Words of Life Speak Hope and Healing
by Deacon Christine Maddux
In these days of bullying, social media smears and trash talking, it is safe to say that the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me” has been laid to rest. And rightly so; it was blatantly untrue from the outset.
Which of us has not been harmed by words? Whether the verbal slings and arrows issued by parents, playmates, spouses, bosses and others deliver a glancing sting or a knockout blow, harsh words most certainly do harm us. They can echo through our minds for years, perpetuating the harm and curtailing our lives. The bible is an incomparable ally in weeding out false, destructive words and replacing them with words of truth and life.
From the very first chapter of the bible we witness the power of life-giving words, as God simply spoke order, light, sky, land, vegetation, sun, moon, and creatures into existence (Genesis 1:1-25). Then He created humans in his image and likeness (Genesis 1:26), including the ability to speak, which enables us to communicate not only with one another but with God Himself.
Throughout the bible we see God using words of truth to continually speak life to his people. He spoke to Noah of mercy and an everlasting covenant between Himself and all living creatures (Gen. 9:8-17). He spoke to Abraham, making a covenant of lasting promises and bountiful blessings (Gen.12:1-3). He not only spoke to Moses out of a burning bush (Exodus 3:4), but also gave him specific words for the people: “…I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you fully obey me and keep my covenant, then out of all the nations you will be my treasured possession“ (Exodus 19:3-5).
Later, Moses wrote down the words of God to form the first five books of the bible. Other writers recorded God’s inspired words in the rest of the Old and New Testaments, which have been speaking life and hope into readers for millennia. Through the words of the bible we find our true identity as children of God (e.g., John 1:12; Romans 8:16). We find encouragement in difficulties (e.g., Psalm 9:9; Matthew 28:20). We find lives redeemed (e.g., John 8:1-11; Luke 19:1-10). And we find countless ways to speak God’s words of healing, hope and truth to ourselves and others in our own time.
The apostle Peter recognized this when Jesus had just finished a hard teaching, which prompted many disciples to abandon Him. When Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”, Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:67-68, emphasis added).
As followers of Jesus, it is our joy to speak his words of life powerfully against the prevailing culture of gloom and death. If his words dwell in us (John 15:7), they will shine as light in the darkness (Matthew 5:14-16). Instead of joining the popular chorus of antagonism, vitriol and sarcasm, we can choose to glorify God by “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15, emphasis added). As Paul wrote, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). Whatever those needs may be, speaking these buoyant words of truth will benefit all listeners: Jesus loves you (John 15:9), and “came so you would have real and eternal life, more and better life than you ever dreamed of!” (John 10:10, The Message).
The Rev. Christine Maddux lives in Sapphire and is a Deacon at Christ Anglican Church in Cashiers. Join her there Sundays at 10:30, and send your comments and questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally published in the Crossroads Chronicle, May 22, 2019.