Suffering in Silence

Silence in the face of suffering is unnatural.

While I was getting Bronson some cereal in the kitchen, I sipped some coffee and sighed deeply enjoying the glorious silence that permeated our house. Until a split-second later when I remembered Bronson – my two year old. Silence from a toddler is almost always a warning signal.

I went into the living room to discover him pinching Oliver’s nose. Why? I have no idea, other than Bronson being an older brother. The pinching wasn’t surprising, but Oliver’s reaction was.


I put Bronson in timeout, picked Oliver up, looked into his eyes, and told him he needs to cry when he’s in danger or getting hurt or suffering in any way. For some reason, eyes-for-the-back-of-my-head didn’t arrive with his birth. I need him to cry.

Silence in suffering does not serve him well.

In a book I’m reading in a chapter on justice, the author mentions the 3 million (or more) girls sold into the sex slave industry each year. She mentions that most of the 25 million coffee farmers are forced to sell their coffee far below the cost of production, ensuring they’ll never get out of poverty – all so you and I can keep sipping cheaply. Then she tells a story of a woman who lived in a barn with virtually nothing and no real plan for a brighter future. She already had some kids, but when she encountered a little girl eating crumbs on the side of the road because her parents abandoned her, she adopted her.

This morning, Ryan sent me a link to a video about a man running across Mongolia – all 1,500 miles – to raise awareness about the street orphans of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia – the coldest city in the world. I can’t imagine being a child abandoned, forced to face the elements alone.

Too often suffering is done in silence. More ears are needed, so more hands can get involved.

I’ve heard the statistics many times. At the very core of my being, I ache to do something, anything, to help people like these. But mostly I don’t.

I think many times I’m like Oliver. I let suffering be snuffed out by silence.

I do it with myself. When I’m sad, exhausted, hopeless, I clam up. I swallow the suffering, believing that crying won’t help, believing that suffering is best served by silence.

But suffering – all suffering – needs a voice.

Perhaps, this is the beginning. Oliver needs to cry when he’s suffering. I want to help him, to rescue him, to comfort him. I can’t unless I know. I can’t know unless I hear. I can’t hear if he’s silent.

I often choose to watch terrible, true movies – ones that portray the awful realities that exist in our world. I’m not a glutton for punishment. But my heart has a propensity towards hardness. I need to hear. Over and over. I need to hear the suffering. Because that’s where the changes start.

So much of the world suffers in silence. I need to do my part in giving them a voice.

And I need to give voice to my own, smaller, sufferings. We all do, recognizing that suffering’s strength is amplified by silence.

Just speaking into darkness makes it a little brighter.

So while I still don’t know what I can truly do for the millions of people experiencing suffering that I can’t even comprehend right this second. I know I can do this. I can speak. I can cry out.

6 thoughts on “Suffering in Silence

  1. Denise, what a great post! I love the idea of speaking in the midst of suffering, not just suffering in silence. And yes, may we all be a voice when we see one suffering who has no voice. Suffering places us in a vulnerable place. We have to be humble to ask for help, don’t we? I’m learning how to do this.

  2. This reminds me of the Scripture from Luke in the Message version: “Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels. This isn’t, you realize, pie in the sky by and by. Some who have taken their stand right here are going to see it happen, see with their own eyes the kingdom of God.”

    No, let’s not run from suffering…When we run into it, letting the Spirit take us by the hand, beautiful things happen: in the midst of heartache. For me facing my own suffering is what has led me to serve, where I never would have dreamed of serving before…I see His hand grabbing hold of yours and tugging you into new things. Thank you for this beautiful post: you’ve reminded me of how good our God is…He changes us, slowly and surely transforms our numbed souls into Life.

  3. I share your propensity for hardness but also feel helpless much of the time. Suffering in silence is a harsh reality many live day by day, and I see it so much here in Nepal. Where do we even start? Trusting God will lead us as we move forward for Him. Thank you for this lovely yet hard post.

    Also, moms of pinchers unite!

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