Psalm 69:18-20 (The Living Bible)
A psalm of David.
Come, Lord, and rescue me. Ransom me from all my enemies. You know how they talk about me, and how they so shamefully dishonor me. You see them all and know what each has said.
Their contempt has broken my heart; my spirit is heavy within me.
The old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” is a lie.
David wrote that his heart was broken by the cruel things being said about him. We all know what it feels like to be falsely accused or criticized, to be mocked for a mistake or a personal flaw, or to be the target of an ugly rumor. Typical reactions to such cruelties are to feel anger, shame, defensiveness, and especially helplessness—once spoken, words are difficult to combat or to control. Regardless of their veracity, rumors tend to spread like wildfire, scorching reputations and ruining relationships.
Cruel words are especially devastating when they come from the mouth of a trusted friend or loved one. Betrayal adds a layer of pain to any verbal injury. David’s “enemies” might well have included those closest to him, those whom he loved and trusted and, by the same token, could hurt him most deeply.
David’s psalm shows us by example how to deal with ugly words and vicious rumors. He brought his heart full of pain to God and asked him for rescue. Offering our hearts to God gives him the opportunity to shift our perspective and keep us from despairing. Like David, instead of reliving the sting of hateful words, we can reflect on the beauty and faithfulness of our Father who cares for us:
O Jehovah, answer my prayers, for your lovingkindness is wonderful; your mercy is so plentiful, so tender and so kind. Quick! Come and save me. (Psalm 69:16-17)
FATHER, sometimes I catch myself ruminating on someone’s cruel words and reliving the pain of them. I know it’s useless to hang onto such words, which I can never erase or change by wishing them different. At such times, please rescue me by reminding me how precious I am to you and how faithful and merciful and loving you have always been to me. Protect my spirit from the lies wrapped in cruel taunts and accusations. If you see any truth in these words, please show me gently and help me to repent of whatever is in me that needs changing.
Psalm 42:9-11; Matthew 27:27-31, 38-44
What stinging words still haunt you? Write them down, and ask God to release you from their power.