Help and Hope in Unwelcomed Silence – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Psalm 62:5

The psalm appointed for today, Psalm 62, includes the phrase: “For God alone my soul in silence waits”; however another translation of this text is: “Before God, I am silence.” Not, “I am silent”; but rather, “Before God, I am silence.” And therefore, when God speaks, I am silence: I am an empty, open vessel to receive. Our life’s invitation is to learn to “be silence” so we have space to receive the work and words of God. It is a good thing to cultivate stillness and silence within ourselves.

But for many people, life seems to lose its cultivation because of suffering. We witness, and we may personally experience, tremendous suffering, loss, fear, grief, despair that may simply leave us or others speechless and empty, feeling very much alone and abjectly vulnerable. This is the silence that visits the elderly who have lost their health, lost their companions, lost their meaning in life; the silence of those who are very sick with no help at hand and the silence of those who are very sick with help at hand; the silence of those who are imprisoned because of prejudice and racism, and those imprisoned behind bars; the silence of those who live with inexpressible shame. So many people experience a silence that is unbidden and which may seem to them so vapid, despairing, orphaning.

This is where we turn this psalm inside-out. This is where we take the psalmist’s counsel to “be silence” not just as prescriptive but also as descriptive. When we find ourselves silenced, when we have lost our voice or our ability to hear, when any movement we might take in life is being held captive, at those times we cling to hope. When we are in an intractable, unavoidable, unchosen state of silence and stillness, to cling to the hope that we are in a state well known to God.[i] This is familiar territory to God, where our emptiness is actually openness to God, especially when we have no other choice. This is when we are in a place of hearing and knowing God.

[i] “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

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  1. Sybil Sloan on August 11, 2023 at 14:33

    I have been struggling with a very debilitating illness for over a year now. It came on with almost no warning and I still am trying to find the ‘right’ way to get through it. At first I thought God had completely deserted me or was punishing me somehow. However, I am beginning to see that He is guiding me through this instead of magically removing the cause (s) of my misery. He is becoming a fellow traveller and I am learning to “Hear and Obey “!

  2. Pamela Post-Ferrante on August 11, 2023 at 13:17

    What stopped me in my reading – early on was:
    “Before God I am silence.” I stopped reading for awhile just to think of all the beautiful possibilities of that sentence.

  3. margo on August 11, 2023 at 10:41

    Yes! Definitely YES! And from that silence can erupt a creeping joy.

  4. Thomas DeFreitas on August 11, 2023 at 05:09

    I cherish the compassion and the wisdom of your thoughts as expressed here, Br. Curtis. And am remembering someone’s aperçu to the effect that God’s “original language” is silence.

    And yes, God can even speak divine love through unsought-for, unwelcomed silence.

  5. Leslie Alexander on September 7, 2022 at 08:45

    Again & again I appreciate your message of hope in times of despair or uncertainty or ordinary time.
    I used to be afraid of silence. ♥️🙏

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