Surviving The Silence: How to Help
By Lesa Engelthaler
God was silent. I could not feel His presence. And this was different-this time I had been walking with him, yet it seemed like He moved.
For those with friends suffering such a “dark night,” I have some suggestions.
– Avoid platitudes.
The standard reply I received was, “Just remember that Moses had to wander for forty years in the desert.” Or “If it feels like God is far away, guess who moved?” More helpful replies were, “Wow, that sucks,” or “I am there right now.” Better yet was loving, silent presence.
– Explore alternative ways to “do church.” Where two or more gather in His name, Christ is present. Meeting with a few friends ministered to me far more than Sunday morning church services where I felt like a spectator.
– Encourage different practices from the usual. For me that meant exploring silence, solitude, kneeling by my bed for prayer, and attending a silent retreat.
– Recommend a spiritual director. I needed someone who understood spiritual formation, not merely a therapist. My spiritual director listened without judgment to my raging, and prayed over me.
– Suggest new authors. Eugene Peterson’s classic, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction was a welcome companion. And prayer from the Book of Common Prayer reminded me that others had walked the same path. Most helpful was the honesty of old saints: St. John of the Cross, St. Ignatius, and Thomas Merton.
Eugene Peterson’s grace-filled words assure that God will hold onto us:
“All the persons of faith I know are sinners, doubters, uneven performers. We are secure not because we are sure of ourselves but because we trust that God is sure of us. Neither our feelings of depression nor the facts of suffering nor the possibilities of defection are evidence that God has abandoned us.”