“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6 ESV)
Sometimes God’s Word can feel like an impossible order, don’t you think?
Take the verse above for example: Paul told us we are to let our words “always be gracious.” The NIV actually reads “full of grace.” Full of it. As in, not sometimes gracious. A full atmosphere of graciousness even when the conversations are hard.
And that’s just about the moment when I admit I just want to lie down on the floor and loudly declare, “But I am not Jesus!” Ugh.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes gracious speech seems impossible for me. When someone’s hurtful words have landed like daggers in my heart, I want to defend myself. Maybe even attack back a bit. And point out how they’re misunderstanding my intentions. Not offer them gracious words. And even my most enjoyable relationships have moments where this doesn’t feel completely possible … Relationships are just messy.
I’ve been thinking about all of this as I’ve been on a recent journey of learning how to set and keep healthy boundaries in my relationships. It’s not easy. It’s hard to examine places of dysfunction, distress, distrust, and maybe even destruction within relationships with those you love.
When we’re in a difficult relationship or even a destructive one that isn’t sustainable, especially if addictions are involved, there does need to be a measure of grace and compassion. Because sometimes what is actually driving unhealthy behaviors in people is underlying shame or a lack of peace deep inside. Many times it’s both.
What I’m not saying is that because of grace and compassion, we condone or enable their actions and stay in situations where there’s harm being done. But what I am saying is that, as we take a step back, we can consider having grace and compassion for whatever caused the original root of shame and chaos in their heart that then drove them to try to act and react in such unhealthy ways. We don’t want the hurt they’ve caused to make us betray who we really are. We aren’t cruel or mean-spirited so we don’t want to bring any of that into our boundary setting.
I also want to have grace because I don’t have life so figured out that I never act and react in unhealthy ways. I have my own issues that I need to work on and work through with counseling. Learning to have grace and compassion appropriately, while still also having boundaries, continues to be one of my biggest lessons.
So, how can we really be gracious without excusing away hurtful behavior we’re experiencing? Or avoiding honest conversations we need to have?
We can bring truth into an atmosphere of grace. We can express what needs to be expressed, set a boundary that needs to be set, say what needs to be said and stay completely committed to the reality of truth.
But we can also foster it all in an environment of grace that never dishonors the other person. We can tell the hard truth, but we don’t have to say it in a harsh way.
This doesn’t mean we don’t say the hard things or set boundaries. It means we recognize we want conflict resolution instead of conflict escalation.
So, yes, Paul’s words to the Colossians remind us that our words should be gracious. But He also adds a clarifier that our words should be “seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). In rabbinic tradition, this phrase would have been associated with wisdom. Paul was reminding the Colossians they were called to be people filled with godly wisdom. He wanted their words, and ours, to represent Jesus. And in order to do this, we can follow His model to pursue both grace and truth together.
I don’t know who puts grace to the test in your life or what conversations you need to be reminded to bring grace into. But I do know the Holy Spirit is willing to help us choose truth-filled words presented in a gracious way if only we will pause long enough and ask Him for help. Even as we have hard conversations, implement necessary boundaries and may our words reflect that we know Jesus, love Jesus and spend time with Jesus.
Father God, I want to pause for a moment and thank You for Your Son, Jesus. He could have held back His grace. But instead, He chose to pour out every single drop for me on the cross. So remind me that I give grace because I so desperately need it. Help me bring an attitude of grace into even the hardest of conversations. Give me wisdom in how to hold grace and truth together as I navigate difficult relationships in my life In Jesus’ name, amen.
Lysa TerKeurst is president of Proverbs 31 Ministries and the author of more than twenty-five books, including her latest book You’re Going to Make It: 50 Morning and Evening Devotions to Unrush Your Mind, Uncomplicate Your Heart, and Experience Healing Today (March 2023). She writes from her family’s farm table and lives in North Carolina. Connect with her at www.LysaTerKeurst.com or on social media @LysaTerKeurst.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6 (NIV)
Ever feel like relationships are hard to navigate sometimes? Maybe today you find yourself trying to figure out a situation that’s complicated, messy and unpredictable?
I want to find the right words to help get on the other side of the conflict but that isn’t always possible. While talking is good, sometimes the conversations start running in a circle, and there aren’t any productive words left to say. When this happens, it can make a girl feel like giving up. But before I give up, I’ve learned spending time getting quiet before the Lord can really be the best remedy for tangled situations.
Taking a step back from all the emotion, frustration and exhaustion to sit quietly with Jesus will do more to untangle a mess than anything else I’ve ever found.
