Many moods of silence

This morning I was reading Psalm 62, and I was struck by the word “silence” in the first line.

For God alone my soul waits in silence;

Then again in verse 5,

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence

Yet in verse 8, I read this

Trust in him at all times, O people;
    pour out your heart before him

So what does it mean to pour out my heart before God while at the same time waiting in silence?

Maybe it means that with other people, I am silent about my problems, but I can pour them all out to God? Or does silence perhaps mean something other than what it seems to in English? I know that it is often the nuances of the Hebrew don’t show up in the English translation? Does it perhaps mean that I am not complaining (to God or anyone else)? Does it mean calm rather than making a fuss?

I just checked one of my husband’s commentaries (one of the advantages of being married to a pastor is having lots of resources for Bible study), and it says the phrase means “be still.” This stillness with the noisy activism of those who, rather than trusting the Lord in this dire situation (whatever it is), feel it is up to them to fix things.

So yes, it seems quite consistent to be calm before God, but not silent – pouring out to Him whatever is in my heart, trusting in Him to direct my circumstances and give me the strength to deal with them. Of course, this is much easier to write about than to do.

On the other hand, it is also quite possible to be silent, in the sense of not saying anything, but not be at all calm or trusting. That are many kinds of silence.

There is stony silence, where I refuse to say anything, often out of anger or wounded pride. There is awkward silence, where I’m afraid to say the wrong thing, or embarrassed about what the other person has said or done.

There is guilty silence, either when I don’t want to say something because it may reveal my guilt, or the other person already knows and nothing I say will make things any better. There is the indifferent silence between strangers who simply have nothing to say to each other, such as in a waiting room or on a bus.

There is the silence of confusion, when I might like to say something but don’t know how to begin or what to ask. There is the silence of despair, when nothing anyone says or does will do any good.

But there are also good kinds of silence. There is the companionable silence between friends who know each other well and don’t need to say anything, but just enjoy each other’s presence. There is expectant silence, waiting for something I am pretty sure the other person will do or say, such as thanking me for a gift.

And there is awestruck silence, when an experience is so amazing that there are no words adequate to express it. I imagine the psalmist knew this kind of silence, and sometimes fell mute in wonder at the greatness of God’s power, and at the realization that this powerful God cared about him and took care of him.

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