Over the past few days, God has led me into situations where I needed to speak the truth in love as an encouragement. Every time, I was terrified at the potential response. Would my words be misconstrued? Would they hurt rather than encourage?
Why did this matter to me? Several reasons.
God made me to be an encourager. The thought of speaking the words of encouragement that He gives me and having them be misconstrued is frightening for me.
God has also given me a gift of compassion. As I have learned in counseling, compassion became the gift I treasured most and was compelled to give, even dangerously to abusers, because in childhood no one had shown compassion to me. The thought that my words of compassion would be misconstrued and might hurt someone is a thought I can’t bear.
I’m a writer. Words have great weight for me, great power that’s often too frightening to wield, and so I refrain, lest my words hurt another.
God does desire that we guard our words and not use them destructively. Proverbs 18:21 tells us, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
But … for those willing to do that, He then desires that we give Him our words to use for His purposes, to break through darkness and speak life and truth in love into others.
God doesn’t only say that we should not speak death to another but that we also should speak life. Withholding bad words is not enough. We must release the good words He gives us.
Proverbs 10:20 promises us, “The tongue of the righteous is choice silver.” (In God’s Word, silver symbolizes redemption.)
Proverbs 15:4 assures us, “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life.” Wow! Jesus is THE Tree of Life, and when we give our words to Him, it is His life that inhabits them!
Proverbs 10:11 further celebrates that, “The mouth of the righteous is a well of life.” (Don’t just withhold words of death. Speak life!)
And in Proverbs 10:21, we learn, “The lips of the righteous feed many.”
Each verse counters with a negative that springs from words spoken out of evil and hate, without Christ’s presence and love. That part is all I’ve ever noticed.
And so, I have withheld my words from God. I have withheld words of truth and life.
I once asked my mentor, “How do I speak the truth in love?”
She answered, “First pray. Then love the person. Then speak … no fear.”
I have failed in that. When asked by God to speak the truth in love, I have prayed … and then failed to trust my prayers. I have loved the person … and than failed to trust my love. On too many occasions, I have failed to then speak. And when I have forced myself to speak, I have always, always, always fallen back on fear.
So I have to ask God … Lord, why? Why have I withheld my words from You for so long? And when I am willing to speak Your words, why do I cower, waiting for the misunderstanding and the bad results?
Why don’t I trust instead that Your Word does not return void, that Your truth will stand?
Why do I not pray with confidence that the words of life You give me will be heard as You intend? And where the enemy or another’s wounds might cause my words to be misheard, why do I not trust that You will guide me in talking further with that person, in seeking understanding and reconciliation, so that we might both grow, and Your truth in love be heard in both of our lives?
By my silence, I avert that opportunity to bring Your Kingdom and Your love deeper into our hearts.
As I ask the question “why,” the Lord brings to mind a circumstance when He led me to speak to someone in an online class and to give encouragement … not in the way the individual was seeking.
The person misunderstood and felt confused and discouraged. I therefore felt responsible for ruining her life. That’s an extreme leap based on a lie. As a friend once told me when I blamed myself for another person getting upset, “Janet, you are not that powerful!”
So in that circumstance of the online class, where the student misunderstood and didn’t know me well, didn’t know my heart, had never met me … I apologized for something I didn’t do wrong (thus adding to the confusion and ensuring she would miss the truth of where God was leading her) and I withdrew my words (rather than fighting for them and for her, rather than standing beside her and seeking God together with her).
Then I simply turned tail and ran. I came up with the lie to myself that, “When I speak as God leads, I will hurt others” (no wonder I’ve been shut down ever since). I also made a vow that “I will never speak the truth again.” (Ouch!)
I have spoken the truth since then, because I knew I had to, but the experience has always been agonizing as I await the fallout. And yes, there are times since then when I have failed to speak the truth, or sugar coated it, out of cowardice.
The vows we make, based on a lie, block us from God. With my vow, I took my words out of His hands, thus ensuring that if I do attempt to speak as He leads, the person is guaranteed to misunderstand. By my vow, I let God know I don’t trust Him or His words.
Lord Jesus, I renounce that vow and ask You to break it. Realign me with Your Word, with Your truth. Forgive me for not pressing in to seek You in that difficult circumstance with my student. I repent of believing the lie that “when I speak as You lead, I will hurt others.” Give me the courage to speak the truth in love, as You lead, and to trust You to see it through, for Your good purposes.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Now … will I hesitate to press the “Publish” button for fear that what I’ve written here will be misunderstood? And if I do press it, will I immediately revert to fear?
Truth be told, because of what God just showed me, and because I prayed to break that vow and to repent of believing that lie, I no longer fear the impact of the words He gives me.