Words can wilt the soul.
You’re a terrible mother. You’re so lazy. Your kids don’t even know you love them. You’re ruining them.
The words hurt and made me question my capabilities as a mother. But I needed to hear the truth, and I’m supposed to love reproof, and, after all, the Lord does discipline those he loves. The hurtful words kept coming.
You’d probably be a better mother if you took better care of your body. Eating right and exercising are the keys to a healthy life! Why can’t you try harder?
Sometimes her words catch me off-guard, and sometimes they’re predictable as the sun’s setting. She’s speaks them by the sink full of dirty dishes, in the middle of a room full of friends, and over my shoulder in the mirror. She knows my most humiliating hang-ups, sensitive secrets, and intense insecurities, and she’s not afraid to leverage them. And while she’s hurtful to hang out with, I can’t avoid her—she’s me.
Avoid the Weeds
This version of me promotes toxic thoughts, and they grow like weeds. They choke the life out of the well-watered, cultivated plants of faith, hope, and love.
I find my way out of the weeds by rejoicing that I’m among the “oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD” (Isa. 61:3). Oaks are not weed-covered. Moreover, Hosea 14:9 says, “Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the LORD are right and the upright walk in them.” Thoughts that cause despair, hopelessness, and condemnation are weeds that don’t belong on the path of righteousness, but on the path of the unrepentant transgressor.
On the path of righteousness, I walk with Jesus as he grants me an inheritance and fills the treasuries of those who love him (Prov. 8:20). My words and thoughts serve either as a helpful or a harmful GPS, guiding me farther on the path of righteousness or deeper into the weeds of condemnation. If my Texas roots have taught me anything, it’s to stay out of the weeds.
The weeds are where snakes hide, tangled between masses of unwanted overgrowth. If disturbed or threatened, they strike. When we’re transferred out of the domain of darkness into the kingdom of light, our enemy—the serpent of old—is threatened. Rather than slither quietly into the night, he rises up to strike our heel (Gen. 3:15).
The snake who whispered to Eve often whispers to me in a voice that sounds eerily like my own. Words like You aren’t enough and you never will be or There’s no hope in your struggle remind me the enemy knows my hurts, habits, and hang-ups, and his assault strategies are on point. As the Puritan Thomas Brooks (1608–1680) observed:
Whatever sin [your heart] is most prone to, that the devil will help forward. . . . Satan loves to sail with the wind, and to suit men’s temptations to their conditions and inclinations.
In other words, Satan’s snares are custom-designed. When my words and thoughts assault me, then, it calls for snake-wrangling: identifying and destroying the evil one’s lies.
When I bring all the embarrassing lies I’ve believed into the light of truth, they’re silenced. I’m able to see that these snakes are nothing but false witnesses. Each rattle and strike invites me to wrangle my snakes and bring them into the light.
Prepare for Weeds and Snakes
Whether I’m in the weeds, distracted by my thoughts and feelings, or choked by the shameful lies of the enemy, there’s one place I go for healing: Jesus. Like Peter, I look to him and cry, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68–69). When my words condemn and shame, I find my confidence in Christ, knowing “there is a future, and [my] hope will not be cut off” (Prov. 23:18).
Word-weeds and snake wrangling shouldn’t surprise me. In fact, I should prepare for these nuisances. Peter tells me to prepare my mind for action, be sober-minded, and set my hope fully on the grace that will be brought to me at Christ’s return. Conforming to the passions of my former ignorance keeps me from striving for holiness (1 Pet. 1:13–16). I’ve been born again through the living and abiding Word of God. The gospel guards my mind in Christ Jesus—keeping me out of the weeds and away from the snakes until the God of peace crushes Satan underfoot.