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Perhaps you’re not where you want to be. You’re reading this in a hospital bed, or in a prison or halfway house, or in a distant city far from family. Maybe you’ve had to move out of the home you loved or away from the town where you grew up. You might be reading this in a dormitory room, feeling lonelier than you’ve ever felt in your life.

We’re not always in our ideal place, but location means nothing to God for He is everywhere. He is always everywhere. He is not bound by state or situation, nor by location. As we read in Rob Morgan’s book, Always Near, “We must remind ourselves that God is in the room. He is here, in this place. You can relax in His presence and let debilitating stress drain from your nerves. You can cast your cares on Him who travels beside you.”

God is in the room—right now!

Our Lord is accessible. The Bible says we “have access by faith into this grace in which we stand…. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father…. We have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.” (Romans 5:2; Ephesians 2:18, 3:12, emphasis added).


Instead of focusing on where you are, focus on accessing God’s presence and knowing He is there with you. This reality sustained Joseph through the changing locations of his life. He knew God was with him whether at home with his father and brothers, in the pit facing betrayal and death, in the prison coping with extremes of hot and cold, or in the palace as the object of respect.

God of the Pit—in the Loneliest of Places

The Lord is with us in the loneliest places in the world. For Joseph, that was a literal pit. In Genesis 37, Joseph, seventeen, was on a mission to find his brothers in Israel’s northern regions. Like a detective following clues, he tracked his brothers into a remote region where they were herding their sheep. His father, Jacob, wanted news of their welfare. But when the brothers saw him, they conspired against him, seized him, stripped off his colorful robe, and threw him in a pit—a deserted well or cistern. The worst was yet to come. Joseph was hauled out and sold into slavery. Psalm 105 says, “They hurt his feet with fetters, he was laid in irons…. The word of the Lord tested him” (verses 18–19). Genesis 42:21 says he was in anguish of soul and pleaded with his brothers, but they would not listen.

Yet God was present with him in the pit, and He was providentially present. That is, He was allowing all this to happen for a distinct set of reasons. Going back to Psalm 105, let me quote the entire passage: “He sent a man before them—Joseph—who was sold as a slave. They hurt his feet with fetters, he was laid in irons. Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him. The king sent and released him, the ruler of the people let him go free. He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his possession, to bind his princes at his pleasure, and teach his elders wisdom” (verses 17–22).

God sent Joseph to Egypt where, in time, he taught the elders of the nation.

If you feel you’ve fallen into a pit and no one knows—a pit of loneliness or isolation—remember, God is present with you, and He is providentially present. He knows how to use your extremity as His opportunity, and you have full access to His grace through our Lord Jesus Christ.

God of the Prison—in the Worst of Places

The Lord is also the God of the prison; He is with us in the worst of places. Even today, Egyptian prisons are infamous for their inhumanity. One ex–inmate told of being hung by his hands, of being beaten, and of being kept in isolation. His primary diet was rice mixed with insects. What do you suppose Joseph endured in an Egyptian prison nearly three thousand years ago? He was a handsome, idealistic teenager falsely charged with sexually assaulting a prominent Egyptian woman. Yet the Bible records these remarkable words: “[Joseph] was there in the prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison…. The Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper” (Genesis 39:20–23).

If this weren’t so clearly stated in the Bible, I wouldn’t make a point of it. But there it is! Even in the worst places, God is with us, He shows us mercy, He gives us favor, and He makes us prosper.

It’s normal to be afraid of the future, to imagine all the worst–case scenarios that could befall us or our loved ones. But the Lord is already present in the future—He transcends time. He will never lead you anywhere that His presence cannot be with you to show you mercy, give you favor, and make you prosper. That’s why the Bible says, “Never forget the nearness of your Lord. Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs” (Philippians 4:5–6, Phillips).

The Lord is already present in the future.

God of the Palace—in the Best of Places

Let me hasten on to the palace. I can’t imagine how they treated Joseph when he was suddenly summoned from the prison to the palace to see Pharaoh. The Bible says, “They brought him quickly out of the dungeon; and he shaved, changed his clothing, and came to Pharaoh” (Genesis 41:14). I expect he also had a good bath and a great deal of sudden pampering to make him presentable to stand before the most powerful person in Egypt. Somehow Joseph kept calm, gave God the credit for his ability to interpret dreams, warned Pharaoh of the coming years of feast and famine, and suggested an economic and agricultural strategy for saving the land. Pharaoh instantly named this thirty–year–old Hebrew former prisoner as the Prime Minister of Egypt, and Joseph devoted the rest of his life to public service in the highest levels of the world’s most powerful kingdom.

