A few years ago, my daughter and I struggled through a very difficult time. At times our house felt like a battle zone. We argued about something nearly every day. It was exhausting. It seemed at times she literally hated me. I felt helpless and hopeless. My constant cry being “What is wrong with her?”
One afternoon, I confronted her and unloaded all the anger and frustration that had been building in my heart. Although I did not yell or scream, my words were strong and harsh. At the end of my diatribe, my girl began crying…something she very rarely did. Then she spoke these words: “All you ever do is tell me what I do is wrong.” “I can’t do anything right in your eyes.” “Do you realize how often you tell me I am mean and have a hardened heart?” “Well, mom, I guess that is just who I am…mean with a bad heart, and I will never be any different.”
Her words pierced to the core of my heart. As she walked out of the room, I fell on my knees, my face to the floor, and wept…wept till I could cry no more. My head pounding, my eyes swollen, I took out my journal and wrote:
Father, I am struggling with my girl every single day. I am exhausted, and I cannot do this anymore. I cannot deal with her, and I don’t know what to do. She is self-centered, angry, hormonal, and lacks any semblance of kindness and compassion. She is growing up and pulling away and it hurts so much I can’t stand it. I have nowhere else to go. I have nothing left. So I am bringing her to you. I commit to fast and to pray for me, for her, and for our relationship.
I committed to fast one day a week for as long as it took to hear from God. Within weeks, a few women approached me to teach a 4 week series on wisdom to young mothers. Everything in me wanted to say no. What kind of wisdom could I offer other mothers about raising their children? I was a complete failure in raising my own. But as I prayed, I knew God was calling me to teach this series. In the end, I accepted, and I am so thankful I did.
As I opened my Bible in preparation for this opportunity, God took me to the book of Proverbs. What I thought was a lesson for 120 other women was most assuredly a lesson meant for me.
The Scriptures to which He led me spoke to the cry of my heart:
The words of the godly are life-giving fountains. (Prov. 10:11)
Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise are healing. (Prov. 12:18)
A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands. (Prov. 14:1)
A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. (Prov. 15:1)
Gentle words are a tree of life. (Prov. 15:13)
If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. (Prov. 15:31)
Kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. (Prov. 16:21)
These verses brought me to a humbling realization. God wanted me to examine my behavior and my heart, not my daughter’s! In fact, I read many verses addressing disobedient, foolish children and not a single one spoke to me. I passed over each one. God made it ever so clear that He had a work to do in me…not my girl.
The Holy Spirit repeatedly played Lauren’s words in my head…how I criticized her, labeled her mean, told her nothing she did was right. Of course, I had heard her say these words many times in the past in a fit of anger, but I never took them to heart. I disregarded them as rude comments spewed from the mouth of an irrational, unreasonable, disrespectful teenager. But this time they came through tears…her tears. It was different…her broken spirit manifesting itself.
I had spoken hurtful comments in the form of sarcasm to make my points. My words …”mean,” “messy,” “self-centered”…had crushed her spirit. She seemed so tough on the outside, but she was broken on the inside.
I grabbed my journal. The prayer I had written now totally transformed:
Lord, I hear You. My heart is breaking. Please help me. Begin a work in me. I come to You in Jesus’ name and surrender Lauren to You. You know what she needs right now, and I do not. Teach me, Lord, how to mother her. I commit to pray about everything I have been trying to control. Teach me, remind me, and guide me every step of the way. You have created her to be different from me. She is a free spirit; I am not. She is her own person now; help me to accept that. Help me to love who You have made her to be. Enable me to me to release her to You, Your protection, Your guidance, and Your counsel. Restore to me the joy of my salvation. Continue to feed me Your Wisdom. Speak to my heart; show me when to speak and when to hold my tongue; put a guard at my mouth and a sentry at my lips.
Friends, if you find yourself struggling in a relationship, go to God’s Word. He will direct your steps. And His first step will be to look into your own heart. Matthew 12:33 says,
A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, it’s fruit will be bad…For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.
We bear fruit consistent with who and what we are. The question God presented with me that day was what did my words reflect about the condition of my heart?
As we end today, I want to share a simple but profound truth:
If you want more of God in your in your home and in your relationships, you must have more of God in your heart.
To have a God-honoring heart, you must determine what fills the treasury of your heart.
When you have
God’s Word hidden in your heart,
the law of God written on your heart,
divine Truths dwelling and ruling in your heart,
then your treasury will be full,
and you will bring forth good things from your heart.
