Job 12:13 - “To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.”
You’re in the middle of a conversation when your friend pauses. You wait for them to continue when the empty space becomes longer and longer. The space in the conversation remains unanswered which leads you to fill in the blanks whether they’re true or not.
Then your friend picks up your conversation, except, they now change to a totally different subject. It’s like there was something they were about to say, but decided not to.
But their change in direction leaves you with more unanswered questions, and you wonder if your friend has something to hide or the conversation was nearing a place where they were hurt in the past.
There are several important things to understand about the empty spaces:
Phoenixaustralia.org, in their article, “Helping Others,” lists ways you can help your family member or friend such as showing them that you are there to support them and when they are ready to talk you’ll be there for them understanding that they may get upset and you’ll need to choose a time to talk when they won’t be interrupted, or feel rushed or tired.
Also realize that you won’t be making that difficult conversation alone. God is the God of wisdom, power, counsel and understanding. He will gently guide you, because he knows that you want to help the person you care about. In addition, know that God will also guide the other person know just how deeply to reveal the hurt they are experiencing. Together, you both may be ready to fill in the empty spaces in your conversation, and move on.
Colossians 4:6 - Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
It’s common when having a conversation to start a new thought, and part way in forget what the thought was. Perhaps you and your friend chuckle a little about it, but there’s no chuckling going on when your mind goes blank due to emotional pain.
It’s easy to find your mind drifting away into a safe, hiding place when a conversation begins to head toward the direction of the pain that lies just below the surface.
You want to run away.
You want to be anywhere but with your friend.
You want to talk about anything, but what has just been drug up to the surface.
What do you do? Do you take the risk and explain to your friend that you aren’t able to talk about your pain? Maybe you do. Yet, your mind draws a blank on how to begin.
What if your listener really doesn’t care about your struggle? They just want to enjoy a fun conversation and not get too deeply into a discussion. Is that okay?
It’s really up to you. You might think about testing the waters by talking about a milder memory. Then you can see if your listener is receptive to talking on a more personal level.
Plus, do you really want to constantly talk about serious matters? Maybe not. But the pain is still beneath the surface. If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t have drawn a blank.
Lifehacker.com has some ideas on broaching difficult conversations in their article, “Four Ways to Make Difficult, Serious Conversations more Productive.” One of their suggestions is to “level and edit your thoughts” by sharing from your perspective and using “I’m feeling,” statements; along with realizing that not everything that comes to mind should be shared. Another is when in doubt, slow down the conversation by turning slightly away from your friend while still continuing to talk.
Drawing a blank when a conversation is headed toward emotional pain that lies just beneath the surface can be difficult to get past. But with the help of the suggestions in the article above, you may find that you can test the waters before plunging in, and find a way to share your feelings without making the conversation only about serious matters.
When making a special dish, it’s important to not forget to add seasonings to the food. Without a little salt, your meal will taste plain. The same is true of conversations. You must show grace to your listener and be patient with yourself if you happen to draw a blank when the discussion hits emotional waters. God can help tell you the right words (seasonings), to add at the right time so that both parties end the conversation with a better understanding of where you each stand.
Isaiah 48:18 - If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea.
It’s just over there.
You reach out your hand, and you can almost reach it. You stretch your arm as far as it will let you, but fall short. You sit there waiting, hoping, and thinking that maybe it will move closer to you, so you can finally hold it in your hands.
But it just sits there staring you down. It knows you can’t have it. And it also knows that finally catching it will make all the difference in your life. Yes, your life would be different if only you could be at peace.
So what’s stopping you from finally reaching this goal, this peace? You believe that peace exists or you wouldn’t be always trying to hold it in your hands. Yet, you don’t believe that peace will ever wash over your life.
It’s worry. That’s what’s standing in your way, but try as you might you can’t seem to break free from the curse of always thinking that somehow you’ll blow things out of proportion again and worry will hold its cold grasp on your throat.
Sometimes, though, the riverbank is only a few steps away. You can almost most feel the cool water as you wiggle your toes sitting at the edge of the water. You’ve dreamed of that moment pretty much your whole life.
