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Speak Easy

If we truly want to help others, we’ll say less—not more.

Patricia Raybon April 19, 2018

I’m at a coffee shop talking to a beautiful friend who lost her job. Sadly, she got fired. So she’s despondent, worried, fearful, and angry, too. Texting me repeatedly, asking to meet to talk, she makes it clear she believes I will speak the right words to her.

And sure enough, before I hear her story, I’m chomping at the bit to jump in—fired up to flood her with loads of my own wise advice: Set fresh goals. Reconnect with your networks. Read the hottest job-hunting books. I’m even primed to bless her with a trendy new career “rule”—to see her job loss as an opportunity. “Then before long, you’ll be glad it happened!”

In my own mind, and without really praying, I’ve already decided on loads of “godly counsel” to dish out—already convinced my friend should receive every word. But are my countless words good counsel? Or even words of love? As loving as Jesus would speak?

The question weighs heavy. My friend’s face tells me it should. Her eyes look pained. She’s broken. She needs sound help. For my part, I’m old enough, truth be told, to serve up a deep well of wisdom—pouring forth words that bolster and bless. Instead, quick answers leap off my tongue. (Start networking!) For years, I thought this was godly counsel, piling on as much “good advice”—or “Bible truth,” the way I saw it—as possible.

When we as believers speak to hurting people, however, what is the better way—that is, so our words sound like Christ?

It’s what a reader of this magazine recently asked about “Peace Be With You”—an article about my late mother, then a young schoolteacher, who faced down a school bully with gentle spoken wisdom. The “mean girl” had chased me home one day after school, pelting me with icy snowballs, calling me names and striking me hard above my right eye.

“What’s wrong, baby? Why’d you do this?”

While I watched, the girl started sobbing. Then she apologized. My mother’s easy words, in fact, probably changed the girl’s life. But why are “easy” words so powerful? And what are the right words to say, especially in tough situations?

The “easy” answer may be found first in a dictionary. There we see ease—closely related to and derived from a Latin root, jacēre, which means “to lie,” as in “to lie down or rest.” Easy-speaking believers aren’t just extra wise or speaking lightly. They are surrendered. They listen first to God, letting the Holy Spirit guide their heart and mouth—because their trust is in Him. They know a few right words are enough because the real work of helping people was already done at Calvary.

For years, I thought this was godly counsel, piling on as much “good advice”—or “Bible truth,” the way I saw it—as possible.

Thus, “speaking easy” for believers starts with knowing our Christ. As the prophet Isaiah said, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord” (Isa. 11:2).

He is the One who knows our heavy burdens. Then with His wisdom and understanding, and His spirit of counsel and strength, He doesn’t burden us more—especially not with long-winded, heavy-handed advice or scolding. Instead, to a struggling person, the Lord may ask a simple, life-changing question like, “Do you wish to get well?” (John 5:1-9).

How different from me (and perhaps you) when I flood friends and family with endless advice—much of it unsolicited. What if, instead, I kept my words light? Godly and wise, but not overbearing?

Thus, with a divorce, an easy question simply asks: “Are you hurting?”

With a serious disease, an easy question simply asks: “Are you worried?”

With an addiction, an easy question simply asks: “Are you afraid?”

A few well-chosen words allow more room for Christ to enter and heal. They also acknowledge our utter helplessness to speak rightly to others, or to help them, without His Spirit’s deep sufficiency. As Oswald Chambers said, “When someone comes to you with a question which makes you feel at your wits’ end, never say, ‘I can’t make head or tail of it.’ Of course you cannot. Always take the case that is too hard for you to God, and to no one else, and He will give you the right thing to say.”

God doesn’t burden us more—especially not with long-winded, heavy-handed advice or scolding.

Indeed, a Spirit-led word always opens the door for God to work. Chambers, for example, recalled visiting a Quaker family in America when “one of the lads did something wrong, and in the mildest way possible the mother said, ‘Thee will be punished for that, dear’; the lad’s countenance fell and he was punished.” It was, said Chambers, “a most judicious method, almost bordering on the impossible.”

