The supreme master of helpful words spoken in the right situation at the right time was Jesus. People often need to hear a true, good, and helpful word at a crucial time in their life. Many individuals were helped whenever Jesus spoke. According to each person’s needs, he gave words of healing, forgiveness, wisdom, instruction, hope, blessing, admonishment, encouragement, and so forth.An interesting prophecy in Isaiah 50:4 portrays Christ as speaking about something God had given him. He says, “The Lord God has given me the tongue of disciples that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word”. When Jesus eventually came, he invited those who were weary and burdened with concerns to come to him and learn from him (Matthew 11:28-29). In the Bible’s book of Proverbs, wisdom sayings are presented. Proverbs 15:23 says, “How delightful is a timely word”, and 25:11 says, “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.”As disciples of Jesus, his followers are called upon to do the same as the master teacher. We are to speak words that are good for building others up so that they may receive the help they need (Ephesians 4:29). We are to learn to comfort and encourage others in ways God has helped us (2 Corinthians 1:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:11).
What kinds of situations are people facing that require words of helpfulness? Most of us at times find ourselves in situations where our spirit is discouraged or down. We may be worried, concerned, upset, confused, or fearful. At those times, how do we know what words, for a family member, friend, or other, would be most helpful and good for them to know? Following are a few suggestions of things to do to discover what words might be best in their situation.
First, one must listen to others to discern their pain or need. What have they been going through? Where are they? Encourage them to tell you their story. If they trust you, they will share. Maybe, to learn how to respond to them, you need more information. Questions to ask could include “What is bothering you about this?”; “What is going through your mind?”, or “Are you worried or fearful?” The right questions can draw them out and help you know what they need.
Second, acknowledge their pain or feelings. Let them know that you have heard and understood their situation and feelings. This can be done by feeding back to them what you think they said and ask them if you heard correctly. Often, it helps another just to be able to talk and know that someone cares, is willing to listen, and hears them.
Third, what would God, or Jesus, say to them? What would comfort them and give them hope? Often this is based on what God did for you in a similar situation, or what you remember from the Bible. The more familiar we are with the Bible and how God sustained people with his words, and the more we have experienced what God has taught us from his word, the more we will have to offer others in similar circumstances. As you read your Bible, pay a little more attention to how God answered people that were going through their problems. The more we learn from God how he sustains people with his words, the more we can learn to help bear other’s burdens.
Maybe all that some people need to hear is “I am sorry this is happening to you”, or “That is awful, you must feel fearful (angry, or whatever)”, or I am with you and we will get through this with God’s help.” Jesus sometimes asked people, “Where is your faith?” You might ask, “How is your faith helping you?” A question like this can open the door to spiritual input. It is good to put people in touch with God and his answers so that they can rely on him and grow in their faith.
Fourth, if you want to encourage or help someone with your words, ask God to give you the right words. Think about what you will say and how you will say it. Remember this, what you do not say can be as important as what you do say. The Lord gives us wise advice when he says not to answer before we hear (Proverbs 18:13), and “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer” (Proverbs 15:28). Be an encourager with words that are fitly spoken.