When words don’t seem to help our children with mental illness (MI), what can we do? Keep quiet. Silence is powerful. I learned that the hard way decades ago.
In college, my friend, Dave, got one of THOSE middle-of-the-night phone calls. The caller delivered heart-wrenching news.
Dave’s first reaction: he called me.
“Vicki, my best friend was killed in a car accident. I need to see you.”
Why is he calling ME? I suppose it’s because we share a strong faith in God. But I’ve never experienced the death of a loved one.
I sought advice from my roommate.
“Karen, the roommate you had for three years died suddenly last year. What should I say to Dave?”
Karen advised, “Nothing. Let him talk. Or just sit quietly with him. Share a hug and a tear.”
After college, my husband and I kept in touch with Dave and his wife, Trish. We were closer than friends— more like family. They had their first child, Ryan, around the same time we had Chris. Soon after, they had Kevin and we had Bobby.
One day, I got another call from Dave.
“Vicki, Ryan went to be with the Lord today. He drowned in our pool. We’re coming over.”
Ryan was only two years old.
My roommate’s wisdom helped once again. When they visited, we simply hugged, cried, and prayed. And listened to what they had to say. Dave shared even more disturbing information.
To add to the horror of it, we learned that Trish’s and Dave’s mother and father lost a child when they were young parents. Both sets of grandparents were reliving their own nightmare.
So when Ryan died, Dave sought advice from his father. “Dad, you’ve been through this. What advice can you give me?”
He simply answered, “Son, you speak of your faith. Now it’s time to use it.”
Another opportunity came for me to practice silence in the presence of someone grieving. I was the assistant director of an overnight week-long Christian summer camp for children with disabilities. One of the campers, Bruce, experienced a tragic loss just weeks before camp. His single mother died, leaving his aunt to raise him. The aunt chose to send Bruce to camp. Our staff had training and experience with children with intellectual disabilities. She hoped we could minister to Bruce.
Alex, Bruce’s counselor, sought my advice. “Bruce is having trouble getting to sleep at night. He just cries. What should I say to him?”
“Nothing. Just spend time with him. Silently pray for him.”
Those of us raising kids with MI sometimes feel helpless. We’re unsure how to help our vulnerable and fragile children. It’s comforting to know that our silence speaks volumes. It says, “I’m here for you.” Our gentle touch says, “I understand and care.”
What about our grief? It’s hard to see our loved one suffering. Why does God delay in helping our children?
The death of Lazarus provides an answer. Mary and Martha sought the Lord to heal their brother.
“Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, ‘Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.’ When Jesus heard that, He said, ‘This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. (John 11:3-6)”
The word ‘so’ can lead to some confusion about this story. The strange thing about the events in this scene is that Jesus remained where he was for two more days apparently because of His love for Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. If Jesus loved them so much, why didn’t he rush off right away? Jesus gave them a hint of the great work He would do and the reason for His delay: so ‘that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’
Jesus explained his delay again to his disciples.
“Then Jesus said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him. (John 11:14-15)’”
When Jesus finally arrived on the scene, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. Both his sisters struggled with a common torment many of us struggle with: If only…
“Now Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’… Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. (John 11:21, 32)’”
But Jesus gently reminded them of the reason for His delay:
“Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God? (John 11:40)’”
God is working out His perfect plan in His timing. He’s still in control. Even of the weather. Eastern US has gotten record amounts of snow this winter. Each snowfall is a reminder of our forgiveness. We stand before God ‘white as snow’ because of Christ’s blood. Reflect on His love as you listen to ‘White As Snow’ by Maranatha Singers.