Handling Life's Problems

Difficult People: Our Response Matters

Our response determines our growth…

Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist, survived three years in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. He endured starvation, disease, and constant violence at the hands of prison guards. In his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Dr. Frankl says, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing—the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”

In the face of dehumanizing violence, Dr. Frankl chose his attitude. He realized that between stimulus and response, there is space. In that space is our power to choose how we respond.

How we respond to difficult people matters. Those we consider “difficult people” can range from the guy who cut in front of us at the DMV to the person who treated our child unfairly to the one who destroyed our marriage. Whether the offense is small or great, the space to choose how we respond is always there. Choosing that response wisely can make a world of difference.

We choose our thoughts. We control what we think about. Philippians 4:8 says, “So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always.” When we focus our thoughts on those who hurt us or frustrate us, we feed the hurt and frustration and encourage it to grow.

We choose our words. My mom always told me to take a breath before I spoke. I’ve never regretted that pause before speaking, but I have often regretted not waiting and saying something stupid or hurtful. “My dearest brothers and sisters, take this to heart: Be quick to listen, but slow to speak. And be slow to become angry” (James 1:19). What we say can escalate or diminish a difficult situation. Take a second before speaking—and remember that sometimes saying nothing is the best response.

We choose our attitudes and actions.  Consider these instructions from Jesus in Matthew 5:44: “…Love your enemy, bless the one who curses you, do something wonderful for the one who hates you, and pray for the very ones who persecute you.” We choose whether to love or to hate, to bless or to curse, to be kind or to be mean. We choose to seethe with anger at those who persistently mistreat us, or to pray for them instead.

Dr. Frankl said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Friend, there are some people and some situations we may not be able to change. But as we carefully choose our responses to those people and those situations, we will see God use those things to change our hearts, grow our character, and bring good into our lives.

Dear God, give me grace to control my responses to people who hurt me or make me angry. Help me choose uplifting thoughts, words, attitudes and actions. Bring all of my life under your perfect control. Protect my heart from becoming bitter or resentful through troubles. Instead, let me grow kinder and stronger through the difficult people and situations I encounter. I ask these things in Jesus’s name, amen.

The Power of Words

Cry Out

“So he began shouting, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ ‘Be quiet!’ the people in front yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’” (Luke 18:35-38)

Bartimaeus had a problem–he was blind. When Jesus came through town, Bartimaeus shouted out for help. When the crowd tried to hush him, he only cried out louder. Would he have received his healing if he had been silent? We don’t know for sure, but we do know that Jesus responded when Bartimaeus called out for help.

There’s a time to be quiet. Looking for a book in a library is a time to be quiet. Librarians have hushed many a noisy patron. However, if the library is on fire, we wouldn’t be quiet. If the library was on fire, we wouldn’t hesitate to shout out for help, but when our lives are “on fire,” we try to hide it and make sure no one sees our weakness or our vulnerability.

There are times when we are faced with situations requiring help. In those times, it’s important to speak up, shout it out if necessary, and get the help we need.

Here are three times when we may need to speak up and seek help:

  • Speak up for our hearts. Many times, heart issues spring from wounds, abuse, or other deep-seated causes. Some examples: Anger that leads to words or actions that harm others; contempt for groups of people who differ from us by race, socioeconomic status, or religious beliefs; and persistent depression or anxiety. Any time we face heart issues we can’t handle on our own, it’s time to cry out for help.
  • Speak up for our homes. Our families are so important to us, but often can be one of our greatest challenges. When a marriage is in trouble or children are headed down a dangerous path, don’t give up without crying out for help. If there’s one thing on earth worth fighting for, it’s our families.
  • Speak up for our hope. When we feel desolate or hopeless on our journey, it’s time to cry out for help. If we feel alone, if we are struggling with our health, if we have lost a loved one—any time the road seems too hard to walk alone, reach out for help. We must not let the weight of our burdens cause us to fall instead of allowing others to help us shoulder the load.

So, how do we cry out for help? First, we cry out to God in prayer and worship. He is our rescuer and our most important resource. Psalm 34:6 says, “When I had nothing, desperate and defeated, I cried out to the Lord and he heard me, bringing his miracle-deliverance when I needed it most.”

Second, reach out to others. Find someone trustworthy—a friend, someone at your church, or a family member—and let them know the situation. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer…”

Third, when we have a serious need, we must seriously consider consulting a Christian counselor. Proverbs 19:20 says, “Listen well to wise counsel and be willing to learn…” Sometimes, a wise voice from outside our situations can make all the difference.

In times of trouble, don’t be silent. Speak up and cry out to find the help you need.

Dear Lord, in every situation and every need, I cry out to you for help. Your lovingkindness and great mercy are constantly with me. Lord, I know there may be times when I need to ask for help. Give me wisdom to recognize those times, and the courage and humility to ask for help. When I face problems in my heart, my family, or my journey, let me not be silent, but let me cry out until I find the help I need. In Jesus’s name, amen.

