We really need our friends when we go through difficult times. The wise preacher instructed us about this many years ago:

Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12 NKJV)

A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17)

In the Bible's account of Job going through his many trials, Job has some friends who came to visit with him. They are often called Job's comforters. At first, his friends were just there sitting with him in the dust. They didn't even speak. What they did could be called "The ministry of presence." This was their real ministry to Job. The biblical account describes it this way: "So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great." (Job 2:13)

Many times this "ministry of presence" is the best thing we can do for friends who are hurting. Too often, we give people simple little platitudes — these platitudes sound religious, but most are not found in Scripture. These little phrases usually don't help a person who is in deep grief or in a desperate trial. I once had a minister friend who went to the hospital to visit a man whose wife had just died. All he did was hug him and cry with him. This "ministry of presence" is powerful and genuinely helpful.

Later on in the book of Job, his friends became a little more critical and accusatory. They suggested that Job must have sinned in order to cause all of the trials he was experiencing. When Job was honest about his feelings, they scolded him. Their words hurt Job instead of helping him. In addition, their words were wrong and misguided.

Unfortunately ... we feel like we have to give advice.
God wants us to come to Him honestly and fervently. David, "the man after God's own heart," was very honest and open with God in the Psalms. Many of the Psalms given to us help us to express our pain, sense of isolation, fear of being abandoned, and frustration at not having our prayers heard by God.

Good friends, especially godly friends, can handle us being open and honest about our pain, disappointment, disillusionment, and trials. Good friends listen and share our pain. Friends — real friends — hang in and listen during our adversity and help us honestly hang on to God in our times of trial

Unfortunately today, all too often, I've noticed a common practice among well-intentioned Christians. When a person is going through some difficulty and asks for prayer, we feel like we have to give advice. They didn't ask for advice; they asked for prayer. Too often we jump right in to counsel and give advice. However, what the person really needs and wants is for us to be lovingly present with them and to earnestly pray for them. In these situations, often the best thing to do is to refrain from giving advice and offer an immediate and heartfelt prayer for them.

Let's be the Body of Christ. Let's do life together. This includes sharing both the good and the bad. Let's be loving, caring, prayerful, and attentive listeners. Let's learn how to practice the "ministry of presence."