"If you write FOR a particular market or FOR a particular editor you will often miss the mark. But if you write because your fingers have danced across the keyboard, because a character has tapped you on the shoulder, because a story has settled in your heart, then even if you never sell it you have done the work you were meant to do. And sometime, dear readers, real magic happens." Jane Yolen

1/28/13

The Ministry of Silence

When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. Job 2:11 NIV

 In my chronological Bible reading, I'm currently in the book of Job. This book frustrated me for a long time, but as I read it over, and understand more, it is a bit less so.

One thing I've noticed especially this time through is how many windbags there are in this book. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar have plenty to say - and so does Job. Even "friend #4" Elihu gets his words in edgewise. There is a lot of talking in this book - and very little of it accomplishes its purpose.

Graphic courtesy of  Christians Unite
And it's like that in our own lives sometimes, too. We argue with folks, and they don't change their opinion. We defend ourselves, and the others don't trust our words. We seek comfort and get criticism. We ask for confession and get insults.

We often talk about what poor comforters and sympathizers Job's three friends were (and if you look at the verse quoted at the top of this post, you'll see that WAS their initial purpose). But they didn't start out that way. Not only were their intentions good, but one of the first things they did when they arrived, reported in a single verse in this book of forty-two chapters, is something many need in struggle, and so few provide.
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
Sometimes, when someone is suffering, we don't know what to say. Have you ever considered that it is because we aren't supposed to say anything? That our presence is the greatest comfort we can provide? That our silent prayers are more helpful than our spoken suggestions? That silence is a ministry - one even the Holy Spirit practices.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26 
Sometimes, God gives us the words to say (Mark 13:11) to comfort, and other times, He wants us to use the gift - the ministry - of silence.

Heavenly Father, help me to know the best way to comfort my struggling friends, whether it be with words, admonitions, or silence. I want to listen to your guidance so I can bring Your comfort to those who struggle. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) In the name of Your precious Son I pray. Amen
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We're discussing this devotional here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?

How hard is it for you NOT to say something when someone is struggling? Have you practiced the ministry of silence?
 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

12 comments:

  1. So true, Joanne! When I hesitate to respond to someone who is suffering, sometimes silence and presence is indeed all they may need. We can all do that. Thanks for the reminder!

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    1. You're very welcome, Sharon. Trust me - I need it too. BADLY LOL. Ask anyone how talkative I am. I love the way God teaches us through His Word.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. Joanne, what great insights. "the ministry - of silence." Now I MUST reread the book of Job. Thank you so much!

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    1. Job is quite a book - I love the way God has me focus on the one verse of silence out of 42 chapters of chatter. Lessons are everywhere. Enjoy your read, and THANKS for stopping by!

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  3. Such a great piece of advice. Need to do more of that - and very timely. Thank you.

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    1. So glad I could bless you, Brenda - thanks for stopping by!

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  4. Karen PourbabaeeJanuary 28, 2013

    We must also remember that only in silence can we hear the whisper of God. Then He may direct us to share His words. This was a beautiful thought...the ministry of silence.

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    1. I'm learning to be silent myself (not natural for me). I definitely do NOT want to miss those whispers. Thanks, Karen, for the insight, and for stopping by.

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  5. there was a wonderful book on GRIEF - by a Christian author and I was able to take this for continuing Ed in nursing some years back - one of the best thing you can do is simply hug and be still or even cry with the person - no platitudes, no scriptures but just be there with them in their grief.... AMEN great article Joanne....

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Marijo. I've experienced the blessings of others' silence. I'm sure you have too.

      Blessings!

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  6. The ministry of silence is a beautiful gift to share with those who are suffering. I've been both the receiver and the giver. 7 days is a long time to sit amongst ashes and not offer any suggestions. Perhaps Job's friends deserve a little more credit than they're often given . . .

    All of God's Word is a help to us, is it not? Blessings, friend.

    peace~elaine

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    1. I was thinking the same thing about Job's friends, Elaine. And I have also been receiver and giver. Blessings to you too, my friend, and thanks for stopping by.

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