If you find yourself in a tough relationship situation today, here are five beautiful things I’ve found when I pause trying to fix it all and instead get quiet:
1. We can feel safe enough to humble ourselves.
In the heat of a mess, the last thing I want to do is get humble. I want to overexplain and prove my point. But I’m learning I have to step out of the battle and humbly ask God to speak truth to my heart for things to start to make sense. Never have I had a relationship issue where I didn’t contribute at least something to the problem. Usually, I can only see this something in the quiet.
1 Peter 5:6a, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand …” (NIV).
2. God will lift us up to a more rational place.
When we are in the heat of a tangled relationship, crazy emotions can drag us down into a pit of hopelessness. The only way out of the pit is to make the choice to stop digging deeper and turn to God for a solution.
1 Peter 5:6b, “… that he may lift you up in due time” (NIV).
3. Anxiety gives way to progress.
We can pour our anxious hearts out to Jesus who loves us right where we are, how we are. And because His love comes without judgment, we can feel safe enough to humbly admit we need Jesus to work on us. Trying to fix another person will only add to my anxiety. Letting Jesus work on me is where real progress can happen.
1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (NIV).
4. We see our real enemy isn’t the person with whom we’re in conflict.
The truth is, we have an enemy, and it’s not each other. Satan’s influence on me and the person offending me is the real culprit. I can’t realize this in the heat of the moment. But in the quiet, I become alert and can gain a strategy for acting and reacting in a more self-controlled manner.
1 Peter 5:8-9a, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith …” (NIV).
5. I can rest assured God will use this conflict for good — no matter how it turns out.
If I make the effort to handle this conflict well, I can be freed from the pressure to make everything turn out rosy. Sometimes relationships grow stronger through conflict. But other times, relationships end because of conflict. Because I can’t control the other person, I must keep focusing on the good God is working out in me through this and leave the outcome with Him.
1 Peter 5:10-11, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
In the end, this struggle can be used by God to make me stronger and more capable in my relationships. If I am humble enough to receive from Him in the quiet what He wants to teach me through this, I can rest assured with whatever the outcome is.
Dear Lord, help me stop trying to figure this situation out and just sit in the quiet with You for a while. God, humble me. Show me Your steps toward restoration. Or show me Your steps toward a healthy parting. Take my anxiety and replace it with Your peace, wisdom and security. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Lysa TerKeurst is president of Proverbs 31 Ministries and the author of more than twenty-five books, including It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way and the #1 New York Times bestsellers Forgiving What You Can’t Forget and Uninvited. As one of the leading female Christian voices today, Lysa is a trusted source of wisdom who empowers women to really change their lives. To date, her books have sold more than ten million copies.
“Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament. Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” Psalm 5:1-3
I rolled over and looked at the clock. Another day. Beyond all reason and rationality, I slid out of bed and stripped off everything that might weigh even the slightest ounce as I headed to the scale.
I thought, “Maybe today will be the day the scale will be my friend and not reveal my secrets. Maybe somehow overnight the molecular structure of my body shifted and today I will magically weigh less.”
I yanked out my ponytail holder – hey, it’s gotta weigh something – and decided to try again. But the scale didn’t change its mind the second time. It was not my friend this day.
Vowing to do better, eat healthier, and make good choices, I headed to the kitchen only to have my resolve melt like the icing on the cinnamon rolls my daughter just pulled from the oven. Oh, who cares what the scale says when this roll speaks such love and deliciousness.
Two and a half cinnamon rolls later, I decided tomorrow would be a much better day to keep my promises to eat healthier. But tomorrow wasn’t the day. Or the next. Or the next.
I knew I needed to make changes. Because this wasn’t really about the scale or what clothing size I was; it was about this battle that raged in my heart. I thought about, craved, and arranged my life too much around food. So much so, I knew it was something God was challenging me to surrender to His control. Surrender to the point where I’d make changes for the sake of my spiritual health perhaps even more than my physical health.
I had to get honest enough to admit it: I relied on food more than I relied on God. I craved food more than I craved God. Food was my comfort. Food was my reward. Food was my joy. Food was what I turned to in times of stress, sadness, and even in times of happiness.
I knew this battle would be hard. But through it all I determined to make God, rather than food, my focus. Each time I craved something I knew wasn’t part of my healthy eating plan, I used that craving as a prompt to pray. I craved a lot. So, I found myself praying a lot.
Sometimes I wound up on the floor of my closet, praying with tears running down my face. And I gave myself permission to cry, just like the psalmist in Psalm 5:1-3, “Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament. Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”
And that is literally what I did each day. Laid my requests before God and waited in expectation. Moment by moment, week by week, month by month, I made the conscious (and many times, painful) choice to surrender my desires to the transformative power the Lord wanted to work in and through my life.
