November 16, 2009
Being the Stillness
Bonnie Grove, She Reads Featured Author
"Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great."
Job 2:13 (NASB)
I have sought comfort in the book of Job many times in my life. After I buried my infant son, I asked, "Why?" God reminded me that when Job asked the same question His answer was, "Who?"
While laying on a hospital bed knowing for certain I would lose the twins I had carried only a few precious months, God reminded me how in the midst of Job's suffering, God came. And in the whirlwind He answered. Not right away, not in Job's time, but in God's time - the perfect time when Job's heart could take in the words of healing.
In the years following those dark events, I trained in theology, counseling and psychology. I was on a quest to understand my brokenness, and that of others. I'm still on that quest, though my formal training is behind me.
One evening, I was in conversation with a man who was going through a divorce and was in obvious pain. He spoke of his daughter, and how his hopes for the future had been destroyed. When he finished speaking I sat in silence, knowing I had no great words to offer. Spent from telling his story, he too sat quietly.
Our silence stretched into minutes. Then, the man began to cry. I sat with him, keeping his tears company, and still said nothing. More minutes passed, and the man said, "That's the first time I've cried since this whole mess started." Then he said something surprising: "You've helped me so much. Thank you."
The silence had changed something for him. From my perspective, the silence was a result of my limitations as a counselor - I was empty handed. But it became clear to me there was something powerful at work. I remembered how Job's friends sat in silence with him for seven days and nights. With that in mind, I began to pay close attention to silence. I found that by being quiet, I could better understand my thoughts, fears, hopes, and desires. And in my long silences I was able to sense God's presence and hear His voice. When I sat with the man going through a divorce I listened to him without interruption. Then, by saying nothing, I helped him listen to what God had to say to him.
There are astounding lessons to be learned from the act of listening. I have learned that listening is an act of love. It is not passive; it is intentional, engaging with the heart and mind of another person. To listen you must turn off all outside distractions; say "no" to the world rushing by you. A sacred act of deliberate silence and meaningful pause, listening helps people clear a space in their life, heart, and mind in order to simply "be." Our listening is an important gift. I am learning to make it my first response. Through listening I want to provide the stillness God speaks into.
Dear Lord, bring me into a deeper silence before You, that I may hear Your voice, and in hearing, believe, and in believing, listen to the heart of others. When people hurt Lord, let me first offer them my listening, not my advice. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Visit with Bonnie today, where she will be a guest at the She Reads blog
When Your Marriage Dies: Answers to Questions about Separation and Divorce by Laura Petherbridge
Find encouragement in God's peace on today's Radio Show - How Difficulties Affect Us
Practice stillness in your prayer life. Sit quietly; offer the sacrifice of love by listening long to what the Lord has to say to you today.
Practice stillness in your relationships. Begin to pay attention to the silences around you and offer yourself to a friend through the act of listening.
Do you believe God will meet you in your silence?
Can you recall a time when you listened as an act of love to a friend or family member?
Habakkuk 2:20, "But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him." (NASB)
Psalm 46:10-11, "Be still and know that I am God….The LORD Almighty is with us." (NIV)
© 2009 by Bonnie Grove. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105
Originally published Monday, 16 November 2009.