Remember the Book of Job? What is one of the first things that happens after Job experiences the loss of everything in his life? We first see him, surrounded by the abundant blessings of prosperity; family, faith, and farm. Then, God and Satan have a little chat and the next thing we see is Job cast upon the ground, covered in boils. Imagine if misfortune and suffering were as visible today as they were back then. Next time you have a bad day, imagine if everyone could see it on your face in boils. What would your friends do? Well, we know what Job’s friends did. They immediately come to his side and demonstrate a practice that, in my mind, needs to be revived in our culture. They gather around him for seven days in the practice of “sitting shiva,” or in the words of Scripture, “they met and journeyed together to give him sympathy and comfort” (Job 2:11). Imagine, sitting with your loved ones in silence, accompanying them in the darkness of grief, anger, and despair. Saying nothing, asking nothing of the suffering; just sitting and being with them so that they are not alone in their anguish. Wait, I know I’ve seen this before. Horses do this for us all the time!
Ever been near a horse when they take a deep breath? If you happen to be in this situation, take a moment and enter their world. As they let out their breath, do the same thing and breathe deeply with them. Exhale everything that you are feeling at that moment or as I like to say, “breathe in God, breath out me.” Horses are the best partners to do this with because like Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar (those would be Job’s friends), they are so good at sitting with you in whatever condition you are in. When I get emotionally overwhelmed, I just walk into the pasture and find the closest horse. Staring out into the wild blue, I don’t even need to look at the horse for him/her to know how much I need them. They exhale, I exhale. I lift my heart to prayer and they stand by my side. Sometimes, the anger sizzles across my chest. Sometimes the grief causes the tears to form. Sometimes, my legs leap into the air out of sheer need to express the joy of God’s Presence. The leaps usually get a curious glance from the nearest horse but then, it brings them in for a closer look. Like Job’s friends, they will stay by your side. They understand nothing of what caused the emotions, like Job’s friends who offer one explanation after the next for Job’s sufferings. That is not the point. The point is that they are there, sitting shiva, for as long as it takes. God is so good.