How to Change a Life
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24
Sometimes our lives can change in a moment through the powerful impact of others. For rock ’n’ roll legend Bruce Springsteen, it was the work of musical artists that helped him through a difficult childhood and a persistent struggle with depression. He found meaning in his own work through the truth he’d experienced firsthand, that “You can change someone’s life in three minutes with the right song.”
Like a compelling song, others’ well-chosen words can also give us hope, even change the course of our lives. I’m sure most of us could share stories of a conversation that forever impacted our lives—words from a teacher that changed the way we saw the world, words of encouragement that restored our confidence, gentle words from a friend that carried us through a difficult time.
Perhaps this is why the book of Proverbs spends so much time emphasizing our responsibility to treasure words and use them wisely. Scripture never treats speech as if it’s “just talk.” Instead, we are taught that our words can have life-or-death consequences (18:21). In just a few words we could crush someone’s spirit, or, through words of wisdom and hope, nourish and strengthen others (15:4).
Not all of us have the ability to create powerful music. But we each can seek God’s wisdom to serve others through our speech (Psalm 141:3). With just a few well-chosen words, God can use us to change a life.
We can’t control the words that come our way, but we can harness the words we speak so that they bring life and encouragement, not destruction. That’s why the psalmist asked God to “set a guard over my mouth” (Psalm 141:3). His prayer is especially apt for us today when our words can travel far and wide via social media.
Jesus set the pattern for how we should use our words. He never backed down from a challenge, yet He spoke with love and grace. His twofold goal was to honor His Father in heaven and to bring about the spiritual health of His hearers. The words He spoke aligned perfectly with His life of sacrifice.
How are we doing with our speech? What do we do when our words have hurt someone? A good start is to offer a heartfelt apology. Then ask the Spirit to help us use words that promote life instead of destruction, unity instead of division.