Silence – John 11:6

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”

What does one say whenever things are so difficult for the people around them? What should one say? How should they say it if they do finally decide what it is they should say? How do we form the right words and express them in the right way to achieve the right result? Why are we obsessed with speaking? Ask Job if those who spoke incessantly to him in his sorrow served any lasting, good purpose. I think his answer would be no. I certainly know that God did not appreciate their blabber.

We visited Donna last night. She is awake and looking around. She is battling the shaking that accompanies a recovery of this sort. She is well cared for and loved by all who are tending to her. I stood in her room and wondered what to say to her – feeling the compelling need to make just the right statement that would achieve just the right result in order to make her better. As if there were something I could say that would accomplish such a feat. I guess it is one of those struggles that people who blab a lot, like me, face. I finally just laid my hand on her arm and looked at her and prayed for her and spoke softly to her about simple things. I had to work hard even to get those words out. Silence seemed more appropriate. With my mouth shut it seemed God had more opportunity to speak. This I know – He speaks hope into such situations and if our words aren’t His then we are better off saying nothing. He can speak without making a sound.

My friend Candy taught me a very good saying from a book entitled, “The Cowboy’s Guide To Life”.

“Never miss a good opportunity to shut up.”

The ICU waiting room is a good place to keep your trap shut. We sat there and watched another family struggle with a terrible situation. A sixteen year old young lady from Bowie named Chelsea was involved in a tragic auto accident. She is hanging on but facing all of the difficulties that follow such a tragedy. Her family was there, a large group, trying to get their minds around what was happening. Their lives had stopped and they were now also, as Chuck says, hanging in suspended animation. We watched as they gathered up and struggled a prayer out. They cried and begged and hoped. Laura turned off the TV on our side of the ICU waiting room and I took off my hat and got on my knees on the cold tile floor. I was not going to miss this really good opportunity to shut up. My heart was full but my mouth was sealed shut as these dear people prayed. It was not a church prayer. It was not a meal prayer. It was not an obligatory or formalized prayer of any sort. It was a prayer of human words born out of hurting hearts. Many of the group offered up their basic requests and just said whatever they could. I longed to run over and save the day by offering my idea of the ideal prayer. Someone needed to since there was no official preacher man around to do it. Yet, deep within me was the sense that this was one of those good opportunities for me to keep my mouth shut. THEY needed to pray. Real, honest, gut wrenching prayers. We prayed with them from across the room. Silently.

Finally, we wandered across the waiting room as I wanted to give the little girl’s mom one of John Bowers’ cross necklaces. It was the only “word” that seemed fitting. In the cross we see God standing with us in tragedy. Chelsea’s aunt and a cousin, I believe, opened up to Laura and me, although they did not know us. They shared the details of the tragedy and thanked us for our concern and prayers. I had the overwhelming desire to say absolutely nothing. My lips were sealed by the Holy Spirit. My mind was blank and didn’t even race to think of the magic thing to say that would solve everything. That’s what folks like me think we have to do. But last night as I sat within two feet of these dear women, my mind and miraculously, my mouth, was silent. In the silence, God speaks. She talked and shared and cried and thanked us for your prayers also, as we had told her that this extended group was praying for Chelsea. Laura found Chelsea’s mom and I delivered the cross to her. She was thankful.

Trust me when I say that I am slowly learning that in times of tragedy the less I say, the more opportunity I give God to speak. It is striking to me that when Jesus heard the word that his dear friend Lazarus was sick he stayed where he was two more days. To Mary and Martha it must have seemed that God was silent. It must have seemed like an eternity. Lazarus died while they waited. Yet, in Jesus’ silence, He spoke. His silence to us is often the loudest word He can ever speak. He speaks from a podium too high for us to fathom and thus sees from a perspective so different from ours that often we simply cannot understand. And listen to me, I’m not writing any of this because I think God needs me to defend His decisions. He does not. He is God. He is Sovereign. I’m writing this because I’m learning something that I did not really know very well before Donna’s struggle. That is, I need to keep my trap shut more often in these situations so that those who are in the fire can hear God more clearly. Less is more. Silence is golden. God is speaking in the silence.

Yes, there are definite times when we need to speak. Luke 12:8 “I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God.” But there are also those definite times when we need to keep quiet. Jesus cared deeply for Mary and Martha and Lazarus but he intentionally chose to remain silent for two days. Was it because He didn’t love them? Get real. They were some of His dearest friends. It was because He did love them – with an everlasting love. He was speaking from an eternal perspective. He knew what He was about to do and He prepared the soil of Mary and Martha’s hearts with silence. His silence served God’s purposes. So will ours if we will only learn to be silent when necessary. The silence of God is louder, clearer and stronger than any piddly little word I think I can utter. His silence speaks.

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Do you? Then speak when you need to acknowledge Him but otherwise, don’t ever miss a good opportunity to shut up.

The deep love of the Risen Lord Jesus to all of you.


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