But things have to change. Your worry is affecting your health. You already have a chronic illness to fight, and being anxious is not helping.
Then, armed with a determination to push worry out of your life, you take a step in the right direction. What does it take to get rid of worry and welcome peace into your life? Daringtolivefully.com posts the article, “25 Ways to Bring More Peace Into Your Life.” The article suggests ways to bring more peace into your life such as replace the belief, “more is better”, with the belief, “I have everything that I need.” They also do an interesting switch by listing the symptoms of inner peace like a tendency to think and act deliberately, rather than from fears based on past experiences.
My way to finding peace when I’m filled with worry is to turn to God. By talking to God about my problems and worries, he helps me see that worrying isn’t going to change anything for the good. Oh, it will change things, but peace won’t be able to show up. So I choose Bible verses, like the one above, and read it several times during the day to keep my focus on trusting God who alone can truly bring me peace.
Nehemiah 2:2-3 - So the king asked me, "Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart." I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, "May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?"
The alarm goes off in the morning. You sit up. You need to get moving. However, you just sit on the edge of your bed. It’s like as if you’ve just heard the worst news and a feeling of deep sadness washes over you.
You mentally check in with yourself trying to figure out where this feeling is coming from:
Home life: You live alone with your dog, but that’s not new. You’ve been living this way for over five years. You’re happy with your environment, and in fact are thankful that you not only live in a functional home, but one that is surrounded by rose gardens and fruitful, green trees.
Work life: You decide to push your feelings aside and start to get ready for work. You stop midway to the kitchen and try to think if there’s anything going on at work to be sad about. You like your job, and the people you work with. Oh, there are those stressful days when you’re almost reaching a deadline, and a few times you’ve gotten into a disagreement with a co-worker, but nothing that important.
Social life: So far you haven’t figured out what could be causing the sadness that has been following you all day. You think about your friends and smile. Yes, a couple of them are a bit quirky, but it makes for interesting conversations and there’s really no concern there. You also have arguments sometimes with friends, but that’s normal, isn’t it?
Family: You just saw your family for Christmas. It didn’t appear that any of them had a problem with you. There weren’t any big, blow out arguments either. You went home and found a bit of sadness, because you already miss your family, but that’s not unusual.
Health: You do have health issues that affect you every day. You live with a chronic pain condition that sometimes makes it so that you have to leave work early. But you’ve had the condition for almost twenty years, so that’s not something new. I guess you could be sad about having to live this way, but you have a support network and your boss understands when you have to take a day off once in a while.
Spiritual life: You attend a great church. You have lots of friends, and even attend several events a year. You take part in a Sunday School class where there are lively discussions and taking apart what the Bible verses you’re studying mean. You love listening to your pastor as he shares a message. You also have your own study at home where you dig into the Bible and find things that apply to your life. You don’t feel a separation from God, so this probably isn’t your source of depression.
Now that you’ve examined the main areas of your life, you aren’t anywhere closer to figuring out why you’re depressed. Truthfully, there might not be a reason that you can point to. Depression can come upon you even if there is no real reason for it. So what can we do to help us lift off the feeling of sadness? Psychologytoday.com posts the article, “Eight Ways to Actively Fight Depression.” In it they discuss strategies to fight depression. One of which is to recognize and conquer your critical self attacks. These disruptive thoughts can interfere with our lives. Another is to do things you once like to do even if you don’t feel like it.
Sometimes we can identify the reason for a deep sadness, but even if we can’t there are ways to combat that depression and allow light to enter our lives once again. Take a look at the Bible verses above. Nehemiah had the job of being the king’s cup bearer. He tasted everything first before the cup was handed to the king. One day, he entered the palace to do his job and he looked sad. He was sad because the city of Jerusalem lay in ruins. The king noticed Nehemiah’s sadness and allowed him to go Jerusalem and rebuild the gates and walls of the city. He was able to remedy the reason for his sadness. Many times we will be able to do so, also. But when we can’t, realize that God will still have compassion on us, and help us find ways to be freed from our depression.
Karen Dalske is a freelance writer, public speaker, is active in her church and writes her blogs out of her own experiences of pain, illness and loss.