THE WORST HURT
It was years ago. I was out shopping when someone was incredibly rude to me. There are plenty of opportunities for tempers to flare in the city, especially in the dry heat of a desert summer. Although I don’t remember all the details, I do remember the outcome. In the middle of my flesh temptation to “spew” & “sputter,” the Lord ever so gently prompted me to “grace them.” What?? What do You mean, Lord? “Grace them. You know…like I grace you…every day of your life. You don’t know what this person is dealing with today. You don’t know the pain in their soul. You don’t know their story. So, grace them.”
This was one of those life-altering ah-ha moments between me & the Lord. And despite the fact it can sometimes be a hard practice to want to implement, it has taught me to look for the best in people. It has encouraged me to hope that God’s all-encompassing redemption can change the worst, sin-sick soul for His glory. In my humanness, this has also opened my heart to worlds of hurt because, as you know, there isn’t a person in our lives who doesn’t fail us, at some point. It’s in those moments, that God calls me to seek Him, for His purification purposes in my own life.
One of the most common, everyday ways we inflict pain is through our speech…the words we choose…our communication style/delivery. Even as a child, it didn’t take me long to figure out that the old adage, “Sticks & stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” was about the biggest lie on earth! How many of us can still remember the one incident, the one phrase seared on our heart, that marked the way we see ourselves…to this very day? Wisdom would say that since we know that kind of pain, we should have the common sense not to pass it along. Unfortunately, our flesh can be our own worst enemy. When our desires & responses are not yielded to the control of the Holy Spirit in the moment, our tongue can become a weapon of mass destruction. The overall fallout can cause someone to doubt God’s love for them, to doubt their unique personal design, & to doubt their value. In short, an attack with words is almost always a stumbling block, spiritually.
The tongue is referenced repetitively in the Bible. Two of my favorite verses are in Proverbs & in James. “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, & death, so is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘Was I not joking?’” (Proverbs 26:18&19) Righteous anger quickens in my soul when I observe the cruel practice of taunting/mocking a vulnerable area in someone’s life. My heart breaks when these barbs are excused as humor, leaving the recipient feeling doubly wounded. Does Christ ever, ever take liberties with our hearts like that? NO! “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil & full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord & Father; & with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing & cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.” (James 3:8-10) If you profess to know Jesus Christ, these verses should be quite convicting. Apparently, bullying has been around for a very, very long time. And sometimes, it even occurs in families, a place that is supposed to be safe.
In our present world, the things that ought not to be, more often are! But it’s even more disheartening to see these sinful, hurtful practices abounding in the Church. In the moments that I feel or observe hurt, God reminds me to “grace” the offender & pray for the situation to be reconciled. I’m responsible for any involvement on my part. This stops a root of bitterness from springing up in my heart. If you don’t deal with it immediately, if you let it fester, well, “…how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire.” (James 3:5) I am humbled by God’s faithfulness, to me, in my own refining process. He reminds me that my own words should pass the triple test: Is what I say TRUE? Is what I say KIND? Is what I say NECESSARY?
“When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19) “He who guards his mouth & his tongue, guards his soul from trouble.” (Proverbs 21:23)