The Words of Life and Death: Choose to Speak Life


I cringed.

Surrounded by a group of women of all ages—empty nesters, middle-aged and young moms—one young mom was expressing her struggles with her preschoolers. The constant discipline, the tantrums over “trivial” things, and the exhaustion from late nights with early mornings were wearing on her. Other young moms in the room quickly jumped in with statements of solidarity.

And then the remark from a more seasoned mom, “Just wait until…” Followed by “Oh, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” Is there a more cringe-worthy phrase as a parent?

 My mind raced back to the days when my four boys were preschoolers. The feeling of exhaustion washed over me. I heard the sounds of their screaming and crying almost audibly. I could see my living room littered with toys and the feeling of stress that accompanied it. My mind shifted to its current level of exhaustion even though my children are in school most days. Parenting my children through grade school and middle school is a different type of challenge. In some ways, I long for the simple days of refereeing fights over a pirate ship and scraping applesauce from every nook and cranny. I was physically exhausted and the days seemed to creep by, but now I am more emotionally exhausted.

 Every stage of parenting is hard; each stage is simply a different type of hard.

 When the more seasoned mom made her comment, I looked over and noticed the countenance of one young mom sink. I remembered what I felt when the same words were spoken to me. “Just wait until…” made me feel like there was nothing to look forward to in childrearing. Things would only get worse. I felt as if I were less-than because I was struggling with a season that other moms seemed to say was “nothing” compared to the next. If I couldn’t handle the trials of this stage, how in the world could I handle what was coming?

 Here was a young mom in desperate need of encouragement. However, instead of uplifting words, this season mother’s remark left the young mom defeated and hopeless.

 The Lord taught me a great deal that day about the impact of my words. He brought to mind Proverbs 10:11, “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.” He reminded me of the importance of speaking life to others and building them up (Eph 4:29).

 Over and over the words “speak life” rang in my ears.

 Proverbs 18:21 imparts significant truth: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Our words are powerful—they can bring life or death. As imitators of Christ, the one who has the words of eternal life (John 6:68), we should seek to speak life into others. A humble word of encouragement, a gentle reminder of truth, or a timely exhortation can seep deep into the heart of one who is struggling. The words we speak can be the very words someone needs to hear in order to keep pressing on in faith.

 I have been in the midst of intense struggle and someone reminded me of God’s grace, instantly flooding my heart with light and hope. A simple response full of gospel truth transformed my thinking about the situation rather than sending me further into despair. Truly, it felt like life had been given to my weary bones. The reminder was a timely word that seemed to change everything. “A word in season, how good it is!” (Proverbs 15:23). 

How can we speak life into others?

Listen. Sometimes people just want to be heard. They want to know that someone cares.

Acknowledge the struggle. Be empathetic and provide solidarity when appropriate. Although someone’s struggle may not seem like much to you, it is a struggle nonetheless.

Encourage. Let the person know that she is capable of doing this with Christ’s help. He provides strength and grace for each moment. He is ever-present; we are never alone. The Lord uses each trial to conform us to the image of Christ.

Offer a timely word. Share appropriate Scripture, gospel truth, or perhaps some practical tips in the right time and tone.

Give hope. In the midst of trials and tough seasons, there is always something for which to be grateful. Every season of life, particularly in parenting, brings new challenges but also new sources of blessing. No season lasts forever; one day the struggle will be over. We live in hope for the things promised—a future in the very presence of Christ in a fully-redeemed world.

 We must be ever mindful of the impact of our words—they hold the power of death and life. Our responses cannot be flippant, unkind, or assume an air of superiority. Let us seek to be ones who refresh others, imparting words of grace and life. Indeed, “The tongue of the wise brings healing” (Prov 12:18).

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