I am quiet except for inquiring about his needs. The important thing, to him (and me), is that I am sitting there beside him.
We are not alone. Not only does God sit with me (and Wyndham) as I sit beside the bed, but amazingly, I know that He has invited me to sit with Him! This helps me to remember that these difficult times, for us all, are temporal. We have an amazing seat God has given us in the heavenly places. Yes, he has already given this to all who are Christians. This seat is not just reserved for life after death, but we can sit there now! From this seat, our perspective on caring, giving, and hope can be transformed to be like Christ’s. May we all better comprehend the immeasurable and incomparable riches of His grace, expressed through Jesus’ kindness to us.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,
made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:4-7, emphasis added).