Tag Archives: words

“Those Words Stung Me”: How to Respond When Words Cut

When I was in eighth grade, I got into an argument with my sister as she was dropping me off at school. I don’t remember what the argument was about, but I was angry, and before I got out of her ’92 Lebaron, I screamed, “I hate you!” As the words came out, I realized I couldn’t take them back, but I tried. I immediately tried to cover them with, “I hate this! I hate that we fight all the time.”  Ever have an experience like that? Ever said something to someone, perhaps in anger or frustration or emotional/physical pain that you wish you could take back? You didn’t mean it or you shouldn’t have said it or you weren’t expecting it to get back to them. Remember that feeling?

Now stop for a moment. Have you ever been hurt by someone who said something out of anger, frustration, emotional/physical pain? Have you ever overheard someone say something about you that was betraying? Perhaps something got back to you that your friend never expected to get back to you. Maybe they have confessed that they said it, apologized, and explained that they really didn’t mean what they said.

How do you respond to them?  Hear these words of Solomon, the Preacher: “Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others,” (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22, ESV). Generally speaking, one ought to respond to those painful moments by not taking the words to heart. Why? We’ve all been there. We’ve all made the mistake, many times, of saying things about others that ought never have been said.  We’ve all spoken out of anger, frustration, hurt, etc. If we could take back those words, we would, but we can’t. So what can we do? We can give those who spoke against us the benefit of the doubt. Let’s not allow those words to sink into our souls and cause us deep pain. The pain of just hearing the words is shallow. That’s why we say things like, “those words stung,” or “those were cutting words.” But what we don’t want is for the stings and cuts to become infected and our souls to wind up with sepsis.

This also means that we don’t allow the words to cause us put ourselves “through the wringer.” We don’t go down the hole of “Is everything in my life a lie? What else do I not know about myself? Who else thinks this way about me?” That is then taking the words to heart when they were never meant to be taken to heart.  That isn’t to say that some words ought to lead us to self-examination, but generally speaking that isn’t the case.  If you aren’t sure which way to take the words, ask a trusted friend, pastor, or family member. Ask them if this is something that you need to examine or ignore. Don’t ask the person who won’t tell you the truth because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Ask the person who loves you enough to let you know if what has been said was something that needs to be worked on or if it was something someone said in haste or anger.

I asked my sister a few years ago about that day when I told her I hated her. She says she doesn’t remember it at all. I’m glad. It was a turning point for me; it helped me to get my anger better in check. Other moments have done the same.  But for her, I’m glad she did not take my words to heart.

Are there words in your life that you need to forget were ever uttered? Are there friends that need to be forgiven? None of us are innocent of speaking words that we ought never have spoken. May we allow those moments we’ve committed to determine how we respond when those moments come against us.

The Heart of Worship is in the Prep Work

How good are you about preparing for corporate worship?  Much of corporate worship happens in the privacy of your own home before ever stepping foot inside the building to attend a worship service.  Many Christians don’t give much thought to preparation for corporate worship, but really preparation could be the heart of worship.  I’m not just speaking about getting a good night sleep the night before, though that’s important.  But I’m talking about preparing the mind to listen, the mouth to praise, and the heart to engage.

Solomon wrote, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.  To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil,” (Ecclesiastes 5:1, ESV).  True, the house of God was the temple and not the church building.  But Paul indicates that not only is the individual person a temple of God but, in consequence, so is the local gathering a temple of the Holy Spirit.  In other words: the building is not the temple, but the gathering of believers is.  Thus, when we go to corporate worship, we are going to the house of God and Solomon says that we are to guard our steps.  We are to be careful. We are not to simply be thoughtless as we make our way, but to be thoughtful.

Thoughtful of what?  Of what we will hear and what we will say or give.  That second part of the verse: “To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools,” is not simply a trite saying or poetic language.  It is referring to those who go and give a sacrifice without giving thought to what they are doing.  They are doing it because they’ve always done it, because it is expected, or because they have nothing better going on.  Worshiping God is a major part of our lives.  It should be done with thoughtfulness.  To do so otherwise is evil.  To worship without thought is to say that the object of worship is not worthy of our thoughts, concentration, and devotion.  In fact, he isn’t worthy of worship at all since true worship must be done in spirit and truth (heart and mind).  Otherwise it’s a mockery toward worship and toward the object of worship, and so mindless worship can be nothing other than evil.

Be thoughtful to listen–not just hear,but listen.  Be ready to hear from God and His Word so that you can put into action what has been laid upon your heart and mind.  The sermon is the Word of God explained (hopefully) so that the person listening can understand it and its aplication, and do what they have heard.  They listen to it, being “doers of the word, and not hearers only,” (James 1:22, ESV).

“Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth.  Therefore, let your words be few,” (Ecclesiastes 5:2, ESV).  As you prepare for worship, think hard about this God whom you worship.  Solomon is not prohibiting prayer, but prohibiting (once again) mindless prayer.  God is in heaven, thus he is greater than us.  As Isaiah wrote, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts,” (Isaiah 55:9, ESV).  Praying and singing (as many songs are simply corporate prayers put to music) are to be done with the understanding that God is greater and higher and more glorious than we could ever imagine.  He is holy and righteous and perfect.  We are on earth: those whom He has created, those whom He has adopted.  Thus the songs we sing ought to make much of Him.  When we have prepared our hearts and determined our minds to make much of Him and not so much of ourselves, our words will reflect that as we pray and sing.  Seeking to bargain with God or to make much of what we want that may oppose his sovereign will, will dwindle to infinitesimal moments.

Yet, if we do not prepare beforehand, it is easy to allow these moments to grow.  Since we are not guarding our steps then we won’t be guarding our thoughts and so not guarding our mouths.  Sunday mornings are always rushed.  Nothing goes right for families on Sunday mornings it seems.  Yet Sundays are so important.  Perhaps changes need to be made on Saturdays to prepare for worship on Sundays.  More baths, more ironing, earlier bed times on Saturday, and earlier waking times on Sunday mornings so people are not rushed are some thoughts.  I know that is pie-in-the-sky dreaming, but I bet if we stick to it, and make it a routine, within a few weeks or months, Sunday mornings will become a time of preparation.  After all, the heart of worship is in the prep work.