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COMFORTING SILENCE

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REV. ANDREW DEMOTSES

All of us have known moments during which close kin or wonderful friends have suffered a grievous loss. Our instinct is to go to them, to comfort them during this time of pain. Many times, however, we hold back that love and comfort that we want to offer, because we are afraid that we can't express our feelings in the appropriate way. Unsure of finding the right words, we stay away.

Once during Queen Victoria's long reign, she learned that a common laborer and his wife had lost their baby. Having felt deep sorrow herself, she decided to personally express her sympathy, and called on the bereaved mother one day and spent some time with her. After the queen had left, neighbors asked what she had said. "Nothing," replied the grieving mother. "She just put her hand on mine, and we wept together."

In the Book of Job we read that Job's three friends came to"mourn with him, and to comfort him" in the time of his affliction. (2:11). Although they wept with him, they were able to recognize that the depth of his suffering was so overwhelming that words seemed not only inadequate, but also entirely inappropriate. The Bible says that "no one spoke a word to him for they saw that his grief was very great." (2:13). Their silent empathy and compassionate presence was the best comfort that they could give.

Some years ago, my mother passed away after a long illness. I deeply appreciated the many friends and parishioners who prayed for me and encouraged me by their many acts of love and kindness. But I must confess to you that the people who comforted me most were those who shared my loss and expressed their love by gripping my hand, or offering a warm embrace and compassionate glance. They did not have to say much, but their mere presence and concern spoke to me with an unforgettable eloquence.

We all need to remember that sorrow and loss are a part of this life. Someone, therefore, will always be in need of our comfort. If we really care for people who are in trouble, we only need a warm handclasp or an embrace of loving compassion to beautifully express our upholding concern and Christian love.

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