The events of the past 24 hours have brought a childhood struggle back to the front of my mind. Some (if not most) of you who read this message have experienced the pain of insults, bullying, and unkind words. When I was young one thing I was taught to try to help deal with the pain of insults was: “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. Although well intentioned, the statement is incredibly flawed and really an outright lie.
This message is perhaps the first of a few that will focus on the power of words. The Scripture teaches us: The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences. (Proverbs 18:21 NIV). The Scripture does such a great job talking about the power of words, why then have we failed so miserably in the church to understand the true power of words? As suicide rates among children has skyrocketed, bullying has become a constant topic among educators and parents alike. So often the most cruel bullying has nothing to do with physical harm but with the power of words.
As I’ve struggled with my own children and the bullying they experience in the world, the echoes of the pain from my own childhood call out to me. Words can do more to change our own perception about who we are than almost anything else. As my child sat and cried begging me not to go back to school, I could feel his pain and heartache. To be honest, the emotions I feel even thinking about his hurt scream into the depths of my heart. He is screaming out like I once did, like maybe you or someone you love right now are: help.
Last night as I tried to comfort my son, I realized how distracted I have been lately. It seemed as if his pain and hurt finally broke him inside and once the walls of his emotions cracked, everything came flooding down. How did I miss this? What have I been doing? How is it that such deep desperation in his eyes has fell on my deaf ears? I relentlessly pray for my children, how has he found himself here? How did I fail to protect him?
From his mouth a mixture of deep hurts, emotions, and chemical responses he doesn’t full understand came bursting forth. For a moment I was transported back decades and I was him. The pain and loneliness of childhood had driven me to despair. As the Lord helped me patiently listen to my son, I realized what each of you should right now: only God can truly protect those we love the most. Yet, and this is a big but, each of us should make time for those we love most to hear them.
Last night as my son confessed his hurt he also shared the thought that I didn’t care. Of course, that lie is straight from the pit of hell. I could not care more about the pains and hurts he faces. Paul tells us that as followers of Jesus we should: Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2 NIV) The “burdens” Paul is talking about here isn’t the struggles of every day life. These burdens are the spiritual mountains that would crush us otherwise. Is it really possible to bare those burdens (even for those we love most) if we aren’t aware of them?
Today if you’ve made it this far, my hope for each one of us is two fold. First, if you are hurting and have been struggling in a place where you’ve been destroyed by word warfare, please get don’t give up. Please seek out professional assistance to help you with the grief or pain your struggling in. If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or ending your life, please call or text the Samaritan’s Purse helpline at (877) 870-4673. You can also visit their website at https://samaritanshope.org/our-services/247-crisis-services/.
Second, don’t assume those you love the most aren’t suffering the same fight my child is. Take the time to sit down and talk to them about what they are facing. Give them a safe place to confide in you. Don’t judge the hurt, dismiss it, or explain it away. Face the fire with them. The Law of Christ that Paul speaks about in Galatians 6:2 is the command by Jesus for every one of His followers: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 NIV)