The Power of Words

Heart Exam

“…What you say flows from what is in your heart.” (Luke 6:45)

Let’s imagine for a minute that some guy carries around a two-liter bottle of Coca-Cola™. Hydration is important, right? Somehow, some dirty little rocks got into the bottle. Pretty gross, but to look at it from the outside, it looks like perfectly delicious Coke. And, most of the time, when the guy pours something out of the bottle, it’s just Coke and it tastes delightful.

Most of the time. But once in a while, something unexpected flows out of that bottle. The guy opens it, takes a swig, and ends up with a yucky little rock in his mouth. He’s shocked, and wonders, “Where did THAT come from?”

The simple answer is that it came from inside the bottle. What is inside the bottle eventually flows out of the bottle.

The same principle applies to our heart and our words. Sometimes something comes out of our mouths, and we’re shocked. We wonder where that horrible thing we said came from. The answer is simple—it came from what is in our hearts. What is inside our heart eventually flows out our mouth.

Here’s a real-life example. Once there was a lady who loved Jesus and tried to follow him. This lady came across a stunning cubic zirconium necklace. To her, it looked like a real diamond. She bought it and when she wore it she felt fancy.

But one day, someone asked her if the necklace was a real diamond. To her shock, she heard her mouth open up and say, “Yes.”

Where did that dishonest response come from? It came from a yucky little rock of pride lodged in her heart. Her words flowed from what was in her heart. She had to repent and give the necklace away to keep her heart healthy.

If angry words come out of our mouths, it’s because of a problem in our hearts. If hateful words come out of our mouths, it’s because of a problem in our hearts. Selfishness, unforgiveness, bitterness, unhealed wounds, impatience—all these and more can be lodged in our hearts. From the outside we may look OK, but our words reveal what is really inside our hearts. We can discern the health of our heart by listening to the words we speak.

Second Corinthians 13:5 tells us to examine ourselves. A good place to start is actively, intentionally listening to and examining the words we speak. Are they negative or positive? If our words indicate a heart problem, we must take a step toward fixing that problem. The next step could be awareness and prayer; guidance from a wise, mature Christian; or reaching out for Christian counseling. Whatever the next step is, it’s vitally important to the health of our heart.

It’s not OK to look fine on the outside but have ugliness in our hearts. That ugliness will eventually come out. Thankfully, when our words reveal a sinful heart, we have a Father in heaven who loves us. If we allow it, he will forgive us, heal our hearts, and mold us into his image.

Dear God, examine my heart. Show me anything in my heart that offends you and give me wisdom and strength to change those things. Make me sensitive to the words I speak and enable me to notice when my words indicate something in my heart that needs to change. I want to follow you with my whole heart. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Let’s talk! Have you ever said something you regretted? What did you do about it? Leave a comment in the Reply section below.

The Power of Words

This Mountain

“I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen…” (Mark 11:23)

The highest mountains in the continental U.S. are in the Rocky Mountains. Mount Elbert has the honor of being the highest peak in the Rockies, towering a lofty 14,440 feet above sea level. It’s a mammoth mountain. Climbing it is a challenge. The idea of moving it seems ridiculous.

In Mark 11, Jesus is hungry. He sees a fig tree and wants to pick some figs to eat but finds no fruit, only leaves. Jesus speaks to the tree: “May no one ever eat your fruit again.” The next day, the disciples see the fig tree is dying from the roots up. The disciples are shocked.

Jesus then tells the disciples that if they have faith, they can not only speak to a fig tree and it obeys, they can actually speak to a big old mountain and it will move.

It’s not that Jesus wants us to head out to the Rockies and send a few mountains into the ocean. Yes, God is powerful enough to do that. But the truth is, the mountains we all face in our lives cause us much more trouble—things so huge they seem impossible to climb, dig our way through, or move. Things like a serious medical diagnosis, the loss of a job, the death of a loved one. Mountains that spring up to block our way. Huge obstacles we think we can’t handle.

Jesus gave us instructions about what to do with a mountain because he knew we would face them. Jesus didn’t tell us to wave at the mountain. Or think about the mountain. Or cower in fear at the base of the mountain. Jesus instructed us to speak to the mountain. Our words, spoken in faith, can move the mountains in our path. It can also move our path away from the mountain.

Jesus spoke to the fig tree. David spoke to Goliath. Peter spoke to the scoffers on the day of Pentecost. It is God’s great pleasure to act in response to words of faith spoken by his children.

What mountain is blocking your path today? Whatever it is, know that your God is mightier than your mountain, your faith is stronger than your struggle, and your promises are more powerful than your problems. Speak words of faith into your situation. Speak words of life into your children and grandchildren. Speak God’s promises to your mountain…and watch it move.

Dear God, I understand the importance of the words I speak. When I face a mountain in my life, help me speak words of faith. I don’t want to fear the mountains I face; I want to trust the God I serve. Lord, help me reach out to others facing difficult seasons and speak faith and comfort into their lives. I know it is by your design that our words matter. With your help, I want to use my words in a way that brings victory in my life and glory to your name. In Jesus’s name, amen.

The Power of Words

Speak Up!