Proverbs 4:23 says,
Above all else guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.
How can we do this?
Set your heart on God’s laws (Psalm 119:30)
Hide God’s Word in your heart (Psalm 119:1)
Obey His commands (Proverbs 3:1)
Write His commands on the tablet of your heart (Prov. 3:3)
When you do this, He will show forth in everything you say and do!
What God’s word taught me is to check my words before they leave my lips.
“Is this something I really need to say?”
“What is my motive in saying this?”
“Am I trying to make or point or get my way?”
“Are my words meant to hurt or heal?”
“Will my words draw us closer or push us apart?”
“Will my words draw me closer to God or farther away?”
We must cultivate a habit so that speaking words of life becomes our way of life and not an exception to the rule.
For Lauren and me, God did a mighty work in our lives. Today we have a beautiful relationship, one we treasure. You see, Lauren noticed the change in my heart and in my words. She commented on how she saw me trying to change and thanked me for it. And friends, as God changed me, Lauren changed. Her heart softened. She is more respectful and willingly follows rules. Our home is no longer a battle zone. It is a pleasant and peaceful place. God answered my prayer exceedingly, abundantly above more than I could have ever asked or imagined. No, it is not perfect, and as with any relationship, we are a work in progress. But we are a living testimony of God’s faithfulness to answer prayer.
Homework: Read Proverbs Chapters Ten and Eighteen and answer the following questions. You can do as few or as little as you have time. May God take whatever time you have and use it to speak a fresh Word into your heart.
1) Why do words matter so much?
2) Being from Texas, I love Mexican food. Engage in a little comparison with me. If your words were salsa, which answer best describes your words when you are angry?
a)no salsa – I never use angry words
b)mild salsa – sometimes I use harsh words
c)medium salsa – I often speak harsh words, but I get over it rather quickly
d)hot salsa – I usually explode when angry and lose control
3) In the past have you tried to tame your tongue? If so, how did you do it and were you successful?
4) Over this week, we will study wisdom as it relates to our speech. Keep a journal or mental record of the words you speak. At the end of the week, honestly examine your words and characterize them (critical, controlling, negative, angry, biting, sarcastic, encouraging, uplifting, positive, bitter, peacemaking, etc.).
5) Read Proverbs 10:11, 13-14, 19-21, 31-32, Proverbs 18:20-21, and James 3:8-12.
Do you see parallels in these passages?
Explain what you find.
6) Continue reading in James 3:13-18.
Contrast the two kinds of wisdom discussed here.
How should this reflect itself in our speech?
7) Would you say that a woman’s speech determines her character? If someone followed you around for a week recording your conversation, how would they describe your character?
8) Define gossip.
Being honest, how often would you say you participate in some form of gossip (instigate, agree, actively listen)?
Why do you think we gossip even when we know what we are saying is hurtful and sometimes may even be false?
Are there people in your life who bring out the worst in your speech and tempt you to gossip?
9) Read the following verses: Proverbs 6:16-19, 11:13, 16:28, 18:8, 20:19, and 26:20.
Explain the dangers of gossip.
What does Proverbs 18:8 mean when it says gossip sinks deep into a person’s heart? What does that mean to you? Have you ever personally experienced this?
What advice do we receive in Proverbs 20:19?
10) Read Romans 12:2.
Take each sentence and put in your own words what God is speaking to you.
11) Read Colossians 3:16. Walking in obedience to God’s wisdom is a full time job. It requires a heart sold out to God’s Word being the ultimate authority in your life. You must continually fill you heart with His Truth and allow it to be at work within you.
How does this verse help you live out Romans 12:2?
12) Read Proverbs 8:6, 8:9, Psalm 119:137-138, and Romans 10:17.
What do these verses tell you about God’s Word?
Let’s pray together:
Heavenly Father, I come to You today as my Authority. I submit myself to the authority of Your Word this week as I study. Open my eyes to see and my ears to hear a personal message from You. Father, I confess that my heart wanders from You, my speech does not always glorify You, and my actions do not always honor You. But I am here in this study because I want to live my life differently; I want to live my life to honor You. Penetrate my heart this week. If necessary, Lord, put me through Your refining fire. Burn off those things that keep me from walking in step with You. Grow in me the things that will make me more like You. As I study this week, fill me and saturate me in Your Truth. I love You, Lord, and eagerly await all You have to teach me. I wait expectantly. Speak, Lord, speak. I ask this in Jesus’ name. AMEN.