“I hear this most gentle whisper from one I never guessed would speak to me.”
—Psalm 81:5, The Message
There are a thousand ways the world does violence to us every single day—from the harshness of unkind words to the subtle reminders of time passing and decay. We are dying. And whenever we stop long enough to notice that in any of its forms, the grief brings a sort of violence to our hearts.
Over and against the reality of that violence, there is the gentleness of God. Sometimes that gentleness comes as sweet relief, as the remedy of breathing space in a world that constricts us. Other times it is almost unwelcome; to hold that gentleness means we are unable to give ourselves over to defensive anger protecting us against a life that is hard. God is here; we cannot give in to despair.
Thomas á Kempis, medieval mystic and author of The Imitation of Christ, had this to say:
Banish discouragement from your heart as best you can, and if trouble comes, never let it depress or hinder you for long.... The violence of your feelings will soon subside, and grace return to heal your inner pain.Whatever violence we feel, there is one who stands ready to help and comfort, one who speaks with gentle whispers where we do not expect to hear anything at all. Receiving that gentleness can itself cause pain when it comes as such sharp contrast to the suffering within us, but it is perhaps one of the best and most hopeful signs of our humanity that we remain willing to feel it.