The Silent Friend 

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares” (Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life)

In the book of Job is the story of one man’s tragedy. Job loses his possessions, his family, and his health.

One of the most beautiful moments in the book is when Job’s friends come to him and sit in silence with him. They share in his grief and communicate their love for him in a way that transcends words.

That’s far and away the best thing they did for him. It’s only when they opened their mouths that they got themselves into trouble.

Maybe these days what our friends need from us, more than any well-intentioned words, is our silent presence in the midst of their sorrows. What they need is to know that we grieve with them, we mourn with them, we hurt with them.

We may not always agree with their beliefs or their choices but we can still love them as God has loved us through our sometimes sinful choices.

“To care means first of all to empty our own cup and to allow the other to come close to us. It means to take away the many barriers which prevent us from entering into communion with the other. When we dare to care, then we discover that nothing human is foreign to us, but that all the hatred and love, cruelty and compassion, fear and joy can be found in our own hearts. When we dare to care, we have to confess that when others kill, I could have killed too. When others torture, I could have done the same. When others heal, I could have healed too. And when others give life, I could have done the same. Then we experience that we can be present to the soldier who kills, to the guard who pesters, to the young man who plays as if life has no end, and to the old man who stopped playing out of fear for death.

By the honest recognition and confession of our human sameness, we can participate in the care of God who came, not to the powerful but powerless, not to be different but the same, not to take our pain away but to share it. Through this participation we can open our hearts to each other and form a new community” (Henri Nouwen).


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