“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Jehovah, my rock, and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14
Words are fire. They can produce a destructive blaze or provide life-saving heat. As a media relations professional, I’ve spent hours training spokespersons on how to hone their words to effectively communicate to the press. I’m still amazed at what stands to be gained and lost in a 30-second sound bite.
So I tend to mull over the meaning and power of often repeated phrases we use say in the church. There are two we ought to consider removing from our conversations and here’s why.
1. “This too shall pass.”
No doubt you’ve heard this one. Maybe someone you love shared it as comforting advice or maybe, like me, your spirit wilts each time you hear it. There are two reasons it troubles me. First, it takes courage to share any sincere struggle of the soul, courage that should be met with compassionate consideration. Second, the words imply that with the passing of time, whatever we currently face will no longer be significant.
All things are significant to God.
Take for example the relatively short, but trying phase of potty training. To some, it is a phase to endure and pass. To God, it is so much more. I’ve learned more about the spiritual disciplines of patience and self-sacrifice in potty training an obstinate 3-year old than in several discipleship courses put together.
The hammering, chiseling, and purifying God does amid the mundane, commonplace realms of our day is valuable — to us, to those we serve and to His kingdom purposes. All our troubles will ultimately pass when we are in eternity, but how we deal with them now has significant and eternal weight.
2. “It will get better.”
Mary Poppins’ lilted voice in my head breaks the bristling annoyance I feel when I hear these words. “That’s a pie crust promise,” she told Michael and Jane. “Easily made, easily broken.”
She’s right though. We shouldn’t make promises we have no way of delivering.
We all want better for one another, but we must be careful to refrain from offering false hope and false theology. Scripture does not promise that all our circumstances on this earth will result in progressively positive outcomes.
When I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, I thought better would come. It didn’t. Our son died in stillbirth. I thought we had exceeded our limit of life’s list of bad things. We then had a miscarriage. Not long after, we endured a shooting at our church that left two in our congregation dead. As we define it in human terms, I expected better to come. It didn’t.
God never promised that. He is with us, though, in the better and the worse. Our hope lies in His presence with us until ultimately, the best comes with in the not yet of eternity.
No discussion of semantics would be complete without a deeper look to the heart. Jesus said in Matthew 12:34, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” When it comes to how I interact with fellow believers who share their struggles with me, one encounter has spoken volumes.
A couple of years ago, I conducted a series of workshops on branding, publicity, and media relations at a national writing conference. It had been a great, but long three days of nonstop speaking and consulting. Worn thin, I waited in the front of a five-star hotel for my husband and five kids to pick me up in a decidedly non-five-star-hotel minivan.
My heart was heavy. I knew I was leaving my professional self behind to return to my even more exhausted mom self which currently involved a day-in, day-out battle with my 7-year old who struggled with telling the truth. I needed a spiritual breakthrough and so did she.
Two newfound conference friends joined me as I stood waiting under the hotel awning. After thanking me for my workshops, they asked me if there was anything I needed prayer for. Hesitantly, I shared my struggle and blew my professional front when tears fell from my eyes.
Knowing they were mothers of grown children, I expected a, “My kiddo struggled with that too and eventually got over it,” or a, “This too shall pass.” Instead, these godly women put their arms around me in a holy huddle and began to pray. The power of the Holy Spirit descended on our little threesome. I cried tears of gratitude.
One of my new friends looked me straight in the eye and beamed, “Julie, I haven’t known you for very long, but I can just tell — YOU are one of us.”
Wow! I had never felt so affirmed or included before. It was the power of an older, godly woman announcing that my struggles mattered and that we were walking beside one another. Not ahead. Not behind. Not in competition. Together.
I walked away thinking, “Now that is how ministry is done.”
So to every woman reading this:
You are one of us. You are valuable. Your struggles are real. They matter to God. Whether or not they resolve some day is not as relevant as how God is growing you in them even as you feel swallowed alive by them. It may get better and it may not, but God is with you and that makes you more than a conqueror. We walk together and no matter what struggles we face, in Him — we are one.