Thursday, April 3, 2014

To hang on His words

Words. I've talked a lot about them.  I've lacked them.  And as recent as today, I've even lost them.  Seems this very post I started Monday and finished this afternoon, after a week of packed activities and little time to write, never saved to my computer afterall (even though that saved button was clicked countless times in the process). Had to start again from scratch.  Grrr...

Of course with this loss of words, my inner dialogue whispers, "Don't even try to write this post again. You won't find the words or the energy a second time around.  Why bother?  Perhaps these words aren't even worth sharing anyway.  Throw in the towel." Words can discourage.  Lacking them can even paralyze.  

I've replayed the ugly ones like a sad love song over and over again in my own mind.  I know the lyrics by heart.  I could probably sing them in my sleep.  Those words that dig, stab, gnaw, and sting.  Those words that birth lies and all kinds of doubt and insecurity.  Yeah, those words.  Sometimes they come from others; most of the time they fill up the spaces between our very own two ears.  They seem to linger, cling and claw.

Even this morning as I showered, I found myself deficient of words to even pray.  Wondering if the petitions and desires of my heart that have gone months and years unfulfilled are ones I just need to stop praying altogether and accept that "it is what it is."  And as I grappled for strength to push through, I once again contemplated throwing in that old worn towel.  Yet something buried deep inside longs to believe that there is much more than this...if I hang on.  So, I hold onto hope that there is.  I let go of the lies that grip and convince and search for truth to hang onto.  It's made me wonder...

Why is it easier to hang onto words that hurt rather than words that heal?

Why do we hang onto the things that bring pain rather than the things that bring promise?

Starting January of this year our church took on a challenge to read through the four gospels before Easter.  A few weeks back as I was reading in Luke, the last couple of verses perked the ears of my heart...particularly, the very last four words spoken in this book.  I love the sound of them.  They've been echoing melodically throughout me, rolling off my heart's tongue in song.  Let's take a look...

"Every day He was teaching at the temple.  But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill Him. Yet they could not find a way to do it, because all the people hung on His words."
Luke 19:47-48

I admit, sometimes when I read the Bible I will catch my mind wandering a bit and I have to go back and re-read the things I have missed.  There are times when nothing in particular stands out with new revelation.  And there are moments when certain words or phrases cause me to ponder, as if His spirit has held up a stop sign to my heart yielding me to pause.  This was one of those occasions.  I've stewed on this scripture for weeks now, letting it slosh around in my heart in hopes to swallow the fullest flavor of meaning and how it applies to my life.  Here's what I've found...

Jesus' followers hung on His words.
I am desperate to hang onto them too.
His words are air to shallow-breathing hope.
His words are light to storm-clouded faith.
His words are vision to hazed and murky perspective.
His words are our weapon.  Our defense.  Our way.
We need to hang onto them because our souls depend on them.
On Him.

Hanging onto His words gives life to our souls.  Hanging onto anything else takes life from our souls.

Jesus' followers hung on His words...

Other versions of the Bible translate this portion of this verse as,
"...all the people were captivated by His words."
(Holman Christian Standard Bible)
"...all the people hung on every word He said."
(New Living Translation)
"...all the people were hanging on Him, hearing Him." (Young's Literal Translation)

There are many things in life that slowly try to kill us, unravelling our hope and our faith one tiny stitch at a time.  In the book of Luke we learn that the leaders were trying to kill Jesus but were unable to at the time because His followers hung on His words.  Perhaps if I did this in my life too, the destruction wouldn't find a way to so easily destruct.  And unstitch.

For if I was truly hanging onto His words and allowing them to abide in me, I would be able to rise above my circumstances and the struggles of my heart.  I would trust that despite the mess around me, God has me in this season for a reason.  There is purpose to the pain and He is trustworthy because He is faithful to His word that proclaims He knows and always works out His best for me.  I think I hold onto His words but when the storm-winds blow in, I allow them to loosen my grip on all I know to be true.  Somehow, I think they can't or won't apply to my circumstance...that I am the exclusion.

But, He doesn't exclude us.  He is an all-inclusive God.  So very patient and long-suffering.  For if I was Him, I think I might look down on me and say, "Oh wandering one, you of such little faith.  Will you never learn? I wring my hands clean of you."  But, He doesn't.  Nor does He look down on us and throw in the towel.  No, He looks down on us and throws us a rope.  The rope that saves and rescues when Pharaoh's Armies and the Red Seas swarm and surround.  