Then, one morning, it finally happened. I got up and for the first time in a long while, I felt incredibly empowered. I still did the same crazy routine with the scale, no clothes, no ponytail holder. The numbers hadn’t changed much, but my heart had. One day of victory tasted better than any of that food I’d given up ever could. I had waited in expectation using prayer as my guide and I did it.
Have there still been hard moments after that victorious morning? Yes. Have there also been great signs of progress? Absolutely!
I can’t promise you there won’t be any more tears. There will. And I can’t promise the scale magically drops as quickly as you wish it would. It probably won’t. But it will be a start. A really good start.
Lysa TerKeurst is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries. Her latest book is I’ll Start Again Monday (January 2022). Lysa lives with her family in North Carolina. Connect with her at LysaTerKeurst.com or on social media @LysaTerKeurst.
I’ll never forget the first time a girl in elementary school told me I was ugly.
I remember it felt like the world stopped spinning and suddenly everyone was looking in my direction nodding in agreement. Red hot shame filled my cheeks. I ran to the bathroom. I stared at my face in the mirror. I didn’t bother to wipe away the tears. I just stood there wishing I could cover up whatever it was that made that girl determine I wasn’t acceptable.
Have you ever heard the phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”?
As much as I wanted to grab those words and declare them as my mantra, I realized it wasn’t just a part of me that I could hide that she thought was ugly.
It was the sum total of me.
Not just my hair or my nose or my body… it was all of me.
And the saddest part of all… as I stared at my reflection that day, I decided to agree with her hurtful words… and I let her, a girl who didn’t even really know me, define me.
I’m more than 40 years removed from that incident (hey now – don’t try and calculate my age) and yet sometimes I still look in the mirror and feel like that little girl struggling to not feel defined by the worst that’s been said about me. It’s not just moments from elementary school, there are moments in my adult life where I have struggled with feeling not enough.
Can you relate?
It’s so easy to remember others’ hurtful words to us instead of leaning into God’s healing words over us.
But friend, if I was sitting down to speak some mentoring wisdom into your world today, I would challenge you with some truth that has helped me tremendously.
Someone’s assumptions about you and facts about you are not one in the same.
You see, sometimes people get so jaded that it brings them some kind of weird satisfaction to point out what they assume to be flaws in you. They let stirred up feelings inside of them be mistaken for permission to attack and judge and reduce you down to their worst thoughts about you.
And usually, what they say isn’t even really about you. When people feel bad about themselves, they’ll often try to project their own insecurities on others.
But the truth is, if they haven’t sat with you when the whites of your eyes turn red and leak tears, they don’t know you.
If they can’t readily share something they love about you, they don’t know you.
If they haven’t ever admitted their own flaws and insecurities and uncertainties to you, they don’t know you.
And if they don’t know you, they can’t possibly see your true beauty. So, they can’t possibly speak as if their assumptions are facts.
If you’re hanging your head today because of something not nice or not true someone said about you, I want you to remember these words from your friend Lysa: prove them wrong.
Respond with gentle, kind words and your true beauty will shine in such a way that no one can deny it. 1 Peter 3:4 says, “Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” This isn’t a girl who is silent. This is a girl whose soul isn’t screaming for the world’s approval because she already has God’s approval. Remember who you are and whose you are.
You are kind.
You are compassionate.
You are fun.
You are loved.
You are creative.
You are thoughtful.
You are prayerful.
You are more than enough.
You don’t have to fall into the trap of saying ugly things back. Prove them wrong with living in such a way that illuminates the beautiful reality of who you are and who Jesus is in you.
Proverbs 15:1 says “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” As disciples of Jesus, we are called to exercise emotional restraint by giving soft responses rather than harsh or painful ones. This enables us to turn back wrath instead of stirring it up, which only serves to cause further damage.
We can decide that cycles of hurt going ‘round and ‘round the world today can stop with us.
We can determine today that we will not scrutinize and brutalize others with our unknowing and incomplete understanding.
And we can declare that we will be beautiful women more willing to uncross our arms and get to know one another. That we will not be critics full of assumptions eager to point fingers. But instead, we will bring lots more love into every conversation people have with us, even from the very first hello.
You deserve to stop suffering because of what other people have done to you. Walk through a step-by-step process to free yourself from the hurt of your past and feel less offended today with Lysa’s new book, Forgiving What You Can’t Forget. Pre-order your copy at ForgivingWhatYouCantForget.com and instantly receive the first three chapters!
Lysa TerKeurst is president of Proverbs 31 Ministries and the #1 New York Times bestselling author of It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way and Uninvited. She writes from her gray farm table and lives with her family in North Carolina. Connect with her at www.LysaTerKeurst.com or on social media @LysaTerKeurst.