Sometimes God blesses us with a degree of external success, perhaps even a certain amount of recognition and wealth. Joseph handled his success wisely, and when his father died and his brothers were anxious and guilt–ridden, Joseph told them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones” (Genesis 50:19–21).

Compared to much of the world, our homes are like palaces. If God has provided for your needs and given you a nice home or an adequate salary, remember—His presence is what really matters. Whether in the pit, the prison, or the palace, God is near you, with you, accessible day and night.

Learn to practice His presence wherever you are.


I need help

making sense of
an ongoing illness the pain I am experiencing a natural disaster a prodigal child death my depression financial debt the coronavirus


Your response has been received, and we will be praying for you.

Look for answers to some of the most common questions in the weeks ahead.

by Arlene Pellicane

You have probably experienced years of plenty and years of not–so–much. You understand what Paul meant when he wrote in Philippians 4:12, “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.” But how can we explain this concept to children? Adults struggle to make sense of this pandemic season, so you can imagine how confusing life may seem to a child right now. Unpleasant new routines include wearing masks, online school, keeping a distance from friends, canceled sports, musical performances, and vacations.

Here are a few ways to help your child or grandchild make sense of it all from Philippians 4:

Model rejoicing in God no matter what.

Even during times of illness, financial trouble, or relational stress, the apostle Paul tells us to “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (verse 4) Have you been displaying an attitude of joy during this time? You certainly don’t have to smile about getting sick or losing a job. This is about rejoicing in the goodness of God in spite of your circumstances. The example you leave for your child outweighs the words you preach. When they see you rejoice, they will learn to do the same—and that is a beautiful lesson that grounds your child in faith no matter what is happening.


Turn off addictive and negative technology.

Some kids may be “rejoicing” that the pandemic has given them hours and hours of extra gaming and screen time. But most video games, social media, YouTube videos, and streaming services quickly disciple your child in the ways of the world rather than the ways of God. Philippians 4:8 tells us to think about things that are true, noble, just, pure, and lovely. Turn off the technology that doesn’t fall into these categories. Don’t expect new limits to be popular. Be willing to stand firm with consistent guidelines for the emotional, physical, and spiritual health of your child.

Bake cookies together with a twist.

Baking something delicious in the kitchen isn’t only a fun activity; it’s a memorable way to teach a lesson. What if you forgot to add butter or eggs or flour to the recipe? Every ingredient is necessary for a complete cookie. Explain that both good times and bad times are part of the ingredients of life. The apostle Paul wrote, “I have learned both to be full and to be hungry” (verse 12). In the end, God uses all our experiences to make something sweet—just like a chocolate chip cookie. If you want to illustrate the point, you can bake some cookies according to the recipe and other cookies with some key ingredients missing. The “incomplete” cookies will certainly not taste as good!

Support positive friendships.

The apostle Paul didn’t live in isolation. The Philippian church sent him aid (verse 15); he was encouraged by Epaphroditus’ visit (verse 18); he delivered greetings from the brethren (verse 21), especially from those from Caesar’s household (verse 22). He had close friends! Your child doesn’t need more followers on social media or buddies who are bad influences. Your child needs positive friendships in real life. Perhaps you can arrange a play date in the park or your backyard. A voice or video call is always better than just texting. If your child has a good friend that you like, support that friendship by finding new, creative ways to connect if there are limitations because of the pandemic. Some friends have become pen pals, writing letters to one another with a list of questions like “What’s your favorite movie?” or “What’s something I don’t know about you?” Talking regularly with a friend on the phone or in person makes a big difference. Kids thrive by playing together, not by holding a tablet all day. It will be important after the pandemic to reteach your child that it’s good to shake someone’s hand, give high fives and hugs, and meet in groups again. Six feet away is not a permanent or desirable way of living.

Every season of life has something to teach us. You can be a loving guide in your child’s life, showing them that God is sovereign and good through it all.

This article originally appeared in the February 2021 issue of Turning Points devotional magazine.


It was almost like a scene from the 2000 movie starring Tom Hanks, Cast Away. A giant container ship is plowing through the open sea when its crew spots a bearded man adrift in the water, perched on some kind of vessel. The ship’s captain radios authorities, and within a few hours, the man is rescued from a likely watery grave. Only this time it wasn’t a movie.

