It had been one of those weeks. The kind with a short temper and loud voice on my end, coupled with toddler tantrums and nap protests from my three (under the age of three) children. I was weary and felt distant from the Lord. Why had I spoken harsh words so often with my children? Why is it that cutting words seem to come easily toward those you love the most?
As I sat down one morning to study the book of James, I quickly uncovered the root of my issue. I had ceased to guard my heart and seek God for help.
In his short book, James effectively explains how to be a “doer of the Word, and not a hearer only” (James 1:22). The first two chapters of the epistle demonstrate the marks of a true believer. Then, James spends an entire chapter on the subject of taming the tongue. As I began to read the piercing words in James 3 that day, I was both convicted and challenged.
This taming of the tongue is serious business.
In fact, James 3:6-10 tells us, “The tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers these things ought not to be so.”
Did you catch the descriptive words James uses? Our tongues are full of deadly poison, staining the whole body, set on fire by the very pit of hell. Yet, as James quickly surmises, these things should not be.
So what can we do to get our tongues, “worlds of unrighteousness” that they are, under control?
Immediately following these verses, we see that a wise person shows his works in the meekness of wisdom. One of the definitions of “meek” is “tame.” Believers are to be tame in their actions, demonstrating wisdom from above. And we know from James 3:17 that “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” I believe this one verse summarizes so much of what it looks like to be a doer of the Word.
As I have spent the last few days meditating on these truths, a couple of familiar verses keep coming to mind:
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45
What comes out of my mouth is linked directly to what is in my heart.
In his excellent book, “Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family,” Paul David Tripp makes a profound statement on this correlation between what is in our hearts and what flows from our lips.
God’s grace works to make your heart tender. Do you think about, speak to, and act toward your children out of a tender heart? If your children could describe you accurately, would tenderness be one of the terms they would use? Has parenting pushed you toward patient gentleness or impatient harshness? Remember, your words and actions are always an accurate reflection of the true condition of your heart. The things you do and say always tell you more about yourself than whoever you’re speaking or responding to.
Sadly, I don’t think my parenting on most days would be described as patient gentleness. But oh, how I want it to be! And so I see that just like James 1:5 warns, I am lacking wisdom in this area of my life.
How can I get to the place where my life is “a cup brimful of sweet water” as Amy Carmichael writes, which “cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted”?
I can ask the Lord for help in faith, knowing that He is able and He is good. I must vigilantly seek the Lord for wisdom in any area of my life that does not measure up to Christ. I don’t have to stay in this perpetual state of deceiving myself by being a hearer of God’s Word only and not a doer also (James 1:22). Thankfully, this is not a solitary quest of my own design. God has given me His Holy Spirit to help shepherd me in the process of sanctification while on this earth.
How grateful I am that God “gives more grace” to those who humbly ask! (James 4:6)
My goal in parenting, marriage, friendship, and living my life for the glory of God is to be submitted to God in all things. This total surrender is not something that will happen overnight. James 5:8 tells us to be patient, establishing our hearts for the coming of the Lord.
Dear fellow mother and co-heir with Christ, know that if you draw near to the Lord, asking in faith for heavenly wisdom, He will draw near to you, giving more grace. This is the beautiful hope of the gospel in a believer’s life. You don’t have to wallow in self-pity because you are not the mother you hoped to be. Go to the Lord for help in your time of need, and He will meet you there.