Zone of Silence
When it seems God has turned a deaf ear to us.
by Katherine Yurchak
Early one February morning I awoke with a slight dizzy spell. In the pre-dawn darkness, I steadied myself against the wall and made my way downstairs to my favorite chair in the living room.
It’s my daily practice to write in my journal, but that morning only disjointed phrases dropped from my pen to the page. Like skeins of entangled wool, my thoughts remained somewhere in the back of my brain and refused to be unraveled.
I told myself I’d get back to writing a bit later. After all, I’d managed to survive six decades of living without a serious illness. I wasn’t about to panic about feeling a little woozy.
Nevertheless, I was perplexed that I was unable to sort out my thoughts.
As I opened my Bible, I made a silent request: “Lord, give me something to take with me through this day.” I was aware that I was experiencing something I’d never known in my lifetime.
Flipping the pages, I came to the Gospel of Luke. The topic, “Jesus Calms the Storm,” arrested me.
In my reading of the brief narrative, I followed Jesus and His friends as they boarded a boat going to the opposite side of the lake. Because He was exhausted, Jesus made His way to the rear of the craft and fell asleep.
Then the ancient writer described a tempest coming out of the blue with these words: “A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger” (Luke 8:23).
Luke told how the men — seasoned sailors — mingled their frightful shouts with the roar of the howling winds and furious waves.
The same incident, narrated by Mark, noted that Jesus’ followers cried out, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38).
Absorbed in the story of the storm, I visualized the Master Seaman standing in the boat, His garments fluttering against His lean frame . . . His hair blowing away from His serene face . . . His majestic voice rebuking the wind and the raging waters.
It seemed to me that I heard the echo of His voice in my heart that February morning. And in my mind’s eye, I saw the storm subside, “and all was calm” (Luke 8:24).
I was moved to learn that as great as the storm had been that day, so still and calm were the waters. I pondered: If they had not endured the fury of the storm, would Jesus’ followers have known how quiet the silence was?
I never imagined that I was about to live out the answer to my query.
Struggling to speak
“Good morning,” my husband greeted me. It was time to prepare breakfast.
As I busied myself in the kitchen, I began what I thought would be a normal conversation. “I had a little dizzy spell . . . uh . . . earlier this morning. I’m sure I’ll be OK. Nothing to . . . uh . . . worry about.”
It became evident that I not only failed to function as a writer but also struggled to frame the spoken word into simple sentences.
When one of my husband’s closest friends came for a visit, things became more complicated. I’d left the two men conversing jovially; but when I reappeared in the room a little while later, they suddenly stopped whispering.
Humiliated to realize that they’d been discussing me, I withdrew from family and friends and filled my time alone with self-pity and quiet tears. The cry of my heart was inaudible to others, but I was screaming within.
Like those frightened sailors I’d read about in the Bible, I was experiencing a tempest that had come at me out of the blue. And like them, I queried God: “Don’t You care about what’s happening to me?”
Troubled that my fractured speech might be possible symptoms of a stroke, a friend in the nursing profession suggested I make an appointment with a local physician.
“You’re in excellent health,” he told me after a thorough examination.
Haltingly, I tried to explain my problem to the doctor. “Uh . . . something is definitely wrong. I’m a writer who can’t . . . uh . . . create a written word. And I can’t . . . uh . . . speak well. Why . . . uh . . . can’t I remember things?”
Startled, the doctor now took a keener interest in my problem. “Would you like me to order tests?” he asked.
I nodded. “Please do that . . . uh . . . right away.”
It was a Friday afternoon. Apparently, hospital laboratory people don’t like to work on weekends, because I was told that when the doctor described my symptoms to the hospital employee, he made a flippant remark: “Sounds like she needs psychiatric help.”
From that day, I withdrew even further from the outside world. I didn’t want to encounter anyone who might tell me to my face that something was wrong with my brain.
Cries for help
Winter passed into spring. On sunny days, I took brisk walks in the fields adjoining our country home. I let April’s cool winds brush against my cheeks and fill my lungs with fresh air.
The Saturday before Easter I climbed the top of the hill where the winds blow wildly. I recalled the narrative I’d read in the Gospels early that February morning.
Now on the hilltop, I looked to the faraway horizon where I imagined I could see Jesus’ followers in their sinking boat as they helplessly fought the stormy wind and waves.
I heard myself joining my cries with theirs: “Lord, don’t You care about what’s happening to me?”
The words came from deep within — a place that from winter to spring had been a troubled place. But now I sensed an awesome quietness within.
I began a conversation with Jesus. My sentences were whole — clear and concise, not jumbled or disjointed. I praised and thanked God for His love and care for me.
When I returned home that early evening, there was a phone call from the local doctor who had examined me weeks earlier. He said that ever since I’d been in his office, he’d been concerned about me. He suggested I make an appointment with a prominent neurosurgeon in a nearby town.
I arrived in the neurosurgeon’s office a few days later. He examined me briefly. Within ten minutes, I was admitted to the hospital.
God gave me the help I needed — just in time.
A benign tumor, which had been pressing upon my communicative powers on the left side of my brain, was removed during several hours of surgery. The moment my husband visited me in the ICU, I asked for a pencil and paper. I wrote three words: “Thank You, Lord.”
Twenty years have passed. I’ve been daily expressing my gratitude to God in the spoken and written word ever since, because I want everyone to know that stormy times can move us into a special place — a zone of silence.
It is in the stillness that our terrified souls are quieted and our faith is bolstered. There we come to know God — the one who cares about everything that happens to us.
Scripture quotations are from the New International Version.