“A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled. Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” – Proverbs 18:20-21(KJV)
I had a dark cloud hovering over me all week. It began with anxious thoughts about unmet deadlines. Then those thoughts took on a life of their own. They crawled into my sleep and became dreams of losses, nightmares that haunted my fragile soul. They became quiet whispers, voices that reminded me of my weaknesses and insufficiency. I didn’t go to church last Sunday; it just felt like I was looking for something, searching for answers, or strength, or a rainbow – something in the clouds. The devil sure splattered the clouds, but not with a rainbow. And on Thursday, I sent a message to my sister: “My heart has been heavy for a week…. My spiritual life. Been ill too/And intellectually unproductive/Flunked all my deadlines (slight exaggeration)/ I have another in 2 days and I haven’t even started writing/Presentations on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday. Not done/And for the first time, in recent years, been thinking, maybe I am really not good enough.” Her response was swift: “Hell no! /This is not true. From the devil perhaps. He is reminding you of your weaknesses/You are the one that needs to tell him you are not what he says you are.”
She was right. Twice. First: Hell no! Second: You are the one that needs to tell him you are not what he says you are.
I weaponised her phrase: Hell, No! No, it was no longer an exclamatory response, it was a declarative voice, a speaking faith, a forceful affirmation of the boundaries of light. I was addressing hell and insisting not here. I cannot allow hell to hold my emotions hostage. Neither will darkness be allowed to hover like some shrouding shadows with diminutive, flappy fingers clawing over my imagination and essence. I screamed: Hell, No!
Today, I wish to remind you that the Christian faith is a speaking faith. Our faith speaks.
When God appeared on the scene in Genesis, it wasn’t just for a mere onsite inspection. He wasn’t going to draw a bench, lurch on it with sagging stomach, whining in misery, as he downed a made-in-Igbo-ora bowl of palm wine. I know, yeah. I was just being funny. But hey, all I am saying is that He didn’t indulge the mess. He SPOKE light. Don’t drown your worries or sorrows or pains or hurts or rejections in bottles. Don’t drown it in closed curtains and dark, airless rooms. Don’t drown it in chatty conversations with garrulous friends. Don’t ignore it. Speak to it. Speak through it. Speak in it.
Don’t let your darkness steal your voice.
Words have power than we often credit it to be. Think about creation and salvation, two fundamental life-shaping experiences of mankind, they were birthed with words.
“By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.”- Psalm 33:6
“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” – Hebrews 11:3
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” – Romans 10:10
As a child, I grew up watching Yoruba movies and relish battles amongst feuding, magic-wielding men. It was my own local content for the magical stunts and martial arts of Hollywood thrillers. Their chants and incantations are followed by finish-him moves. It appeared that while they were chanting, duelling about knowledge of names of plants and certain celestials, they were speaking to the elements of the universe, calling them, shaping their existential orders, in a bid to make them respond to their ultimate request. They probably believe there is an underlying philosophy of creation, that nature and life were shaped by words, and if we know and call them by their names, they will respond to whatever they are told.
We, as believers, however know for a fact that the world was created by God’s word. It was by Jesus everything was made, “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him…” Col 1: 16. This is the one that indwells us, whose word is in our hearts; in short, the same word that birthed life as we know it and the new birth as we have it is right in our hearts and close to our lips. By speaking, we can create newness into our lives and situations. By speaking the word of God, we can generate life into our souls that quench the fiery flames of depression. By speaking what the word has said about us in Christ Jesus, we can shut the door to external voices seeking to make us feel less of all we are worth in God’s love and valuation of us.
Often, we allow tiny infractions in our lives assume an absolute definition of who we are. They come in specks and moments, but we make them look like the authority. Just because we failed in sports, we think we are a failure. We forget how we’ve thrived in businesses or jobs or relationships or service. We ignore our successes and embrace our failures. We build castles of thoughts around it; restless, depressed, tamed. We make a painful part the false reality of the whole. Why would I think less of myself than what God thinks of me, my Father who knows me more than I can ever know myself, despite all my falls, frailties and faults?
I dig that. Hell no. Hell, No!