How We Can Speak Life Into the Lives of Those Who Are Suffering?
The Bible says that death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21 ESV). Sometimes, we are falsely led to believe that we can speak our own destiny, health and wealth into existence. Often this is not inline with what scripture truly says. So what might Proverbs 18:21 mean to someone who is enduring suffering?
Could it possibly mean that we have the power to speak life or death into someone else's life? Could it mean that we have the ability to encourage ourselves and others with our words or deeply discourage with them, as well?
So often those in the body of Christ who are suffering or experiencing illness will hear words like, “If you would just speak life into your circumstance." Their grief can often be mistaken as being negative. They may be told to be more positive and not dwell on their problems.
But when we say these phrases to others, we are invalidating their pain and they feel unheard in an already lonely place.
We Christians, should be so careful with the words that come from our mouths. I am preaching to myself here, oh how the Lord has convicted me on this subject. These well meaning words of positivity can become a deadly place of guilt and discouragement for a person enduring suffering or illness. It can add even more weight onto their already heavy load. These words can cause them to think that somehow their own words could've caused or corrected the tragedy that they are walking through.
We are not God. Our God is the only one who can speak things into existence. He calls us to pray and speak His Word and promises over our life and the lives of others. Seeking for His will to be done in our lives and not our own. He calls us to encourage and to suffer with those who are suffering.
Could we be missing some of the most important parts of “speaking life”? Like love, compassion and just sitting with someone in their suffering?
It says in MATTHEW 23:4 (ESV)
They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.
I know this is a verse speaking about pharisees and we are not pharisees. But as Christians, we can sometimes, unknowingly place high standards of burdens on other's shoulders that not even ourselves could obtain if we were in the same circumstance. These unhealthy standards can be toxic instead of helpful. We can speak words that seem positive and encouraging but in the end they may bring no edification for the person suffering. The one receiving our words may be left feeling more hurt and frustrated than before we spoke to them. They may feel as if their faith isn’t enough for their healing or that their sin in some way has brought on their illness or suffering. Many times those who are suffering are left feeling that they haven’t done enough and can't be enough.
Through my own suffering with chronic illness, I'm learning a few extremely important lessons. Not only is God teaching me how to discern words but also how to choose my own words wisely before I allow them to flow from my mouth. He has shown me how instead of certain phrases and words being positive and life giving, (like I had thought for my entire life) that they might unknowingly be placing a heavy burden upon a sick person, a depressed person, a special needs parent, a person grieving or someone who has experienced tragedy.
Unfortunately, It has taken me going through it to see the hurt that it may cause.....
See, before I became sick I was guilty of this myself. I honestly thought that my words were speaking life. I didn't understand the effects that my well intentioned words could have.
We often just speak out of our assumptions of the person's life or situation. It’s not as if we would purposely try to hurt another person. We most of the time are actually trying to help. But more times than not, we see the other person’s life differently then what the true reality is for them. We can speak things that we know nothing about.
Suffering with chronic illness has humbled me and taught me so many hard lessons when it comes to my tongue.
Here are ten things that Holy Spirit has been teaching me about speaking life into someone's suffering and it often doesn't include any speaking at all.
1.) Sometimes, my friend might just need an ear that’s willing to listen. She may not need or want my advice.
2.) I need to carefully choose my words so not to invalidate my friend's pain.
3.) I need to make sure that I'm not adding to her burden. I shouldn't leave her feeling like her faith isn't enough or that her trial is due to disobedience. None of us know why someone else is having to go through suffering. So it's probably best if I don't assume.
4.) Not all positivity is edifying and helpful.
5.) Lamenting and grieving while enduring suffering are not negative emotions and are actually a very healthy part of the healing process. ”Cry if you need to.”
6.) I can admit that I don't know all the answers. I don't know why this has happened.
7.) God still heals. It just may not be in our timing.
8.) I can stand with my friend and declare God's promises over her life. I can pray with my friend and show love, mercy and compassion.
9.) Just because it's painful and it hurts, doesn't mean that my friend doesn't have faith, it just means that the situation honestly "just hurts". Just because my friend laments, It doesn't mean that she's not content, worrying or is being negative. Just because my friend is grieving, it doesn't mean she is wallowing in self pity.
10.) I shouldn’t pity my friend. Even though her circumstances may look bad and she is hurting, she may be experiencing the presence of God like never before. I shouldn’t assume that just because she is suffering in the flesh that her spiritual life is a wreck. It might be quite the opposite. We can feel suffering and all the pain and emotions in the flesh yet still be richly blessed with God's presence in the midst of the pain.
I think the church could greatly benefit from hearing more testimonies from people who have walked through tremendous suffering. They have so much to offer.
Let us use Proverbs 18:21 to speak words of life into the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
I'm so very thankful for those who have shared with me about their seasons of suffering. They have made my family's burden lighter.
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