When speaking counsel to others, every believer can choose such a commonsense, discerning approach. We often think we should pound hard words into people, especially if they’re caught red-handed, in a bind, or making poor choices. True, we want friends and family to be helped, to grow up, to get it together, to feel better, to turn over a new leaf, to get fixed—indeed, to know Christ. Surely Jesus wanted those things for people, too. As He said, healthy people don’t need a doctor—the sick do (Mark 2:17).

But when He encountered the sick, He didn’t overwhelm them. Certainly not with words. Instead, He simply asked: Who touched Me? Can you see anything? Do you want to be healed?

And then? He listened. Or He gave a simple instruction. Or He told a story. Such restraint, as it turns out, best shares the Savior’s love. But it also unleashes His power.

Even the dead man Lazarus wasn’t assaulted with hours of entreating. Jesus instead, after thanking the heavenly Father for hearing Him, simply said with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43). Then as Lazarus stumbled out from the tomb, bound with grave clothes, Jesus simply said to onlookers: “Unbind him, and let him go” (John 11:44).

There’s strong confidence in such easy, powerful words. Thus, in my once soul-dead life, after an early and messy divorce, I discovered new direction when my dad found me alone in our family living room, looking forlorn and lost. He looked me in the eye and simply said, “You need to open your Bible.” End of discussion. He quietly turned and left for work, leaving me with a choice.

So I lifted the big Bible from its place on my parents’ coffee table and opened it, surprised that the words of my recovery had been underlined years before with my father’s black-ink pen.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1 KJV).

I saw my daddy’s past, linked up with my good mother’s dreams, all of these things tied together with my future and underscored in ink years ago by my father’s hopeful hand.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God” (Rom. 8:28 KJV).

I saw the themes of church Easter plays and children’s choirs and sunny Sunday school rooms where kind teachers taught children like me the words of their Savior.

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34 KJV).

My dad didn’t need extra words. Nor did I. Speaking easy is foremost, then, about giving up control. Or handing our wobbly power back to the strong God—the one in whom all power rests.

Jesus explained this to His disciples after the Last Supper, comforting them, and calming them, assuring them as they worried where He was going that “I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me” (John 14:10). Then regarding His way of speaking, He added: “The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works” (v. 10). And this is extraordinary good news. As blood-bought believers, we also have the Father’s Spirit abiding in us. Therefore, we can speak to others, not on our own initiative, but with trust in our God who “does His works.”

He looked me in the eye and simply said, “You need to open your Bible.” End of discussion. He quietly turned and left for work, leaving me with a choice.

That’s what my job-hunting friend needed from me. Fewer words and more trust. The Holy Spirit, gratefully, showed me how to give that, reminding me to first tell my friend two simple words: “I’m sorry.”

I told her, “I’m so sorry this happened to you.” Hearing my compassion, then she could talk. And I was able to hear about something she’d never told anybody for years—her desire to revive an abandoned life dream. Talking about that dream, her face lit up. Then we both got excited. I shared contacts I knew. She remembered contacts she’d forgotten.

Thanking God, we grew upbeat and hopeful. Her downcast look transformed into joy. Our little coffee meeting ended with a fervent prayer of thanksgiving for revived hope and clarity. My part? To speak easy. Like Jesus. Keeping words loving—and short.

How short?

As short as Jesus’ powerful request to the Samaritan woman at the well: “Give Me a drink” (John 4:7).

As short as Mordecai’s powerful counsel to Queen Esther: “For such a time as this” (Est. 4:14).

As short as Nathan the prophet’s powerful words to King David: “You are the man!” (2 Sam. 12:7).

Each of these sentences was brief. But they made room for Him. Then He spoke to confused hearts.

Can we trust that He will? If we say less? And, indeed, if we trust Him more? When we do, we leave room for Him to do what we can’t. He heals us all. Simple. Loving. Easy.


Photography by James Day

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