“Hear my voice, O God, in my meditation; preserve my life from fear of the enemy. Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the rebellion of the workers of iniquity, who sharpen their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows—bitter words…” Psalm 64:1–3
When I was in first and second grade my mother taught us a little rhyme to help us not take the teasing of other children so personally, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”
Well, mom’s intentions were good. When it comes to the hurtful things that people say it’s almost impossible to stop them so you have to develop a thick skin, an ability to hear the words but not let them get into your heart and do any damage there. But the truth is words do hurt and unlike bruises and broken bones that heal and are virtually forgotten with days or a few months words can echo in a person’s memory for the rest their life the pain of them expanding and growing as the years pass.
And it’s not just the people about whom the words were said that are affected. Anyone who hears the words potentially holds the memory of them and can be influenced by them to add to the hurt of them.
All of Psalm sixty-four is David pleading with God for protection from the attacks of his enemies. But it isn’t a physical attack he’s asking to be shield from. Our focus text reveals that the attacks are coming in the form of words, “Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the rebellion of the workers of iniquity, who sharpen their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows—bitter words.”
David likens the verbal assaults against him to the attacks of sword and arrow. We’ve all experienced the impact that words can have so we know that David is right.
But while the verbal attacks of our enemies can be devastating, quite often the words we can’t seem to forget aren’t the calculated insults of those that despise us. Often those hurtful words that linger in our minds creating an ache that never goes away and refuses to be forgotten are the ones that come in the unplanned reactions of our loved ones.
Perhaps the words came when they were tired, under stress, or suffering from their own verbal engagements. They had no intention of wounding but still the damage was done. The words spoken and the manner in which they were said left a wound that never seems to want to completely heal.
The apostle James was right when he spoke of the tongues potential for both good and evil, blessing and cursing.
Friends, on our own we’ll never be able to stop hurting each other with words but Jesus can help us make an end of it. His Holy Spirit can help us not only stop hurting one another but he can also help hear the words of our Heavenly Father speaking his words of love that will heal the deepest hurt.