There is time to speak and a time to keep silent.
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“For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven:
…a time to keep silent and a time to speak…”
Ecclesiastes 3:1,7b English Standard Version
It’s odd to see this chairlift idle because they’re anything but idle right now.
It’s winter in Colorado and the chairlifts are working overtime. Some people are stuck in lift lines that seem longer than the line of people waiting to ride the Pirates of the Caribbean at Disney World. The chairlifts might even be looking forward their rest at the end of the day.
That’s not the case in the summer. Though many of the Colorado resorts run their gondolas during the summer, most chairlifts sit idle, enduring summer thunderstorms and waiting to break free from their long layoff.
This idle chairlift reflects the point of the Preacher in Ecclesiastes. Many of us have read or heard the words of the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, especially if we know the hit song by the Byrds, “Turn, Turn, Turn.” There is a time for the chairlift to work and time for it to sit idle. The Preacher makes the same contrast in his poem. He speaks of “a time to be born and a time to die,” “a time to laugh and a time to cry.”
One contrast that is often overlooked is the difference between speaking and keeping silent.
We frequently believe that when people experience tragedies, we must give them words of comfort, when in reality what they need is our presence without words.
My appendix ruptured in 1982 and I was in the hospital for ten long days. About the third day I was in pain and feeling depressed. My brother-in-law visited me that day. He didn’t say a word, only sat at the foot of my bed. It was the best thing he could have done.
Yet, there are times that God calls us to speak. There are times when we’re gathered with friends and we feel the prompting to say something. We might even know exactly what we’re to say. In those moments, not speaking is as inappropriate as saying something when we ought to listen.
But, how do we know when to speak and when to keep silent? We understand the words of the Preacher. They’re clear, not ambiguous, yet it’s hard to know when to speak and when not to speak.
What complicates this decision is the fact we make speaking or keeping silent about us and not the person who’s struggling. Jesus was often moved by compassion when he helped another person. He wasn’t thinking about himself when he sacrificed himself that we might be healed.
Instead of asking the question should I speak or keep silent, maybe we would be better off looking at the person with a heart of compassion and trusting that God will lead us to say what is right or remain silent.
There is a time for us to speak and a time to keep silent. May God give us wisdom through his compassion to discern the right time.
Copyright Douglas P Brauner