Words are beginning to fail me. In the last weeks, I have found myself growing quieter and quieter. Hearing of the death of yet another person I know, or of another person fighting for their life, I just don’t know what to say anymore.
Add to that the week-long civil unrest and destruction that has gripped South Africa, and I find myself yearning for silence, for an abating of this storm.
Yet, even if I switch off my phone and TV so that the bad news and images can no longer assail me, the turmoil has prowled into my heart. It disrupts my sleep, makes prayer difficult and steals away any fragments of peace and joy, whispering that I have no right to them when so many around me suffer.
Even the act of writing this blog is a struggle for me. After all, it’s just another voice shouting into the storm. My one voice—what difference can it make? And yet I write, as always, to make sense of it for myself, hoping that it might help another make sense of it too.
Over the roar of the storm, the occasional voice breaks through, rings true. Some nudge me to pray and I’m grateful for those. Some remind me that our nation has come through huge gales before. Some laud the goodness of everyday people on the ground, protecting or helping to restore order. Some point me to a God who laments with us, and when I pray, I also sense God’s deep sorrow for all that our nation has lost, and for ‘the lost’ rampaging through our streets.
But other voices scratch against my tender soul right now. I find I cannot listen to those that berate or incite or blame or speak of divine judgement, no matter how authoritative they sound.
Words—those fragile feathered things that I so love to shape into thoughts and feelings—are unusually heavy for me right now. Too laden down with grief. Too cumbersome to give comfort.
And only now does it dawn me that the setting aside of words may be precisely what this season invites us to do.
Like Job’s friends who sat with him for seven days and nights without saying a word, ‘because they saw how great his suffering was (Job 2:13).’ Can we learn from them and lay aside the quick answers and ready platitudes? Can we grow into just drawing alongside those in pain, whatever individual form that pain takes?
Or, those words we know well but seldom practice: ‘Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10). Can we deliberately log off some time during each day, quiet our restless hearts and draw into God’s presence? Only there will we find God’s perspective and begin to sense how we should respond to the raging storm we’re in.
So, let’s allow our words to fall away, and silently draw comfort from the one Word that never fails.