As soon as I said it, conviction seized me. My daughter stood there, shell shocked, wounded by my words. Without saying a word, her expression spoke of the betrayal she felt. I hurt just remembering. Tears threaten. I don’t even remember why I was so frustrated with her, which shows you how important it must have been. I can guess it was probably over disobedience, or arguing, or negotiating, or complaining. Chances are I was neglecting my responsibility to hold my kids accountable to first-time obedience, or I was slacking in holding them to the Lord’s standards. And in frustration, I let what was in my heart escape my tongue, and my daughter was a casualty of the war that rages inside of me. I do remember exactly what I said. Even though I asked for forgiveness, the words can’t be taken back. How I wish they could! I pray she doesn’t remember so clearly. That the Lord in His great mercy and love takes an eraser to her memory and wipes clean the sinful words of her mother. The one who is supposed to lift her up and encourage her in the Lord. Oh, Father, forgive me! Not just for that instance, but for every time I’ve used my words as a weapon against my family and those I love.
The temptation of the tongue is great. It relentlessly lurks in idle time, uncomfortable silence, anger, hurt, revenge, pride, humor, frustration, confusion, uncertainty, ambition, competition, insecurity, bitterness, discontentment, and unforgiveness. It thrives when we allow a controlling, critical, or judgmental spirit to rule our hearts. When we succumb to the lure of a loose tongue, the consequences are deadly. Oh Lord, I need Your word! I need Your rescue. I need Your grace. My tongue betrays what’s in my heart, and my eyes witness the ugly truth. Out of the outflow of my heart my mouth speaks (Matt. 12:34).
Wrong words have found a comfortable place in my family. All kinds of wrong words. “Unwholesome talk,” as Ephesians 4:29 (NIV) calls it. “Rotten, putrefied, corrupted by one and no longer fit for use, worn out, of poor quality, bad, unfit for use, worthless” talk, if you look it up in the Greek (www.blueletterbible.com, Strong’s G4550). Other versions call it corrupt communication (KJV), corrupt word (NKJV), foul or abusive language (NLT), corrupting talk (ESV).
My default response is to address the words. “I’ll do better next time.” Or, “I just have to hold my tongue.” Or I’ll memorize a scripture and quote it to myself and my kids. Better yet, we’ll all memorize it and that will fix the problem. I’ll make the kids role play appropriate words. Yeah, that will do it! Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that. We should make an effort to discipline our tongues. We should memorize scripture that we might not sin against God (Ps. 119:11). We should teach and train our kids to say things in a God-honoring way. But the spoken symptoms simply signal a deeper problem. In me. In my family. A heart issue that requires a gospel solution. Only the blood of Jesus can satisfy the penalty our words deserve. Only a genuine love for Him, birthed out of gratitude for the magnitude of what He’s done for us, can compel us to submit to his scalpel. Only a desperate realization of our destitute state without Him. Remembering that Jesus died for all sin for all time. He died for all the things we’ve said and the things we will say. He satisfied the demands of a holy God. In Christ, covered by His blood, we have too.
Our salvation is secure. Our sanctification is ongoing.
We need the Great Physician to be our great heart surgeon, cutting out tumors and healing sickness and disease in that part of us that is “the centre and seat of spiritual life; the soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors; of the understanding, the faculty and seat of the intelligence; of the will and character” (www.blueletterbible.com, Matt. 12:34, heart, Strong’s G2588).
Unless the Lord changes our hearts, our tongues will tattle. In all things, including the secrets of my inner life. When James asks me for help, and I ask him if he can’t see the piles on my desk that need my attention, is that a tongue problem or a heart problem? Both, yes. But the root of the issue is in my heart. If my heart was truly submitted to the Lord, to serving James and being his help mate, my words would reflect that. When I’m resisting James’ authority and he puts his foot down, only to have his wife salute him with the words, “Heil Hitler,” is that a tongue or a heart problem? When I critically comment on a person’s clothing or look, is that a tongue or a heart problem? When I rant and rave about how someone has offended me, is that a tongue or a heart problem? When a child needs my help at the most inopportune time, and I let out an exasperated sigh, is that a tongue or a heart problem? When I get frustrated with my family and my words fly like daggers, is that a tongue or a heart problem? When I don’t know what to do in a relationship, and I talk to other people about it, is that a tongue or a heart problem? (More on that Monday.)
Lord, exert Your holy influence on my heart! Please, Lord, give Your grace that turns me to Jesus, keeps me there, strengthens me, and increases my faith, knowledge, and love for You, and compels me to walk in Your ways.
When our hearts change, so will our words.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24). No matter what You find, Lord, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10). I beseech You, Lord, to strengthen me to obey Ephesians 4:29-32:
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
Heavenly Father, I do not despise Your discipline. I am not discouraged by your rebuke. For you discipline the ones You love. (Heb. 12:5-6). I welcome Your discipline, Lord.
May the Lord discipline each of us right where we need it in order to become wholly His today.