Louis Jordan, age 37, had lost his job and moved onto his 35–foot sailboat at a small marina on the coast of South Carolina. He spent months rehabbing the 50–year–old vessel, making it seaworthy, foraging wild foods, and living off fish he netted in the Intracoastal Waterway. On January 23, 2015, Jordan sailed his boat, Angel, into the open ocean where he spent the next 66 days alone—but not by choice.

Six days passed without Jordan’s parents hearing anything from their son, so they contacted the Coast Guard. Despite nearly two weeks of searching and spreading alert bulletins among maritime commercial companies, no one saw any signs of Louis Jordan or his sailboat. The Coast Guard even checked banking and other financial records up and down the East Coast to see if perhaps he had put it at another harbor and failed to notify his family. Nothing. It was as if Jordan had vanished into thin air—or beneath the surface of the ocean.


Enter the 1,000–foot German shipping vessel, Houston Express, on April 2—66 days after Jordan had left the South Carolina marina. Sailing 200 miles off the coast of North Carolina, the crew spotted a man sitting on top of what appeared to be a capsized boat. The German ship stopped, deployed a small rescue craft, and plucked Jordan off his upside–down sailboat. Within three hours, a Coast Guard rescue helicopter had retrieved Jordan from the deck of the container ship.

Sixty–six days alone on the ocean. It’s hard to imagine anyone surviving such an ordeal mentally or physically. Jordan caught fish and saved rainwater to sustain himself, and besides a broken shoulder that happened when his sailboat capsized and being dehydrated, he was in remarkably good shape physically. Spiritually and emotionally, he gave credit to prayer and the Bible: “When you hear about people surviving a long time, in hard conditions, they always [credit] the Bible. That’s the main thing that keeps people going. Power—there’s power in that like nothing else.”1

No argument there—we know the Word of God is “living and powerful… and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Thankfully, Louis Jordan knew to rely on the promises of God’s Word.

While this story had a happy ending, I have to wonder what was going through Jordan’s mind when his sailboat capsized and all of his electronic gear—GPS, radio, emergency battery power—was ruined. Can you imagine the sense of aloneness when you scan the horizon, a full 360 degrees, and see nothing but that straight line where the sea meets the sky? Can you imagine the silence? Except for the sound of waves lapping against the sides of his overturned boat, there would have been no sound.

Then this ultimate thought: I may live the rest of my life alone. I may die alone on the ocean. I may be run over in the middle of the night by a thousand feet of surging steel, for which I represent nothing more than a piece of drifting flotsam. Can you imagine?

We are hardwired for company, for relationships, for interaction, and for love.

The human fear of living and dying alone has been a constant theme in literature and film, and for good reason: “It is not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). We are hardwired for company, for relationships, for interaction, and for love. As much as we crave a few moments, even a couple days of “alone time,” we reach our limit pretty quickly, and all the more in this digital age where we are often tethered to devices that keep us from losing touch.

And yet, being alone happens, if not by choice, then sometimes by circumstance. We may not be adrift on the ocean for two–plus months, but we can feel adrift from relationships, from purpose, from direction, from groups. And when that happens, we can even be tempted to think we’ve been set adrift from God Himself.

We need to plan for those unplanned feelings of aloneness by remembering: In Christ, we are never alone.

Alone: Feeling or Fact?

Let’s clarify our terms: There is a difference between being alone (fact) and feeling alone (feeling). They don’t always happen together. We can be alone without feeling alone, and we can feel alone without being alone. Or, if we’re adrift on the Atlantic Ocean, we can be and feel alone at the same time.

In fact, we don’t have to be in the middle of the ocean. We actually find ourselves alone at times in life as did many characters in the Bible. Adam was alone in the Garden of Eden; Moses was alone when he fled from Egypt into the wilderness; Joseph was alone in the cistern where his brothers threw him; David was alone when tending his father’s flocks as a teenage shepherd and later when he fled from Saul; Daniel was alone in a lion’s den, and his three friends were alone in a furnace; Elijah was alone in a cave on Mount Horeb; the prophets were often alone; Jonah was alone under a vine in Nineveh; Jesus was alone in the wilderness and on the cross; Paul was alone in prison… and the list goes on.

These biblical characters were in fact alone at times in their lives. In that way, they illustrate what is common to all of us: There will be times when we are alone in life.