He is for us.  I know this.  Though sometimes my heart and my mind don't align with His. The forces against us want nothing more than to shake our faith and hope in God.  In a world that is constantly grabbing for our attention and trying to distort and distract us from truth, how can we be like Jesus' first followers and hang onto His words and His voice above all the others?

I looked at several commentaries and found some insight here.
  • John Gill's commentary describes Jesus' followers as, "ready to catch every word that dropped from His lips."
  • The Barnes' commentary states, they "hung upon Him to hear Him."  This act of hanging on denotes "an anxious desire, a fixed attention, a cleaving to Him."
  • Matthew Henry's commentary mentions, "the people paid Him in respect, attended on His preaching with diligence, and let no opportunity slip of hearing Him.  They attended to it with care and would not lose a word."
When I look at the areas in my life I am struggling, I have to honestly ask myself, 
Am I really hanging onto His words here?  
How diligent am I in attending to His words in the places I need them most?
How many of His words are lost on me when I'm lost in myself?
How many opportunities do I let slip by of hearing from Him?

Today I ask you the same question I've asked myself over these past few weeks: 
"Like Jesus' first followers, am I hanging onto His words?"

Or am I hanging onto the words of others?
The words teasing and taunting me from within?
The lies?
The past?
The regret?
The disappointment?
The unfulfilled dream?
The diagnosis?
The label?
The hurt?
The anger?
The wrong?
The doubt?
The insecurity?
The inadequacy?
The lacking?
The "if only________?"

Am I hanging onto these words or the words God speaks over these things?  Sometimes the barrier begins with ourselves.  I'm learning this.

The book of John opens up declaring, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God" (John 1:1).  Jesus is the Word.  Bible scholars further explain that Jesus is "the total message...Everything God wants to communicate to man He does through His Son."  If I am going to hang onto anything, I want it to be His words. Him.  He is worth hanging onto.  Here are a few more reasons why:

"The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life."
(John 6:63)

"And because of His words many more believed."
(John 4:41)

"For the word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword."
(Hebrews 4:12)

"If you abide in Me and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you."
(John 15:7)

"Place these words on your hearts.  Get them deep inside you...If you diligently keep all the commandments I have commanded you, God on His part will drive out all these nations that stand in your way...No one will be able to stand in your way."
(Deuteronomy 11:18-25)

"By faith we see the world called into existence by God's word
what we see created by what we don't see."
(Hebrews 11:3)

"Your word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path."
(Psalm 119:105)

Life and power are found in God's word.  I don't know about you, but I am ready to let loose the grip of all that keeps me from this, and hang onto all that connects me to it.  I want to live a life that catches every word that drops from His lips.  Cleaving to Him with fixed attention and anxious desire.  Diligent in not letting any opportunity slip.

He hung on a cross to overcome death.  I can hang on Him and His words to overcome life...
(and all the mess and glory it brings.)

Hanging on...(I refuse to throw in the towel),


  1. Amanda, there is a lot of good content here to comment on! I will pick these two questions you posed:

    "Why is it easier to hang onto words that hurt rather than words that heal? Why do we hang onto the things that bring pain rather than the things that bring promise?"

    Good questions. Like many others, I tend to hold onto words that hurt. I think the reason we do that is b/c the pain (bruised feelings, sense of rejection, etc.) feeds into the pain we already carry. The brokenness. It confirms the negative image or feelings we have about ourselves that lie deeply within.

    Some don't linger over the painful words and actions of others. For some of them I think it is b/c they are so healthy, they know it is counterproductive to dwell on the negative, so they simply don't. For them it is that easy.

    The rest of us have to play the wrestling game - what did they mean by that? Am I really that bad? Did they have to be so harsh?, etc. those are good and fair questions. We need to be honest and see if we really did deserve some of the words spoken to us. But I've learned that sometimes we have to let ourselves win the wrestling match. It is ok to be kind to ourselves and say, "Yeah, I was partly wrong. But, what they said doesn't characterize me, and I'm not going to give in and let their spirit infect my own." And then, don't let it.

    Good post.

    1. Thank you for your insight and feedback Warren.I totally agree with you. I do think the lingering occurs when it plays off of some of our old hurts and insecurities. I also think the enemy plays a major role in scheming to reveal and pounce on these deep-residing hurts. It frustrates me when I let him get a foothold here....thankfully, it never lasts for too long because we have the truth that always sheds light in these dark areas. Thank you for your response!

  2. Are you still interested in a copy of my book on Proverbs?

    1. Yes Warren, I am! I was just thinking of this recently. It was the reason I found you on fb, yet I never did send you my husband's work address. I can do that...and let me know how much I owe you for the book and how to send you payment.