I waited quietly in the line, reminding myself over and over again to think before I spoke. Yes, this time, I was determined to speak wisely or not speak at all. When I finally arrived at my destination, I shook hands with the man before me, smiled and asked, "How are you doing?"
Immediately, I regretted the words. The man had just lost his wife. How did I think he was doing? What kind of stupid question is that?
I don't know what it is about funerals that turns my mind to mush. Perhaps it's the body lying there in eerie stillness (although it would probably be eerier if it were moving). Or maybe it's the whole ambiance of the funeral home. I just don't know, but it causes a disconnect between my brain and mouth and makes for quite an awkward situation.
As I made my way down the line of the family of the deceased, I inwardly berated myself. Again, I determined to guard my words carefully, but my mouth obviously had other plans. As I neared the end of the line and relief swept over me, a gentleman reached out his hand and said, "Thank you for coming." If I had taken my advice, I would have shaken his hand, smiled sympathetically and nodded my head. But I didn't heed my advice. Instead, I said, "Glad to be here." At that point, I was ready to crawl into the casket with the deceased and close the lid. What in the world is wrong with me?
Ecclesiastes 3 tells us, To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. . . A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak. (vs. 1,7)
Yes, there is a time to speak and a time to keep silent, and we would do well to recognize which is which.
Sometimes it's best to simply keep our mouths closed, especially in situations where we don't know what to say. Even a verse of Scripture can do more harm than good if not delivered with the proper timing and tone. Let's face it, in the midst of a painful trial, the last thing we want is for someone to come up, slap us on the back and say, "Cheer up. Remember, the Bible says this will all work together for good." While the words are true, they lack compassion and tact. And when we're hurting, such advice comes across as flippant and uncaring.
Please understand, I am not saying that we should not share Scripture with one another. I'm merely sending forth caution to do so carefully and with a tender heart. I also want to admonish each of us that sometimes it's better to say nothing at all.
A smile or a hug goes a long way toward encouraging others and letting them know how much you care. Don't mess that up by speaking thoughtless words.
Oh, and by the way, if I am ever in attendance at the funeral of one of your loved ones, I apologize in advance for anything stupid I may say. I'm working on it. I promise I am!