Reach out and help someone with positive words of encouragement.
"Wise words satisfy like a good meal; the right words bring satisfaction."
Has someone positively impacted your life with the right words? How can you reach out and help someone with positive words of encouragement?
A few years ago, someone said something to me in a church setting that triggered my issues with legalism and spiritual abuse. Being sensitive to these things can be a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it makes me aware of my words and actions as a leader in the church. A curse because it can reduce me to anger and tears in no time. That night it was a curse.
I got into the car in the church parking lot and started crying and pounding on the steering wheel the minute the door shut. My poor girls starting crying too because I scared them. I was yelling so loud.
Jeff calmed the girls down and then listened well to my tirade, “Will it ever get better? In the church will we always shame and control one another? How the &*%$ can this be happening to me again? This is exactly what I’ve been trying to escape for the last 10 years!”
Around that same time, a friend texted Jeff to ask how I was. He knew what kind of a meeting I walked into that evening and thought it might be triggering me. Jeff texted back, “Well, she’s currently crying and cussing. So…you know…”
After I calmed down enough to drive, we headed toward Taco Bell. It was late and I sure wasn’t planning to cook. I was still crying as I ordered and received my food. The guy at the window gave me a strange look when he handed me my bags and asked about sauce. *Sniff, sniff.* Yes, some hot and mild. Certainly my most emotional experience in a drive thru.
I got home and paced around the house, still yelling a bit and throwing my hands up in the air. “I don’t know what to do. I’m lost!”
It was not a situation I could easily leave because I was committed to being in leadership at this particular place. In another time or situation, I would simply walk away. Jeff suggested a friend to e-mail. Someone older and wiser who had been through similar pain. Yes, yes! She would know what to do!
I sat down and wrote out the situation as best as I could.
The next morning I received my reply. She was empathetic. Expressed how hard this was for me. She could understand. Then she said something surprising. She told me to find the good things of life to enjoy. She told me to laugh with my children and to find and pursue the things that are life-giving. She knew I was in a hard place that required my full commitment and that spiritual warfare was very much at work. She told me that joy would combat the darkness.
So I did. I took the kids to the park. We watched movies and visited our favorite library. I allowed more time for lingering and laughter.
There it was: laughter. That was the thing that would walk me through the spiritual abuse and legalism surrounding me once again. God didn’t make the darkness and He certainly is not for us abusing each other in His name. But He did create joy. He did create life and He is the only one who can give life in the midst of pain and struggle. This was my new goal: joy.
I have never forgotten her words.
A few weeks ago, a friend was wheeled into emergency surgery. I messaged her sister for details and hoped to visit her in the hospital. She went through another surgery before they finally released her. I missed my opportunity to see her in person at the hospital but still determined to check in with her after she got settled at home.
Instead, she called me.
She didn’t know I had been praying for her procedure. She told me she was receiving some conflicting advice about recovery and it felt very frustrating. Plus, she has a young family to care for. How would she do it while on resting for a few weeks?
I listened. I really had very few answers, other than to tell her about a couple of ridiculous examples from my own life when people have tried to tell me what to do and how I can’t possibly live up to all they’re asking me to do at one time. If I did, I would never get anything done. My examples were so outlandish that we got to laughing pretty hard on the phone. Hopefully I didn’t do any damage to her stitches!
At the end of the conversation, as I wiped away tears of laughter, she sighed and said, “I knew I should call you. I knew you would make me feel better.”
I really feel as if God gifted those moments to us. Moments of joy when she was full of such uncertainty and questions. In all of her pain and struggle, we found joy together.
There is a way to tear others down, such as what I received that night at a church meeting. But the right words satisfy. I’m so grateful that those right words are the ones that stuck with me. In fact, I have to think very hard now to remember the spiritually abusive phrases that had me cowering in my seat that evening. They are there. But they are buried. I would have to concentrate really hard to be back in that place. What I do remember is the life-giving words that gave me a new trajectory to claim.
Yes, wise words satisfy like a good meal. (Better than Taco Bell!) I’m praying for the Holy Spirit to give me more of those right and good words. And laughter too. I want more of that.