I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” As a child I’d repeat this jingle, but it never rang true. Every dig or ridicule would cut to the heart and hurt.
Words are pretty powerful things. They can bring joy and sorrow, anger and peace. Words have been used as weapons, attacking the character of its recipient, bruising the self-esteem and at times altering the course of someone’s life. Ask any child who has been continually bullied, any harassed co-worker, watch every political ad throughout recent history and you will understand how powerful words can be.
The deceiving words of the devil and the damaging thoughts of our sinful nature seem to work the hardest within the family of God’s own people. One member may be so bold to speak righteous indignation and judgment, that it matters little what effect those words have on others. Gossip and untruths run amok, muddying Christian fellowship, turning our thoughts inward rather than keeping them focused on Christ. Hurting others with our words as some kind of divine retribution may give us temporary satisfaction, convincing ourselves we are “always” right, but in the end we are not just hurting our neighbor but turning our own hearts into stone. Words are powerful.
Words can be a healing salve, too. As a woman I’d be lying if I said it didn’t matter when someone paid me a compliment on my looks when it seems I’m always on the losing end with the bathroom scale. When my daughter was a newborn and we were unable to pacify her wailing in church, nothing better settled my jittery nerves and tattered ego than the jumbled words of a hearing impaired young lady who turned to me after the service and said with tears in her eyes, “I heard your baby cry and loved it. It gives me hope that I will hear my own baby some day.”
Simple words of care can also begin to bolster a weary spirit. Just the other day, as I trudged through my many responsibilities, an older gentleman at church approached me and asked, “How’s it going, Kiddo?” There was nothing earth shattering or poetic about his question, but his interest in me at that moment, as if I were one of his children, left an impression on me. I mattered to him!
We matter so very much more to our Heavenly Father and we know this by His Word. God’s spoken word brought the world into being (Psalm 33:6) and it was very good. It was made perfect for us and to His glory (Genesis 1:31). When we fell into sin through the destructive words of the serpent, God did not allow it to kill our souls, but rather through His Word promised to send us a Savior (Genesis 3:15).
Words these days often can’t be trusted, so how can we trust God? We’ve all probably heard someone say, “He is a man of his word.” While this is meant as a compliment, it is hard for any man or woman to live up to that accolade. What we know about God, though, is that He is a God of His Word, He is His Word, and in every aspect His Word does not fail us. John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus tells us in John 14:6, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” Jesus, God’s Word incarnate, is truth. Jesus, God’s Word in flesh, is life.
This word of promise to save us, this word of life, can be heard from the lips of Jesus as He hung on the cross. “It is finished!” (John 19:30). God’s plan of salvation has been accomplished for us through Christ. Our reunification with the Father is complete. Sin no longer separates us from the Father. Jesus’ work of atonement for us is finished! Those words of Christ are pretty powerful. He, with His final breath, punctuates his final statement with promises fulfilled, the pronouncement of forgiveness, assurance of healing in Him, words of peace…for us!
This gift of God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus is the kind of word we cannot help but share! Why exhaust our time and energy with rumors, hateful words, or self-gratification in boastful statements, when with our lips we can confess, “Jesus is Lord! Your sins are forgiven!”
When we become tongue-tied and feel as though we lack the right words to share this sweet message, take heart. Remember the promises of Jesus in Luke 12:11b-12, “Do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Isaiah 55:10-11 promises, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” These are not our words which waver and change depending on our mood, but His unfaltering truth. They are not our words, but His, and they will not return empty.
And finally, when comments are said that bruise, hurt and scar us, rest and find peace in God’s comforting Word. “This God—His Way is perfect; the Word of the Lord proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him.” (2 Samuel 22:31)
How powerful and awesome this is, and you can bet He meant every word!