The Silent Scream

by John Fischer

In counseling session, I inadvertently lean on a pillow that emits a faint electronic warble. I only hear it subconsciously, as I am deeply engaged in the conversation. Then it happens again and I look down and discover my pillow is screaming at me. An electronic chip inside is responding to the pressure of my elbow. On the face of the pillow is a rendering of Edvard Munch’s famous 19th century expressionism painting, “The Scream“—that wavy image of a wide-open mouth and gaunt, skeletal face cradled in the hands of its own desperation. You may have seen it rendered as a popular Halloween mask. It has become a universal depiction of the cry of the human heart.

In the painting, the screaming victim is standing on a bridge with a red, turbulent sky behind him and two figures in the background. In the artist’s own words, the inspiration for this painting came when an unexplainable sense of dread overcame him while out walking with two of his friends. “My friends walked on—I stood there, trembling with fear. And I sensed a great, infinite scream pass through nature.”

Until I read this description, I saw the figures as approaching and for some reason coming after the screaming victim, but according to the artist, the two figures have passed on ahead, seemingly oblivious to whatever it was that gripped him with fear. This underlines even more the loneliness expressed. His companions have their backs turned on his desperation. They are no help to him. Only he can hear the scream; and their apparent disinterest makes you feel the scream is silent.

This is not a painting of a human being on a bridge surrounded by landscape; it is an abstract capturing of the human soul. It is a painting of the state of mind that people are in today. We live in a time of momentous fear. Terrorism and economic hardship grip many people, but their screams are mostly silent. Those who could help are walking away.

Where are you in this picture? Are you the screamer, or one of the ones passing on?

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If someone you know was screaming like this, would you know it? How?
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JOHN FISCHER, as Senior Writer with, has specialized in a daily devotional that now reaches an audience of over 400,000 people five times a week. John’s career spans over thirty-five years of distinctive ministry, first as a singer/songwriter, recording artist and pioneer of\ Jesus Music, then as a best-selling author, and currently as a popular speaker at conferences, retreats, churches and colleges/universities nationally.

You can contact John at: or visit his website:

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