“We must say what is true and say it with love. In that way we will grow up in all things to be like Christ, who is the head of this body.” (Ephesians 4:15)

Have you ever looked at a problematic situation and thought, “Why doesn’t someone do something about this?” If so, you understand how Nehemiah felt when he heard that the walls around Jerusalem were broken and burned, leaving the city vulnerable to attack from its enemies. Nehemiah wept, cried out to God in repentance, and implored God to allow him to repair the walls.

Nehemiah wasn’t a priest or a prophet. He lived 800 miles away in Persia. He had a secular job, cupbearer to the king. What could he do to change the condition of the walls around Jerusalem?

For four months, Nehemiah wept and prayed. One day, the king noticed Nehemiah’s sadness and asked him about it.

The question terrified Nehemiah. The king could have him fired or executed. Did he dare tell the king what was on his heart? Did he really want to leave his comfortable position and face the dangers and unknown challenges in Jerusalem?

Nehemiah didn’t stay silent. He chose to speak up.

Amazingly, the king granted Nehemiah’s request to travel to Judah and rebuild the walls. The project was riddled with opposition, attacks, and difficulty. Nehemiah never wavered. The walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt, and the people in the city turned their hearts steadfastly toward God—all because Nehemiah had a heart for God’s holy city and the courage to speak up.

We know what happened when Nehemiah spoke up back then. We see it demonstrated then, and we must live it now.

Three things to remember about speaking up:

  1. Open your heart to needs around you. Nehemiah didn’t ignore the condition of Jerusalem. He didn’t expect someone else to take care of it. He opened his heart and wanted to be the one who made a difference.
  2. Pray up before you speak up. Nehemiah approached the king from a prayed-up position. He diligently sought God’s help in fixing the problem.
  3. Choose the right time. Nehemiah waited four months for the right time to tell the king about his desire to go to Judah and repair the walls. And when God provided an opening, Nehemiah said a quick prayer, and then spoke up.
  4. Speak up to add value. We don’t speak up just to hear ourselves talk. Or to make sure everyone knows our opinion. Or for the fun of winning an argument. We speak up to spread light in the world, to bring glory to God, and to add value to people. We speak up to change someone’s life for the better.

The world can sometimes make us feel uncomfortable about speaking up. That was true in Bible times, all through history, and is still true for us today. There are times when silence and listening is a good choice. But there are also times when we must stand up straight, put on our courage, and speak up—telling the truth with kindness and love. Our voice can be a catalyst for change, a cry for peace, and a beacon of truth. Pray up. And, at the right time, speak up.

Heavenly Father, Forgive me for the times when I should have listened but talked instead, and for the times when I should have spoken up but didn’t. I ask for your wisdom in the words I speak. I ask for discernment in knowing when to listen and learn, and when to speak up and add value. Thank you for your forgiveness, your mercy, and your constant presence. Let my words glorify you. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Join the conversation! How do you decide when to speak up?

The Power of Words

A Matter of Life and Death

Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3)

What do we think of when we think of “power?” Maybe the Energizer Bunny. In 2017, a Madison Avenue poll voted the Energizer Bunny the most iconic symbol of long-lasting power. Maybe we think of lightning, or leaders of nations. Maybe we think of lightsabers.

But perhaps, when we think of power, we should be thinking of words. Words have eternal and immeasurable power.

Think about it—how did God create the world? With words. God spoke: Let. There. Be. Light. And guess what happened? Light appeared on earth. God’s powerful words brought our world into existence.

When Jesus walked the earth, his words had power. Think of the miracles unleashed by these words: “Peace, be still,” and the wind and waves ceased their turmoil. “Rise, pick up your bed, and walk,” and a man crippled for 38 years regained the use of his legs. “Lazarus, come forth,” and a man dead for three days walked out of his tomb.

Just like God, whose image we bear, our words are powerful. Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” When we speak, it’s a matter of death or life.

The words we speak matter.  Words can bless or curse. They can build up or tear down. They can heal or wound. Our words can give life or destroy life.

Reckless, hurtful words bring death to friendships, marriages, families, and ministries. Uplifting words bring reconciliation, hope, and understanding. And remember that we “eat the fruit” of our words. What goes around comes around, and the words we speak not only hurt or help others, but they produce fruit that eventually hurts or helps us, too.

Every day, we speak thousands of words. Each time we speak, we choose to speak life or death, blessing or curse, healing or hurt. Each conversation offers a new opportunity to build someone up or tear someone down.

Our words are filled with power and have immense potential for both good and for evil. Are we spewing bitter, cancerous words that injure those who hear them? Or are we pouring out sweet, healing words to encourage others? Speak carefully. It’s a matter of life or death.

Dear God, sometimes I forget how powerful my words can be. Sometimes I speak carelessly instead of carefully. Lord, set a guard on my tongue so the words I speak are words of life and health. Let me spread kindness and love through the words I speak. Make me aware of times when I’m tempted to say something that would hurt someone else, and of opportunities to speak up and build up those around me. In Jesus’s name, amen.

We’d love to hear from you! What challenges have you had in controlling the words you speak? How have you handled those challenges? Drop us a note in the Comments below.