by Kim Engelmann
“Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.’ Jesus did not answer a word.”
—Matthew 15: 21-23a, NIV”
I always thought this story of Jesus’s silence was rather strange. As a pastor, if someone is suffering, I go. If someone cries out, I respond. And yet Jesus creates silence for this woman who is in desperate need. I believe He does this so that she can get real. She is not a Jew, and she still addresses Him as the “Son of David,” which is rather cocky and self-aggrandizing. Her false bravado in asking for help and the loudness of her cries annoy the disciples. They want Jesus to send her away. He does not, and yet it seems from the text that He stays silent to her cries for quite a while. Jesus simply refuses to answer until the silence of His response brings the woman to her senses and she is willing to face her helplessness and unworthiness. In the end she breaks down the false bravado and declares with humility, “Even the dogs get the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table.” With that, Jesus declares her daughter healed. He never sends her away. He just waits until she becomes authentic.
Silence pulls us toward authenticity. I often find myself asking God to show up for me, but I wonder sometimes how often I authentically show up for God. Silence is a great teacher in this regard. It gently unfolds the hidden recesses of our being; it transforms us from distracted self-important creatures to humble reflective ones. In the silence, as we offer our restless weakness and desperate need for grace to our Creator, we find that healing is close at hand.
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- Do you generally sense peace when you go to a silent place, or restlessness?
- What is your response to silence when you are restless?
- When you are at peace?
- There is a saying in AA: “Wherever you go, there you are.” What does this mean for you?
- How might silence help you figure out “where you are”?
- If you were to approach Jesus in the flesh with a request, what are the first thoughts that come into your mind about how you would do this (or if you would do it at all)?
- Is there any part of the Canaanite woman’s approach that you can relate to?
- Has being in silence ever brought you healing? Pain? Humility? Authenticity?
O Lord, give me the courage
to sit silently in Your presence.
Teach me the blessing of
seeing myself as I truly am.
Remove from me any fears
of rejection and dismissal.
Show me that I may trust that Your love
will wait for me to grow real.
Let silence lead me to humility,
and to Your unfailing mercy and love.