The Power of Presence

In today’s world it seems that silence is considered to be an awkward state that is best to avoid when possible. Sounds constantly fill our ears- music, machinery, traffic, etc.; and conversations rarely allow for more than a few seconds of silence. However, the Bible seems to point out that silence can be a means by which our presence can be the most appropriately demonstrated- Ecclesiastes 3: 7-8 says that there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak.” An unknown author stated “wise men are not always silent, but they know when to be.”

The biblical account of Job demonstrates even more clearly how our mere presence can be comforting to someone, and can be made more powerful through silence. After Job began to be tormented by the enemy, his friends came and “sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great” (Job 2: 13 NAS).

This example of the power of presence was demonstrated to me after my father died while I was away at college. As a very young adult, I had not experienced the death of a family member and was overcome with grief to the point that I could not find solace. Our family’s pet dog, Bo, seemed to sense my sadness and followed me around, never leaving my side. If I paused in my walk, he would sit beside me, obviously waiting until I wanted to continue on. In the silence, I was able to begin expressing my emotions; the quietness afforded me the opportunity to verbalize my grief- I began to be comforted.

It is absolutely true that words can be powerful and healing; however, I believe we shouldn’t always feel compelled to speak, especially if we are not sure what we should say or how we should say it. After all, Bo could not speak, yet I found solace in the stillness of his presence.