And no doubt they felt alone to a degree. But instead of feeling guilty about feeling alone (feeling alone is not a sin), we can let feelings of aloneness be a signal. That’s what most of our biblical characters seem to have done. Yes, they were alone on occasion. And yes, they no doubt felt alone—probably intensely alone at times. But when their feelings became a signal, they called out to God. They knew they were not actually alone in life regardless of how they felt. They knew God was just a prayer away. In a pit, in a cave, in a lion’s den or furnace, in a wilderness, in prison, or on a cross, these mentors of ours did not allow their feelings to conquer their faith.

What about the times when you feel alone in spite of being surrounded by other people and activities? That probably describes more and more people in a crowded world full of “intimate strangers.” Whether we are actually alone or not, feelings of aloneness can create that most threatening of experiences. “Most threatening” because it is the opposite of that for which God created us: attachment and relationship.

In Christ, we are never alone.

It’s in those moments, when feelings of aloneness make us question ourselves as well as God, that we need to focus on a different faith–based fact: In Christ, we are never alone.

Alone: Feeling or Faith?

The Christian life is a fact–based, not feeling–based, relationship with God.

Fact #1: Aloneness was the only thing in the Garden of Eden that God said was “not good.” God wants us to enjoy His company and the company of others (Genesis 2:18).

Fact #2: God is everywhere. David, the psalmist, wrote a psalm about the impossibility of escaping God’s presence (Psalm 139). Whether you are a Christian or not, you are never alone because God is wherever you are.

Fact #3: Christ promised His apostles He would be with them until “the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Fact #4: God promised His people in the Old and New Testaments that He would never leave or forsake them (Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:5; Hebrews 13:5).

Fact #5: Faith—believing those truths—is how we dispel feelings of loneliness when they surface in our life.

You and I are more likely to feel alone than we are to be alone. Even if both happen at the same time, we must remember: In Christ, we are never alone.

This article originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of Turning Points devotional magazine.


1Steve Almasy, Ed Payne, and Nick Valencia, “Man rescued after 66 days at sea is ‘utterly thankful and grateful.’” April 3, 2015,, <–after–66–days–at–sea/> accessed 4–11–15.


Recently a young, single woman quit her job in the city and moved back to her small hometown, abandoning her career and leaving a place of service in the church she had joined. When asked why, she replied, “I just got tired of eating supper alone.” No one is immune to it. Even one of the most brilliant men who ever lived, Albert Einstein, complained, “It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.”1

In his book The Devil’s Advocate, Morris West says we need to understand that loneliness is not new. “It comes to all of us sooner or later. Friends die, family dies, too. We get old; we get sick…. In a society where people live in impersonal cities or suburbs, where electronic entertainment often replaces one–to–one conversation, where people move from job to job, and state to state, and marriage to marriage, loneliness has become an epidemic.”2


Lonely in Marriage

It’s incredible to me how many spouses are lonely. Marriage, the institution God created to provide intimacy, often becomes a place of great loneliness. I received a letter from a woman who said, “My husband and I are both Christians… but my emotional needs are rarely met because he works all the time. It’s the case of two people living parallel lives but never really meeting at all. He has heard and read a little about how a husband can create a good relationship with his wife, but it must all pass over him without making an impression. I’m not going to nag. I try not to think about it. But the hurt is deep. I am a very lonely person.”

Lonely Survivors

Perhaps the loneliest people are survivors, those who live on after a loved one has died. Those who have buried a husband or wife experience a kind of pain which, I’m told, is so intense there’s nothing like it. Often, it’s a divorce that causes the survivor to be left alone; and divorce can be more painful than death, for there is an awful sense of personal rejection that goes with the loneliness.

Lonely Heroes in the Bible

Did you realize the heroes in the Bible also suffered acute loneliness? I remember reading in the Psalms on one occasion when David talked about how he felt in the aloneness of his life. “For my days are consumed like smoke,” he wrote in Psalm 102:3, 6–7, “and my bones are burned like a hearth.… I am like a pelican of the wilderness; I am like an owl of the desert. I lie awake, and am like a sparrow alone on the housetop.”

Jeremiah suffered crippling loneliness. He preached faithfully, but few heeded his messages. “Oh, that I had in the wilderness a lodging place for wayfaring men,” he wrote in Jeremiah 9:2 (Third Millennium Bible), “that I might leave my people, and go from them! For they are all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men.” Even the apostle Paul described his heart’s loneliness in the last chapter of the last epistle he wrote. “Be diligent to come to me quickly,” he said in 2 Timothy 4:9–10, 16, “for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia.… At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me.”

