When I Kept Silent

By Ross Engel

They say that silence is golden. Sometimes this can most certainly be true. It can be a real treat to find a quiet place to study or read. A quiet afternoon at the beach with the breeze, the ocean waves, a cigar, and a book is my idea of a perfectly relaxing day. Last week, my wife and I got to enjoy a night out. While the night included a lively Irish Dancing show, our evening actually began with an hour of just the two of us lost in conversation in the quiet corner of a mostly empty cocktail lounge. That silence was golden!

But silence can also be unnerving.

If you have a fully mobile eighteen-month-old son as I do, you know that when that child is awake and quiet and off by themselves somewhere, you can be sure that trouble is brewing. This week, my wife and three children are out of town. I am left to a quiet house. I had high hopes as to what I would do with my quiet time. I envisioned a few trips to the range, the cigar bar, reading twice as many books, and catching up on some movies that my wife hates. Sadly, all I’ve managed to accomplish are my daily workouts, a few chapters read, some dishes and laundry, and having grilled meat for every meal. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, really. But the quietness of the house is rather deafening. Silence isn’t normal for the life I live. It is a bit unnerving!

I have heard it said that an indicator of a good friendship or a good relationship is the ability to be around that person without needing to fill the silence. They say that a good couple doesn’t need to talk. Close friends can just be around each other. Silence doesn’t need to be broken or filled with sound, conversation, or noise. There certainly can be some truth to such a mindset. But what happens if the silence in a relationship or a friendship is there because of an unspoken issue? What happens when there is something unresolved that burdens the relationship, forces silence, and makes two people unsure of how they are to react and engage with each other?

The silence actually wastes both people away. It erodes the relationship! And continued silence destroys it. The only thing that will fix the awkwardness and the wasting away is to break the silence and to speak. Someone must speak of what has been unspoken for so long. The unresolved burden must be brought to light. In doing the hard thing, relationships and friendships can begin the process of being repaired. By breaking the silence, restoration can take place. Of course, with sinful human people, sometimes this process can take time, but healing can’t begin until the load is unburdened.

The same thing can be said about us and God.

When we carry around our burdens and our sins and our iniquities, trying to deal with them all by ourselves, we waste away. We go through the motions of each day, weighed down with the guilt of our iniquities and plagued by transgressions that only seem to increase, and our silent attempts to overcome them get us nowhere. The silence can be deafening. Anyone who has ever carried the remorse and guilt of their sin knows how terrifying the silence of God can be.

But we don’t have to keep silent. God has given us His Word, which declares us to be forgiven of our sins on account of Christ’s life, death and resurrection.  By His Word, we are unburdened by the guilt and shame of the wrongs we have committed. But He doesn’t just stop there. For God also gives us a preacher, who declares loudly and boldly to us personally, “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you!”

This is real forgiveness declared loud and clear—for you! It’s God’s voice breaking the silence of our shameful wasting away of body and soul. God does this in the precious gift of corporate Confession and Absolution, which most Lutheran churches offer each Sunday. God’s voice doesn’t stop there. He also breaks the silence again in the precious gift of private Confession and Absolution, an amazing gift for those who are especially burdened by the guilt and shame of their specific sins and need specific comfort and forgiveness for a particular thought, word, or deed. (If that is something you need, run to your pastor and ask him to hear your confession and pronounce God’s forgiveness to you. He will be happy to do so!)

King David knows a little something about the silent wasting away that takes place when we carry our burdens with us. He also knows the absolute relief of, after having confessed his sins, being forgiven, renewed, restored, and rejoicing in God’s voice, breaking through the silence to proclaim His restorative gift of forgiveness, new life, and salvation.

King David captures it far better with his words in Psalm 32 than I ever could.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.  (Psalm 32:3-5)

If you find yourself caught in the silent wasting away of burden and sin, whether it is an unspoken burden between you and another or between you and God, break the silence! Bring that iniquity to light, be repented, be reconciled, be forgiven, and be restored!

While silence may be golden, forgiveness is divine!