“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14
Years ago, I thought nothing of using profanity, and rolled my eyes at anyone who voiced their disapproval.
But once I received the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit, I was changed — I was “a new creation.” Using profanity just didn’t match who I was inside. When I was angry or tired or under a lot of stress, the profanity still bubbled to the surface easily as a reflex. But casual use of profanity was almost immediately a thing of the past, a language I no longer spoke.
Lately I’ve been under a lot of stress at work, dealing with an overwhelming deadline-driven list of expectations and requests requiring more hours than I have in a given day. Instead of praying, asking God to give me clarity, wisdom and whatever else I need, I’ve been relying on my own problem-solving talents and strength. Instead of reducing stress, what self-reliance does in a situation like this is only increase the pressure.
And so I’ve been venting to a friend and to Scott. And once I get rolling, I hear myself letting profanity trip off my tongue. At first, it surprised me. Now, it troubles me. Because in the moment, cursing feels good, like letting steam escape a pressure cooker. But moments later, I don’t feel better at all.
I actually feel worse.
This morning, before I headed into the office for the day to begin another week, I read Psalm 39 on our church’s website.
In today’s psalm, David writes about how he watched his words and put a rein on his tongue when in the presence of those who did not share His faith in God:
“I said, ‘I will guard my ways,
that I may not sin with my tongue;
I will guard my mouth with a muzzle,
so long as the wicked are in my presence.'”
Long before the apostle James wrote about worthless faith (James 1:26) and before Paul exhorted Christians to speak only words that build up (Ephesians 4:29), David was already mindful of his own responsibility to closely guard his words and speech as an ambassador for God.
He writes that even as he guarded his lips and tongue, his heart “became hot” within him. Whatever he was thinking and feeling was just driving him crazy, and the longer he held it in, the worse that burning became, until…
“I was mute and silent;
I held my peace to no avail,
and my distress grew worse.
My heart became hot within me.
As I mused, the fire burned;
then I spoke with my tongue…“
This is the pressure cooker I was thinking of. Here’s the moment of testing, when we find out what’s in our hearts.
Rather than give in to temptation, David cries out to God for relief.
“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you.
Deliver me from all my transgressions.
Do not make me the scorn of the fool!”
I want to follow David’s example, knowing and remembering that I am being sent out into the world as an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). I want my tongue to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, whose fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
And that must begin in my heart, asking God to change me and make my spirit right again, for His glory.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10
Heavenly Father, forgive me for the many times lately I have neglected to pray and cry out to you when I have been angry or distressed. I have allowed my flesh to speak from a place of frustration, instead of drawing on and experiencing your perfect peace in my circumstances. Make me more like Jesus, Lord. Teach me to speak with wisdom and grace in every circumstance. Make your Holy Spirit the tight rein which controls my tongue, so whatever I speak will be from a place of love, first for You, and then for those I speak to. Amen.
Joyful in Hope,