I read Psalm 35 this morning and was struck again by the thought that
silence is almost always the best response to criticism. We can and should
correct people when they misrepresent us, but there is great depth and
dignity in meeting disapproval with silence.
David summarizes the actions of his critics in 11-16
Malicious witnesses rise up; They ask me things that I do not know (charge
me with sins and faults I know nothing about).
They reward me evil for good, To the sorrow of my soul (No good deed goes
unpunished, as they say).
But as for me, when they were sick, My clothing was sackcloth; I humbled
myself with fasting; And my prayer would return to my own heart (I kept
praying for them).
I paced about as though he were my friend or brother; I bowed down heavily,
as one who mourns for his mother.
But in my stumbling (at the first sign of weakness) they rejoiced And
gathered together; Cripples (like me) gathered against me, And I did not
know it (It was done behind my back) They tore at me and did not cease
(attacking my character);
Like court jesters (who mock others), They gnashed at me with their
teeth (tore my reputation to shreds).
Does this sound familiar? Those we've suffered with and deeply cared for are
often the very folks that turn against us. (I've never fully understood that
phenomenon, but it may be that loving, pastoral care raises people's
expectations to the point that they (their expectations) become utterly
unrealistic—for some we become the parent they never had—and any slip
becomes a monumental betrayal.) It is worth noting that this psalm is put
into Jesus' mouth and describes the way those he loved turned against him
(John 15:25). It's good to recall that "the servant is not above his master…"
In the face of this scathing critique David put his soul in God's hands for
his judgment and vindication (vs. 22-24) and left it there. He describes
himself as one of the "quiet ones in the land"(20). I love that line!
Here is F. B. Meyers understanding of the process:
In every age God has had his quiet ones. Retired, from its noise and strife,
withdrawn from its ambitions and jealousies, unshaken by its alarms; because
they had entered into the secret of a life hidden in God. We must have an
outlet for the energies of our nature. If we are unfamiliar with the hidden
depths of eternal life, we shall necessarily live a busy, fussy, frothy,
ambitious, eager life, in created with men and things. But the man who is
intent on the eternal, can be quiet in the temporal.
The man whose house is shallow, but one room in depth, cannot help living on
the street. But directly we begin to dwell deep—deep in God, deep in the
watch for the Master's advent, deep in considering the mysteries of the
kingdom—we become quiet. We fill our little space; we get our daily broad
and and content; we enjoy natural and simple pleasures; we do not strive,
nor cry, nor cause our voice to be heard in the street; we pass through the
world, with noiseless tread, dropping a blessing on all we meet; but, we are
no sooner recognized than we are gone.
Get quiet, beloved soul; tell out thy sorrow and complaint to God. Let not
the greatest business or pressure divert thee from God. When men rag about
thee, go and tell Jesus. When storms and high, hide thee in his secret
place. When others compete for fame and applause, and their passion might
infect thee, got into thy closet, and shut thy door, and quiet thyself as a
weaned babe. For if thy voice is quiet to man, let it never cease to speak
loudly and mightily for man in the ear of God.