Sometimes there is just nothing to say. There are some things that happen in life that words won’t heal.
There are some things that take our breath away that only silence can breathe life back into our lungs.
They are the things of life that are beyond someone giving a kind word, a positive hopeful thought, a story of so and so who went through this and that and made it through, a good sermon, an uplifting song. I mean don’t get me wrong, these things help especially when they are blanketed by the truth of God’s word but somewhere a midst the things of life that exceed the realm of platitudes there are just some things that happen that can’t be healed by us and our feeble human attempts.
I think of Job, I think of all he suffered, loss of family, loss of things, loss of identity, loss of hope. I think of how his body betrayed him and words fell flat. Have you been here? Have you been in this place? The place where your bones ache? The place where your mind craves hope against hope and there seems to be none? Have you been here?
Job was here. He was tired. He was weak. He was emptied out. We are familiar with the story and of how his friends abused his soul by contributing nothing but awful platitudes and assumptions of his deserving this, crushing him further into his pain. Job’s friends made some poor choices. While perhaps they intended to help they inflicted more pain, they would have done him well to continue in the manner they started with when they first came to offer their condolences:
In silence they sat with him. In silence they listened to his pain. In silence they nodded to his pangs of sour grapes and allowed him to borrow their comfort without words being spoken.
“So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spoke a unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.” Job 2:13
They didn’t offer great explanations for why this happened. They didn’t say “God has a plan for your life”
They didn’t say “Well maybe if you prayed more”
They didn’t say “Well maybe it was to teach you a lesson”
They didn’t say “God has a great testimony for you out of this pain”
All of those things are quite possibly true in some of our stories. God does use our pain. God does have plans. After all…He is God. But there are some circumstances in which saying these things doesn’t mend our severed hope.
Maybe it makes us feel like we are helping…
Maybe it’s our way of hoping…
Maybe we feel like it’s the right thing to say because it’s the only thing we know to say…
But sometimes the offering of just being there is enough and sometimes it is better.
I can think of times in my life when my heart was so sad I just couldn’t cry. I just sat and let myself be what I was. I think of the friends in my life who didn’t have words but sat with me and let me be and were just with me.
Sometimes when someone suffers we say nothing and skip over it, changing the subject. This is not the kind of silence I’m referring to. If you have ever opened your heart to someone about your pain and they said nothing as though you said nothing you know the damage this creates. Saying nothing while being with the person in this place of needing to be silent is the kind of saying nothing I’m referring to. The kind that says “I can’t fix this but I’m here”, “I don’t know what tomorrow will bring but I’m here”, “I am here.”
Henri Nouwen has one of the best quotes regarding silence, friendship, and comfort:
“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares.”
Perhaps it’s just being there that speaks louder than words in times like these. When there is nothing to say, sometimes saying nothing and just being is saying more than you could ever imagine.
I need to remember this, sometimes being a person of many words and wanting to fix, help, cure, it might be in my own silence that God can speak even louder to those who need comfort. I can think of a few people in my life right now who are going through circumstances that my words can’t fix, but maybe my just being there is part of healing.
If you are in a place of needing comfort, I pray that God will speak to you in your silence. Where words fail, I pray that His perfect word would speak into places that no human ever could.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119: 105
You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my greatness and comfort me again. Psalm 71:20-21
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