Therefore I Have Hope - Free Sample
The silence of God
Reading: Lamentations 1:1-11
“Look, Lord, on my affliction . . .” verse 9
There’s an important feature of the whole book of Lamentations which provides the motivation for us to journey in healthy ways through our times of loss.
This very remarkable feature of the book is the silence of God. Nowhere in Lamentations does God clearly speak. As we go through the book, we’ll see that there could be a couple of places where we might get an insight from God. But these are very ambiguous, so generally speaking, in the book God is silent.
Now at first, this may seem to imply terrible things about God. The Jewish people had suffered a national calamity but God says nothing? Surely that implies God is callous or indifferent. Surely if God is loving, He would say something, wouldn’t He?
Have you ever been in a situation where you started to share something really important with a friend, and they interrupted you? You know, you started to open up your heart and then they cut across you to say something like, “Oh yes, I know what you mean, I had the same kind of experience the other day and blah, blah blah…” Our friend is trying to be helpful, they are trying to make it look like they are being empathetic to our plight, but actually all they did was cut across our story and deprive us of the dignity of saying it in our own words.
This illustrates the fact that someone’s silence does not necessarily imply indifference. When someone else is speaking from the depth of their heart, our silence is a sign of our love in listening to the person and allowing them the chance to say what needs to be said.
Could it be that the silence of God in Lamentations is His way of giving us the dignity to say exactly what we are feeling? God’s silence is the gracious space in which He will not interrupt. God’s silence is therefore the loudest affirmation of the honest expression of our grief. God invites us to say it like it really is. And this truth about God is the open invitation for some helpful practices for our lives that can point us towards hope in a time of loss. Let’s look at one of these principles now.
Recognise and affirm our varying expressions of grief
As we’ve seen, the book of Lamentations very openly writes about many varied expressions of grief. The presence of these emotional sentiments in the book is an affirmation of them all, in the sense that these are portrayed as very normal expressions of grief.
So for us, we need to be kind to ourselves at times of loss – we are not strange to feel as we do. God provides us with space to express our loss. We might feel many different things at different times. And no one else’s journey will be quite like ours.
In thinking about how we might be able to help someone else who is experiencing loss, we can recognise this same principle for others. Someone else could be experiencing their grief in very different ways to what we have known. Knowing about varied expressions of grief can help us not to be phased with another person’s experiences. It’s easy to feel worried about how best to help someone else who is grieving. We can worry about saying the wrong thing, concerned that we might misunderstand how the person is feeling in that moment. It can be hard to stand with someone because as we’ve seen, their grief is not our grief and we do sit in a different world.
These are understandable fears, but we mustn’t let such fears keep us distant from people who are going through a time of loss. In chapter 1 of Lamentations, verse 17 says, “Jerusalem reaches out for help.” One simple thing we can do for someone is to ask them what they would find most helpful at this time. As we’ve seen, a grief journey is unique to each person, so we can’t assume that one person will need the same as someone else.
So it’s important not to ignore those going through grief or distance ourselves from them.
By talking so openly about grief, the book of Lamentations steers us clearly towards relating to those who grieve with empathy, warmth and compassion.
Have you experienced times in your life when God seemed silent? What did those times make you feel towards God? How do you respond to this question from today’s reflection: Could it be that the silence of God in Lamentations is His way of giving us the dignity to say exactly what we are feeling?
Heavenly Father, I thank you that you are a speaking God. Help me to trust you at those times when you decide that your silence is more appropriate than your words. At such times, help me to know if your reserve is your invitation to me to speak. Thank you for the gracious way in which you make space for me to say what is most on my heart. Help me to use such times, knowing that you will not interrupt and that you will give me as long as I need to say it like it is. Amen.
If you know someone who is currently grieving, how is that person describing their recent experiences? Based on what they are currently feeling, how might this guide you towards demonstrating your love and support for them?