Silence is Golden

Then they (Job's friends) 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)

I had met my Swiss husband on the mission field, and knew in theory that Switzerland would be a tremendous adjustment – after all, it wasn't the first time I'd packed up and moved abroad. But when I left the mission field, I was burnt out and wounded; I was "dumped in the deep end" of learning both High German and Swiss German simultaneously, of adjusting to a new culture, of having no friendship circle, of entering a new (State) church culture, and of the pressure of expectations on me from that church to "double my husband's strength" in his ministry there. Plus I was planning a wedding and the things that come with marriage. Needless to say, depression soon followed, lasting three years.

Throughout the depression I knew that God was faithful, though every time I prayed I felt like I was hitting a brick wall. I discovered firsthand that the best reply in such situations is not advice, no matter how true it may be: "Read your Bible more", "Pray more", "Praise more", "Repent", "Forgive", and all the other things you and I have probably said to others at some point. They are true and intrinsically right, but there are times when the only appropriate answer is silence. Before Job's friends went and opened their big mouths, graduating from good advice to judgement and self-righteousness over time, their best reply was their initial response: they sat on the ground with Job for seven days and nights in silence; feeling with their friend, coming alongside him. Proverbs 17v25 and 18v2 should caution us against speaking before we understand our friend's situation, and 25v11 shows us what words aptly spoken can become!

Lord, help me to understand others and come alongside them in compassion before I speak advice; teach me your responses and tender care in such times. Let your love guide my tongue. Amen.

By Stephanie (Zurich, Switzerland)