SILENCE is ______________________. You might fill in the blank with “golden” (unless you are void of companionship, and you crave conversation.) You might fill in the blank with “deafening” (especially if you’ve extended an invitation that was ignored.) My husband has been known to say, “Silence cannot be misquoted.” He’s correct. But though silence cannot be misquoted, it certainly can be misunderstood.
For example, when Jesus slept in the tempest-tossed boat, the disciples roused him with the urgent question, “Don’t you care if we drown?” Perhaps they were thinking of Jesus’ safety, as in “How can you sleep through this? You’d better wake up and take whatever precaution you can!” More often, we interpret these words in Mark 4 just as they were said, “Don’t you care….?” (v. 38) The disciples wanted Jesus to do something! Reactionaries that they were (Remember the one who sliced off a soldier’s ear in the garden?), they believed this crisis called for action – or at least a show of concern!
Isn’t it interesting that the disciples were disturbed by Jesus’ silence, and then when He did speak, He actually commanded nature to be silent? “Peace! Be still!” is one translation, which reminds us of another scripture where stillness is commanded: “Be still and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10) In stillness, we often gain confidence that God is working in ways that we cannot see.
At the same time, we learn from Solomon “There is a time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7). This wise man said it another way in the Proverbs when he acknowledged that sometimes we need to swallow our response, and other times a swift but thoughtful comeback is required.
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. (Prov. 26:4)
Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. (Prov. 26:5)
Contradictory advice? No. The discerning person knows the difference between stooping to the level of immature, foolish babble and standing up to correct erroneous or untruthful accusations. Jesus illustrated this in Pilate’s judgment hall when He withheld His response to the jeers about His kingship.
Silence is a curious thing – every bit as powerful as words! “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. (Isaiah 30:15)
But it is never wrong to break the silence by giving praise to God!
For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. (Acts 4:20)
My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long. (Psalm 71:8)
It is also never wrong to voice my concern to God. He invites me to do so.
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:8)
Again, “There is a time to be silent and a time to speak.” May God help us to understand the times!