Let Silence Speak
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 2.13 NIV
Most people like to fix things. When we see someone suffering—particularly someone close to us—we want to help. So often, though, there is nothing we can do. Trauma can take years to heal, abuse is never undone in a day, and no matter how hard we try, we cannot will our addictions away. Addressing our wounds and their consequences in our lives takes time and hard work, and in the meantime we have to deal with the pain.
Participating in a recovery program like 423 Communities means watching group members experience pain like this too. So often men and women will sit in their groups, listening to someone brokenly try to articulate the atrocious things that have been done to them and the exhausting suffering it has caused. In those moments, I generally find myself looking at my hands, wondering what I should say. Once they have finished and the room falls quiet, my brains tells me to say something, anything that will help, some sequence of words that will somehow provide some shred of comfort.
But nothing ever comes. So I just blurt out something to break the silence and ease the tension. But sometimes the silence is not meant to be broken.
Do you remember the three friends in the story of Job? These three characters are generally the recipients of a fair amount of criticism, and rightfully so, but they aren’t all bad. In fact, at first they do exactly the right thing. They collectively decide to rally around their friend and go out of their way to see him. When they arrive and see what a state he is in, they weep with him then sit in silence for seven days. They don’t speak a single word and just grieve with their friend (Job 2.11-13).
On the night He was crucified, Jesus fell on His face in the Garden of Gethsemane, anguishing over the horrifying ordeal before Him. There was nothing His disciples could have said to ease His suffering. There were no scripture passages, no promises of God’s sovereignty, no poetic platitudes they could have recited that Jesus did not already know, yet He still wanted His disciples with Him. There was nothing they could do other than sit in silence with Him, and that is what He wanted most.
I think we should remember this more often when we have the opportunity to spend time with someone in pain. We need each other, we need to communicate with each other, but that communication does not always require words. We can let the silence speak for itself. It doesn’t need our help.
Contributor: Jordan N.