Read Job 2
Focus on verse 13
Empathy is not the same as sympathy, nor is it feeling sorry for another person. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. Job’s wife did not demonstrate empathy when she said to him “Curse God and die”. Job’s three friends to be showing empathy, though it becomes evident in later dialogue that they did not really understand Job, nor did they understand God as well as they thought they did.
What Job’s three friends did well was to just sit with him in silence. When a person is suffering intensely – particularly when it is both emotional and physical suffering – there is little a person who is not suffering can say to console them. What Job’s friends did by sitting in silence with him, was not only culturally appropriate, it was also therapeutically appropriate. They did as much as they could at that moment to join him in his pain by sitting in the ashes with him in silence with their clothes torn.
Our culture is not comfortable with silence. Our tendency is to speak too soon and too much in this type of situation, though I would concede that, in our culture, to sit in silence for seven days and nights might be a little extreme, not to mention awkward.
The book of Job addresses much more than how to empathize with someone who is suffering. In fact the main theme of the book is not as much about the character of Job as it is about the nature and character of God. While understanding empathy is important, nothing is more critical for us than understanding the nature and character of God.