Psalm 39, James 3:1-10
A problem multiplied, not halved!
Have you ever heard that ‘wise’ old saying “a problem shared is a problem halved”? I remember a teacher at school using it.
It’s another one of those old urban proverbs that makes one go “ahhh, isn’t that lovely”. It seems to infer friendship and caring; sharing confidences over a nice cup of tea.
But I believe that in the church, we have to be extremely careful of certain kinds of sharing. If my problem is shared carelessly, without “due diligence”, it will not be a problem halved, it will in fact be a problem multiplied.
Sometimes we might feel like we ‘just have to’ share with someone, how we are feeling. But we need to remember that once said, our words can never be unsaid – ever. Those words literally take on a of life of their own, bringing either life or death. (Proverbs 18:21)
I may be struggling with negative thoughts, doubts or fears, but in speaking those thoughts to others, those words, once released from my lips will multiply the original problem so that it’s no longer just me that has the problem! Here’s how:
Negative words will impact the listener.
Maybe not in the moment; because our friend will be trying hard to bring comfort. But perhaps as they go away and think about what has been said, those negative words of discouragement, doubt, fear, anger, unforgiveness and sometimes just plain old gossip, may start to niggle at our caring friend’s heart; to shake their own faith a little, cause them to call into question the integrity of the person we may have a grievance against, and they will, on the whole, be negatively effected by those thoughts we have spewed out in their presence. We might feel better because we’ve unburdened ourselves, but all we’ve done is spread the muck we were carrying, a bit further. Now this poor, unsuspecting person has to carry the burden of our words, until, at some point, they feel the need to unburden themselves. And so the muck spreads further.
Do you ever have those “did I say that out loud?” moments in life, when you just wish you could open your mouth and somehow, suck the words you’ve just said, back in again? If not, I truly admire you.
I seem to be slower learner in this area! Taming the tongue is one of the hardest lessons many of us have in life. James warns of this tiny organ’s power in James 3:1-10
Psalm 39 opens with David trying so hard to not speak.
I’m not sure of the exact trouble that David was facing at this moment but it is clear that he has got to a point where he’s struggling to understand God’s work in his life and seems to be finding it hard to see God’s justice in it all. He wants to let rip. He wants to just vent and let it all out.
But David knows, deep inside, that his thoughts are too dark and painful to utter out loud.
We are in great danger of sinning when we speak.
David senses in his spirit that he should be silent. He goes on to talk about how the harder he tries to remain quiet, the greater the turmoil grows inside him. That’s not hard to imagine. Do you ever, at times, feel the desire to speak boil up, even as you struggle to keep silent? David might well have found momentary satisfaction from spewing out all the negativity boiling away inside him at that moment, to anyone who might listen. But I’m so glad he didn’t. Because God teaches us a valuable lesson through reading his story.
As David felt that urge to speak grow, he eventually does speak; but not the words he had been fighting to keep down, words that, I’m sure would have been negative and destructive. Instead, David chooses words that edify; both himself and us today as we read this psalm – I found it very encouraging anyway! He starts by looking at who he, a puny man is in comparison to God, in all his goodness, justice and loving discipline.
Then David goes on to look at how fleeting life is and how futile it is to waste it in rebellion and complaint.
David’s words begin to put his situation back into perspective.
God is the One we need to run to to pour our hearts out to.
Not in a string of negativity and complaints of “God why didn’t you..?”
David gives us an example here in Psalm 39 and also in Psalm 141:1-3
I love the way David starts this Psalm: “Give ear to my voice when I call to you! Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!”
How can my prayer be ‘incense’ to God if it’s filled with negativity and complaints against Him and others? When I pray those ‘prayers’ they don’t smell sweet to God, they stink!
And then he goes on to say “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch keep watch over the door of my lips!”
That needs to be my prayer. It’s starts with me. It starts with you.
“Lord, set a guard over my lips today. Teach me to speak only words that build up, encourage, strengthen and edify.”