Don’t Rush to the Answer – Linger in the Pause

Is Everything Really “Fine”?

Our elderly friend had brought a chair outside. She was sitting in it when we walked up. We could tell something was wrong.

We asked her if she was okay. She blew off the question with, “Everything is fine.”

But I recognized the ploy. I sometimes use it myself.

We may try to hide behind our words, but our eyes often give us away. Her eyes were speaking.

We asked if there was anything we could pray about for her. She was silent.

So we became silent too. 

What’s the Rush?

It’s hard to linger in silence.

  • We don’t like uncertainty.
    We want answers.
  • We don’t like pain (ours or others).
    We want relief.
  • We don’t like problems.
    We want them fixed.

Answers and relief and solutions are good. They are healing. They are our goals.

But sometimes, in our rush to fix things, to get to the answer, to hurry to a resolution, we shortchange a relationship.

With our friend, we waited through the silence. And the silence was uncomfortable.

I don’t like long pauses in conversations with those I don’t know well. My mind starts grasping for something to say, anything to talk about.

But this time, we stayed with the pause.

And out of the silence arose a mumbled answer, “I just don’t like living here.” The dam broke. Our friend cried. She told us more. And more. We listened. We prayed.

We connected.

Rising from the Silence

Isn’t this how God often works with us? God doesn’t always rush in to tidy up our lives as soon we’re in a mess.

Instead, he gives us room to hash it out. He allows us to spin in circles if needed. He makes space for us to experiment with new ideas and toss around options. Yet all the while he sticks by us, allowing us to experience his presence.

God’s help isn’t always noisy. Sometimes it’s quiet.

I was thankful for the Spirit’s nudge to honor the initial silence with our friend. To listen a little longer. To linger in the pause. Even though it felt unnatural.

In the end, the silence brought fuller understanding, not less.

Instead of rushing to get an answer, I want to be willing to linger longer in the pause.

A better way may arise from the silence.

Is it hard for you, too, to linger in the pause? Share in the comments.

18 thoughts on “Don’t Rush to the Answer – Linger in the Pause

  1. bill (cycleguy)

    Hi Lisa! This quote says tons: God’s help isn’t always noisy. Sometimes it’s quiet. I’m afraid we are too expectant of the noise. We want to hear God in the whirlwind. I know I have missed hearing because I have been so selective in what I hear and how it is said.

  2. Laurie

    I always find your posts so easy to connect with, Lisa. When I was a teacher, I had to learn to linger in the pause. By lingering, I allowed my students more time to form their answers. Silence (especially in the classroom) may be uncomfortable, but the pause, the *empty* space (see how I worked my word in there? Ha!) is the important part. God uses those empty spaces for the same purposes.

  3. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    I thank you now for your concern,
    I thank you for your time,
    but here you’ll find nowt to learn,
    for everything is fine.
    Go now, turn and walk away
    to others needing more,
    go, for if you choose to stay
    you’ll see me on the floor,
    head in hands and heart in tatters,
    soul ripped to the core;
    “I don’t care!” but still it matters,
    and now it matters more
    for I kneel here unprotected,
    absent help that I rejected.

  4. Lynn D. Morrissey

    The pregnant pause. It can be rich and full of meaning in many ways, and especially when we give that gift to those who need it. Rarely, frankly, is anybody really fine! So glad you lingered for your friend to speak, and lingered more, so as not to cut her off. I’ve found that terribly hurtful when I am cut off mid sentence when I’m pouring out my soul…. especially in expressing grief over death. Not only are many uncomfortable with silence, but words, depending on what words we speak. They don’t like grief, and want to move on. I know you are the kind of friend who would never do that.

    God bless you in your own lingering this year, and in your permitting others to do so too.

  5. Trudy

    Oh, I love this, Lisa! Thank you for seeing and feeling beyond her words and behind her eyes at the pain. And for giving her pause. That takes special grace. Love and blessings to you!

  6. Bettie G

    Oh yes I love this too Lisa. It seems that God continues to have me linger in the pausing myself. And in these pauses I am realizing how often, by myself, I have pushed to get through to the answer quickly before the awkward pause consumed me. But in this pausing now, I am finding the presence of the Lord in myself and in those I care about in ways I had not seen before. Thank you so much for this beautiful confirmation tonight it was just the pause I needed again.

  7. Anita Ojeda

    I, too, am uncomfortable with silence when I’m around people I don’t know well. Sitting in silence in the pause is difficult for me. I want to prove and fix and advise. Thank you for the reminder that my presence is enough—if I wait. Maybe the pause and the waiting would be a great time to silently pray for the person—what better way to pass time in a pause?

  8. Lois Flowers

    Aw, Lisa … this is so beautiful. People–especially those who tend to be quiet and thoughtful anyway–need time to collect their thoughts, to figure out exactly what it is that they want to share (if anything). Rushing past the moment, however uncomfortable it is for us, robs them of our understanding, I think. But waiting in silence (as you describe so well) is a gift to them.

  9. Jean Wise

    Linger is a word that lingers too on our tongues. Great reminder here. I learned a few years ago – I think I wrote a blog post about it – that I have learned when talking to the smart voice in my car and telling it to make a hands free phone call for me I can’t rush my answers. She will ask – Do you want me call Bill’s cell? I will rush and say yes. She will say I didn’t understand that. I learned I had to pause and wait – linger a moment – before I gave my answer. Was a good lesson to me!

  10. Barbara Harper

    Yes, it is hard for me to be silent, too, when with others I don’t know well. Especially if there’s an obvious problem–as you said, we feel like we need to step in a fix things. I’ve heard it said that Job’s friends did more for him when they sat in silence with him before they started in on him.

  11. Theresa Boedeker

    In those pauses and silences the truth may come forth. I tend to pause and be silent before I can sometimes find the truth and answer hard questions. Some people wait and others rush past. Thanks for this reminder to wait and be patient in the silence. For ourselves and others.

  12. Donna

    Lisa, this is such needed advice. So many people rush to fill the silence or move on. I used to struggle with this, it is uncomfortable, but through my training I learned the silence is actually the bridge into another persons heart. Few venture over. But as you experienced, connection awaits at the other end. Thank you so much for these wise words!

  13. Maree Dee

    Oh, my goodness, it is so hard for me to linger in the pause. Yet, when I do, it never ceases to amaze me what comes out. I love this post. I am going to concentrate on it today. Thank you! Maree

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