Minutes after I clicked send to my Aunt Carol’s e-mail, she called me.
"Tiffany, did you know the e-mail you just sent me went out to everyone on my distribution list? Including your mom."
I must have accidentally hit "reply to all." Soon my mom would read my ugly thoughts about her. I cried as I reread my words. I wrote with raw emotion, hoping Carol would give me godly counsel about my struggles. I never expected my mom to read my e-mail.
I called and apologized to my mom, which was excruciating — but necessary. I made a mistake. Her shame added to mine, "I’m devastated by what has just happened to me."
After hanging up the phone, I journaled: Lord, I feel like I want to die. I need to choose better words. I’ve just engaged in doing the enemy’s work of destroying relationships.
This wasn’t the first time God disciplined me about my big mouth.
Five years prior, my best friend called and ended our relationship the day after we spent the weekend together at a church retreat. I begged her for a reason why. At first, she claimed I did nothing wrong. Then she said, "Well, part of it has to do with your critical spirit towards your husband."
I knew what she meant.
Complaining about Derek was normal. Nothing he did was good enough. Susan listened and seemed to understand. Little did I know the sparks that spewed from my mouth were burning down the bond between us.
Jesus said, "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34). I allowed bitterness and anger to invade my heart.
During both of these hard times, God allowed me to feel the sting of my sin, but He also comforted and loved me through them. As much as I hurt, I thanked God for His correction.
As a mom, it hurts me to discipline my kids, but I will when I need to. I love them too much to ignore their rebellion and disrespect. I want the best for them. As hard as it is to punish them, I do it for their good. To develop their character.
God is no different.
Just like the writer of Hebrews points out in chapter 12, God disciplines his sons — and might I add, his daughters — as a sign that we are His beloved children.
"All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness" (Hebrews 12:11).
There is a reward for responding positively to God’s correction. If I submit my will –including my wretched words — to His ways, I can bear good fruit. Righteousness.
I love how the New Living Translation phrases James 1:2—4:
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (emphasis mine)
My prayer is to be complete in Christ, to be an example of His mercy, kindness, and love. I’m far from there, but I thank God for disciplining me. Each time is an opportunity to grow my character.
I often prayed, "Lord, I want to be more like you. Give me your heart. Your eyes. Your ears. Your words." God faithfully answered my prayers, just not in the way I expected. He got my attention by taking away a dear friend and by allowing me to feel humiliated for betraying my mom.
It has been years since that e-mail and friendship issue and God still corrects me about what I say. A more recent journal entry shows my continued struggle.
God, you are definitely at work in me, convicting me more and more about my words. Even my lack of encouraging words at times. I’m sorry for my inappropriate humor. It’s not pleasing to you. Please convict me before I speak, I’m so tired of sinning and then apologizing.
So how do I find joy through all of this?
I find joy by seeing the changes in me. I have matured — some. Now, when I want to speak negatively about someone, I often catch myself before I speak. I no longer talk trash about my husband just to hurt him or to make myself feel better. I’ve let go of my bitterness. Most of the time. However, I know my words will be a lifelong struggle. The book of James confirms this:
We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check (James 3:2).
I’m not perfect — and I will never claim to be, either. As a writer and speaker, I feel like God is extra hard on what I say — both written and spoken. I see this as a good thing. As His spokesperson, I want to be pure in heart and in speech.
I recently told two friends over lunch, "God’s discipline can be both my greatest sorrow and my greatest joy."
It all depends on how I respond to God.
I love David’s prayer in Psalm 51 after he committed adultery with Bathsheba. I could quote the entire psalm, I love it so much.
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice
Notice — God crushed David. I’ve been there.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within
me (vs. 10).
Now David asks God to do the purifying work in him.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me (vs. 12).
I love this. Here David asks for his "joy" to be restored. I can do the same.
So now, when a spark of bitterness, resentment, pride, or anger strikes my heart — I have two choices. Allow it to ignite into an inferno and hope no one gets hurt. Or extinguish the flame through meditating on the Truth, confessing my feelings through prayer, and begging for God for help.
There’s joy in knowing God loves me enough to keep redirecting me when I mess up. His discipline is for my good. And as one of God’s kids, I trust He lovingly corrects me—only when necessary.