It’s not a sin to be alone; it is not a sin to experience loneliness. It only becomes a sin when we start indulging it and when we fail to obey the instruction of the Word of God, given to help us dispel loneliness from our lives. It isn’t wrong to visit loneliness, but it is wrong to move in and let loneliness take over our lives.

Don’t just say, “Well, I’m not going to admit that I’m alone. I’m just going to accept the fact that I’m a Christian and that Jesus is always with me. I may feel alone, but I know I’m not alone, so I will just deny the feeling.” Instead, tap into three sources of encouragement God has provided when we feel the pain of loneliness.

Don’t live in denial. Admit that you suffer from seasons of loneliness and ask God to teach you how to deal with it.

1. Embrace Intimacy With God

God’s Son

Only God can solve the problem of loneliness. He created us in such a way that we have an emptiness that can only be filled by an intimate relationship with Himself. Until God is at home in our hearts, we’ll always feel incomplete; and He makes our hearts His home through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Christ experienced the most profound aloneness possible. As the Father rejected Him, He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46) He was left alone so that we might never be alone. He was left alone so that our sin would be paid in full and that we could come to Him in faith, accepting what He did for us on the cross. Through Christ, God comes to live within us, filling the empty spaces in our hearts.

I’ve been watching people go through crises now for over thirty years, and I can tell you that it’s possible to know whether a person is a Christian or not just by watching their response to the difficulties of life. If we don’t have the inner strength that comes through a personal relationship with Almighty God, we’re left alone to handle the stresses and crises of life. But as F. B. Meyer put it, “Loneliness is an opportunity for Jesus to make Himself known.”

When Paul described his loneliness in 2 Timothy 4:16–17, he concluded by saying, “No one stood with me, but all forsook me…. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.”

He will do that for you, too.

2. Allow God’s Word to Fill Your Heart and Mind

God’s Scriptures

If you are a Christian experiencing loneliness, ask the Lord to speak to you. He will guide you if you study His Word. Search His Word for passages that reassure the lonely heart, verses like these:

  • “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me” (Psalm 27:10).
  • “In Your presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11).
  • “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).
  • “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16).
  • “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

These are just representative Scriptures to remind us that the pages of the Bible contain all the promises we need when we feel the pain of loneliness.

3. Activate Your Network of Christian Friends

God’s Saints

Did you know that every time the word “saint” appears in the Bible, it appears in the plural because saints are not left in isolation? We are the saints of God, and we come together for mutual support and encouragement. Moments of being alone may not be a choice, but lingering in the house of loneliness is your decision. God has given us His Son. He has given us His Word. And He has given us His people. He has put us into the community of believers called the Church.

There are Sunday school classes, small groups, ministry teams, and opportunities to activate a network of brothers and sisters in the Lord. Psalm 68:6 says, “God sets the lonely in families, He leads out the prisoners with singing” (NIV). Take the initiative and seek out places to serve. Forget about your own needs long enough to meet the needs of someone else. God’s wonderful secret for victory over chronic, soul–crippling loneliness is a combination of His Son, His Scriptures, and His Saints.

For fifty years, Agnes Frazier and her husband Emit had morning Bible reading and prayer at the breakfast table. On the day he died, she went to bed thinking that she could never again start the day with devotional exercises. But the next morning, she bravely sat at the kitchen table and opened her Bible to the spot where she and her husband had quit their reading twenty–four hours before. The verse that stared up at her was Isaiah 54:5—"For your Maker is your husband.” She smiled and said, “Thank you, Lord.”

We can smile and thank God, too. He never leaves us alone—not for an instant. In His presence is fullness of joy.



2Morris L. West, The Devil’s Advocate (New York: Dell, 1959), 334–335.


Author Gordon MacDonald tells how a rebuke from a friend saved him—thousands of times over—from hurting others and making a fool of himself. He was in Japan on (ironically) a speaking tour with a close friend of his, a man several years his senior. As he and his friend were walking down a street in Yokohama, the name of one of their mutual friends came up. And Gordon said something unkind about the person: “It was sarcastic. It was cynical. It was a put–down,” he recalls.

His friend stopped immediately and put his face right in front of Gordon’s and said, “Gordon, a man who says he loves God would not say a thing like that about a friend.” In the midst of a speaking tour about God, he had used ungodly words to belittle another person.

