Tan: The gift of silence

"... A time to be silent." - Ecclesiastes 3:7b

WE ALL felt the pain of the tragedies which visited our city just days before Christmas day. The fire and the flood came as an unmerciful duo of the unexplained wrath. In times like these, we all shout from within us "Why? Why now when Christmas is just around the corner?” Voices filled with anger, pain, blame and sympathy are released in unison. Happy parties and family gatherings are interrupted by sadness.... a whole city is in mourning. Church services are silenced, laughter is stifled. Every time I pass by San Rafael and NCCC mall, I get depressed. Right in front of me is a twin tragedy I cannot accept, much more explain.

It is here I realize the gravity of a fellow-pastor’s sermon ... "In times of tragedy and death, the best gift we can give is compassionate silence". More than our efforts of giving relief, our efforts to help, it is time to give the gift of silence. Let us offer a heart that will sincerely listen to those who grieve, let us not edit their words which stem from their wounds. As John Piper said ... “words from the sore are different from words from the soul.” When giving the gift of silence, we do not mean we are being indifferent in helping and in seeking justice. Rather, we grant grace and space for the grieving hearts to vent their feelings, allowing them to vent their anger even if it is towards God. Remember, they are the ones that need this space. For those of us who were not directly hit, let us refrain from irresponsible interpretations as to why these tragedies happened. It is really totally uncalled for. Do not tweet or post on Facebook unwise and foolish thoughts. I especially appeal to the many ministers and bible students to give this gift of silence. If you have posted words blaming others or have passed judgment on others on the basis of your religious bias, please remove it and apologize. It is time for prayer, a short one is preferred—giving more time for silence.

My admiration goes to the priests and ministers who were there to lend a hand of comfort. I regret I was not around to help myself. Thanks to the Archbishop of Davao, Archbishop Romulo Valles, for leading prayers. There are many ways to help; I think the best way is to give the gift of silence. To the media and to the general public, let us lend a listening heart accompanied by our tangible help. For various agencies and churches who are giving help, do so without asking more questions and fueling more emotional fire. Do not ask how deep the flood was. Do not give your unnecessary interpretations regarding these happenings. I shall dare to say — stop saying "all things work together for good" or “God is in control” or hold a mini lecture on religion, or even share the gospel. I beg you——just be silent and wait on God as to when to open your mouth and be sensitive to the Holy Spirit for the right words to say.

Honestly, this is not the time to say anything. Tears shed are more helpful now than many words. As for me, I am praying that I may be given by God grace to shut up and grieve. Give the gift of silence and space for questions and angry prayers. God can handle this, believe me. Our impulsive concern is just making matters worse. Ssssssh! Zip! Embrace more, talk less; grieve more, preach less; listen more’ lecture less. As for the social media folks, give the space to those who are grieving and are directly affected ... let them say what they want. Give them the airtime minus our concern for ratings ... give them our compassionate silence ... ‘til the storm has passed us by. Pray in silence, pray from the heart, pray to God who can handle the anger of the wounded. Grant them the gift of compassion and timely silence ... a hush that speaks more than our rushed words.

Please offer a silent prayer after you have read this article. I write from a grieving heart.
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