When Words Won’t Come

Mar 15, 2022

By B.J. Funk

In the fifth grade, my best friend was Susan. We were inseparable. On weekends we played at either her house or mine. Her mother made us matching outfits, and we each pulled our long same-color hair back into a pony tail. We loved being together. We loved trying to look alike.

That year, if our class earned some special fun time in the midst of our busy studies, the teacher let us play, “Doggie, Doggie, who’s got your bone?” We loved it! 

One student sat in a chair at the front of the class, with his/her back facing the students. The teacher placed a chalkboard eraser under the chair, and the class became silent as the teacher selected one person to walk quietly up to the chair, retrieve the eraser, and get back to his seat. Then the class said together, “Doggie, Doggie, who’s got your bone,” and the fun began. The one on the chair turned to face the class and had three chances to name the robber. 

One day, Susan was selected to sit in the chair, and I was appointed the robber. I walked up slowly and quietly.  When I got close enough to reach down and get the eraser, Susan said, “It’s BJ!”

What? How did that happen? How did I give myself away? Susan answered, “She sighed. And I know her sigh.”

I started thinking. If Susan could read my sigh, couldn’t God? That thought fell comfortably into my spirit in the following years as I thought of those who find it hard to pray. When the words won’t come, could even a sigh convey a person’s heart? I think so. God doesn’t need our words to hear our hearts. He is bigger than the limitations of speech or the restrictions of our minds. He can easily get into the places of pain we have buried. 

When I am too full of physical or emotional pain, the One who knows my sigh is in my heart, invading my pain with his unbelievable grace and love. I can’t always find the words, but I don’t have to. I come before God without words, and he’s okay with that. He knows everything I wanted to say to him, anyway. My words are captured in my thoughts. The One who knit me together in my mother’s womb knows me intimately. He recognizes my breath. He gets my thoughts, even in my sigh.

David describes an intimate walk with God: “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise. You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down. You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely” (Psalm 139:1-4).

It is this intimate knowledge he has that makes me fall in love again and again with my Maker. When no one else understands me, he does. If no one else “gets” me, he can. If I can’t relax in the presence of my enemy, he holds my hand and softly reminds me that I can relax with Him. Should I feel betrayed by the friend I love the most, he stands beside me, reminding me that I will never have a friend who could possibly love me more than he does. 

When the weight of the world pushes down on my shoulders, I remember that God takes delight in me and rejoices over me with singing. His love sweeps away the dark clouds and reminds me I matter to him (Zephaniah 3:17). I don’t even have to tell him. The sigh of my heart says it all.

As is true with many childhood happenings, the situation in fifth grade fell into a reservoir of pleasant memories, and I didn’t think about it again for years. Until now, actually. Not until we were both married with grown children and had gone our separate ways.

Not until Susan was dying. 

I sat by her bed, holding the hand of this woman I loved. She was in and out of consciousness, and I sadly realized we could not talk. 

But we could communicate – through my sigh.

The lesson for you and me? When unbearable pain comes, walk softly up to the throne God occupies. Quietly, reach under his chair for a treasure. Return to your seat. Hear him say your name. How did that happen?

Easy. He knows your sigh.  

BJ. Funk is Good News’ long-time devotional columnist and author of It’s A Good Day for Grace, available on Amazon.

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