Good parents know what to say and when to say it. They are able to thread the needle with an appropriate word to their children. Being a parent myself I am particularly sensitive to other parents who do this well. I marvel when my wife skillfully mixes exhortation with affirmation. I see the kids leave her presence with correction wrapped in love. I learn from other dads who are able to demonstrate compassion amid the chaos with words of grace.
I also see it done in the Scriptures. God speaks words of loving encouragement to his children. He threads the needle with divine precision. One such example is found in Genesis 12. In this chapter Abram is called out of his homeland and to worship the Lord. He hears the surprising words of promise that God will make him a great nation and be a blessing to the nations (vv. 1-3). To a man who is in his 70s with a barren wife, this is a big promise. What’s more, when Abram does set off and obediently follow God’s command, he ends up in the land of Canaan. He is one man with his family and servants amid a nation of people. On paper, he is overmatched.
An interesting thing happens while Abram is standing there. God speaks to him. The text says that God appeared to him and spoke to him saying, “To your offspring I will give this land” (v.7a).
Can you imagine how meaningful this promise must have been to Abram? There he is standing in Canaan, and God speaks to him. God reminds him that the very land he is standing on is going to be given to his descendants. What do you suppose seemed more unlikely, that Abram would have descendants or that they would displace the Canaanites? At any rate, the words spoken here serve to bring great encouragement to Abram. God loves to speak the words of his promise into the ears of his weary pilgrims.
What does this story teach us about God? It teaches us that far from being a detached deity who is unconcerned with the day-to-day life of his followers, God is attuned and involved with us. Further, he is compassionately engaged with us. He loves us and means to encourage us with his words.
If you have been a Christian for long I’m sure that you have been discouraged. The tide of doubt rises. The cloud of guilt hovers. The sting of sin lingers. Too often we close the blinds and barricade ourselves in a cocoon of self. But God means to break through the barricade and speak appropriate and timely words to us. When we read the Bible the fog is lifted, because we remember that God loved us when we were unloving and unlovely (Rom. 5:6-8). He knows us completely and loves us infinitely (Gal. 2:20). He promises to never leave nor forsake us (Ps. 37:25; 2 Cor. 4:9). He reminds us that he will come back for us (Jn. 14:18). He speaks to us and reminds us that nothing in this world can separate us from his love (Rm. 8:37-39).
When we appear to be overmatched by sin, Satan, or the flesh, we must remember the promises of God. We must hear his words afresh to us. Amid our anxiety, doubts, and fears we are bidden to be still and know that God is God. In our stillness we lay our heads down upon the pillow of God’s promises. We are encouraged and refreshed with the timely word from our heavenly Father. He always threads the needle.