Life and Death: Choose Your Words

June 24, 2019

Last week, I pulled out my inner Jesus and healed a patient.  On the spot.  Ok, so it didn’t quite go like that, but it was still pretty cool.  

I was doing an evaluation on a young man who struggles with Class III Obesity.  He is unable to stand, and gets significantly short of breath simply rolling left and right in the bed.. He is also unable to lie on his back for more than a few minutes, because the weight of his chest compresses his lungs and limits breathing.

Not only is he trapped in his bed, he is trapped in his room.  He says that, one day, he fell, and it took 4-5 paramedics to assist him up.  He was so humiliated and scared of it happening again, that he went into his room, got into his bed, and never got up again.  Since that time, he gained more than 100lbs, and is now unable to physically pass through his doorway.  

He looked at me and said, “I think I am going to die in here.”

His cousin was also there, and they both became very tearful over the situation.  I gently asked, “When was the last time you were able to sit up on the edge of the bed?”

“Over a year and a half ago,” he responded.

“Let’s sit up today.  I’m pretty sure you can do it,” I countered.  He and his cousin locked eyes, uncertainty yet excitement in both of their faces.  Step by step, I talked him through the process of positioning his body in preparation for sitting up. He was sweating and grunting the entire time. It was hard work, but he did not give up.

At one point, he looked at me and said, “I don’t think I can do this,” and I quietly replied, “Yes. You can.”

See…I knew he had what it took to pull his body up into a sitting position. I could tell, by the way he rolled and repositioned himself, he was only a few movements away from sitting.  

He said a prayer, and we pulled him up into a sitting position at the edge of the bed.  He groaned and cried from the pain of the weight pressing down on his hips and back.  They’d not felt the extent of his weight in over a year, but he hung in there.

Despite the pain, he was able to sit up and breathe in deep gulps of air, expanding his lungs in ways he had not been able to in the past 18 months.  He gripped my hand and, bringing it to his forehead, cried tears of agony and gratefulness.  When the pain became too much, we laid him back down.  

He was all smiles at that point.  He kept saying , “I didn’t think I could do that!!!” I could just see hope blooming in his eyes. Before I left, he looked at me and said, “Maybe I won’t die in here, after all.”

“Nope. I don’t believe you will,” I responded.

Later, I learned that his cousin and other family members began getting him up almost every day.  Each time he sat up, he was able to tolerate it more and more.  When I came back to see him a few weeks later, he couldn’t wait to tell me about his progress.  He was making plans to get a new bed and exercise to lose weight.

He said something interesting to me:  He told me it was my words, the things that I said to him, that made such a difference.  He went on to explain that most people look at him and tell him what he can’t do, and that I was the first person to unquestioningly tell him what he could do.  

He said those words, “You can,” motivated him to try. Essentially, I spoke hope into him without even realizing I was doing it.

Let me tell you something: words matter.  They absolutely matter.  

There is life and death in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).  Just two words freed him. Before he was trapped in his bed, he was trapped in his mind.  Two words turned the lock and loosened chains of fear and hopelessness enough to make him get up.

Sometimes, like this man, we can let words cripple us emotionally and physically.  I can think of some words which have sent me tumbling into the dark abyss of fear and frozenness.  I can also think of some times where words of hope and inspiration changed my perspective and gave me the ability to press on.  

One of my favorite translations of Proverbs 18:21 reads:

The tongue has power over life and death; those who indulge it must eat its fruit (CJB)

Whether you listen to or speak words which bring life or death, you will eat of its fruit. You will reap the rewards or suffer the consequences.  I remember a friend telling me one time to “guard your gates”, meaning, be careful what words you allow into and out of your spirit.

Be mindful about the words you say to others.  Make sure they are words meant to inspire, uplift, encourage, and support. And, on the same note, be discerning about the words that are said to you.  You don’t have to let everything in.  When someone offers words of discouragement, block them. Like literally… you don’t have to listen to that. I read a quote recently that said, “Don’t take criticism from someone you wouldn’t take advice from.” *sips tea*

I’m not saying you can’t receive (or offer) correction or redirection when appropriate.  In fact, those words are often most helpful.  This is not about healthy discipline or correction. I am referring to malicious words meant to cripple spirits and kill dreams.  Don’t dish it, and, most certainly, don’t eat it.

That young man I spoke of knew the odds.  He knew what he could not do.  He needed to know what he could do.  I believe he already formed the thought in his mind that he wanted to start getting better and just needed someone to fan the flames of hope, so to speak.

You have that Jesus power, too.  Who you gonna resurrect today?

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