“My friend could have put a knife into my ribs, and the pain would not have been any less,” Gordon wrote later. “But you know something? There have been ten thousand times in the last twenty years that I have been saved from making a jerk of myself. When I’ve been tempted to say something unkind about a brother or sister, I hear my friend’s voice say, ‘Gordon, a man who says he loves God would not speak in such a way about a friend.’”1


Think what would have happened to Gordon MacDonald’s relationship with the person he spoke ill of if Gordon’s unkind words had made it back to the person! Gordon’s reputation and credibility would have suffered as well. Now, consider your own experience. Have someone else’s comments hurt you? How have you been guilty of speaking hurtful words about others?

Let us not be desensitized and careless about the words we speak—especially when the emotion of anger wells up from within. It is no wonder that the apostle James combined “slow to speak” and “slow to wrath” in the same verse (James 1:19).

Portraying the Tongue

Scripture has a lot to say about the power of words, and James 3:1–12 contains one of the best summaries we can find.

The more words we speak, the greater the likelihood that some of them will be regrettable.

Accountability. James warns teachers to be careful what they say because God will judge them more strictly (James 3:1). But that doesn’t mean everyone else gets a free pass. Jesus said we would be held accountable for “every idle word” we speak (Matthew 12:36). This includes the words we speak without thinking and gossip. The most casual, thoughtless words can sometimes cause the most harm. Proverbs 10:19 says, “He who restrains his lips is wise” because “in the multitude of words sin is not lacking.” It is a simple matter of math: the more words we speak, the greater the likelihood that some of them will be regrettable.

Disproportionality. That’s a big word to express a simple idea: The size of the tongue, or the size of a few simple words, stands in stark contrast to the size of the trouble caused (James 3:3–6). In the same way a small bit guides a horse or a rudder turns a giant ship, a seemingly insignificant word can shape the course of a person’s life. How often do we hear reports of a politician or celebrity being caught off guard near a “hot mic”? After delivering an inspiring speech, they make a flippant remark that is picked up by a mic they thought had been turned off. The microphone captures their offensive comment, and someone broadcasts it to the whole world via the Internet. A few unguarded words unravel all the good accomplished in the preceding speech. But there is a positive side of disproportionality too. Just as a single unkind or unguarded word can hurt, a single kind or complimentary word can heal. Disproportionality works both ways.

Wildness. If we imagine our tongue as an animal, we should not picture the pets that greet us when we walk through the door. It is more like a saber–tooth tiger or a ravenous wolf (James 3:7–8). Humanity has succeeded in taming some of the wildest creatures on earth, but we have miserably failed when it comes to taming our speech. For evidence, I submit to you every time you have thought, “I wish I’d never said that!” Our tongue can be savage. Unless we keep it on a short leash, it will tear people apart.

Consistency. Not only can our words injury those around us, but they can also harm our witness for the Lord. Remember what Gordon MacDonald’s friend said to him? “A man who says he loves God would not say a thing like that about a friend.” For a Christian to speak in an ungodly way is inconsistent at best and hypocritical at worst. James says that blessings and curses should not come from the same mouth any more than salt water and fresh water can come from the same spring (James 3:9–12).

Our words reflect our heart and our relationship to Jesus Christ.

In John 13:35, Jesus says, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Each time we open our mouth to speak, we have the power to bless others as representatives of Jesus Christ. But if we are not careful, we may sin by insulting someone God made in His own image. Our words reflect our heart and our relationship to Jesus Christ.

Protecting the Tongue

There is only one way to protect your tongue: Protect your heart. Proverbs 4:23 calls the heart the “wellspring of life” (NIV 1984). And according to Jesus, the things that defile us spring from our heart (Mark 7:20–23). We can polish our appearance all we want, but eventually, our heart will reveal our true character. That was the problem with the Pharisees. They looked holy on the outside, but Jesus described them as “whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27).

The mouth speaks what the heart gives it to say. If you are tempted—especially in emotional or angry moments—to speak words that you will later regret, ask the Lord for help. One way to do this is to create a prayer based on Scripture.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
(Psalm 19:14; 139:23–24, NLT)

Our words say a lot about us, and they have the power to shape the future. According to Proverbs 18:21, “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences” (NLT). So choose them carefully and choose them consistently. Let your words bear testimony to the grace and peace that is ours in Christ Jesus.


1Gordon MacDonald, “Feeling As God Feels,” Preaching Today #196.