Words matter. They matter to God and should matter to us. Words can build up and encourage us or tear down, leaving deep scars that can affect how we think and live our lives. Our words directly reflect the worldview we embrace by how we honor others, live our lives, and, for the Christian, bring glory to God.
“A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit (Proverbs 15:4).
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).
Can you remember someone who was or still is a positive influencer(s) who strongly impacted you by how they lived and encouraged you to become a better person?
Can you remember the words that someone spoke to you directly or lied about you that caused you great hurt that you still struggle with today?
Perhaps the greatest influencer on the majority of today’s teens come as a result of spending hours a day on social media. A 2018 Pew Research Center survey of nearly 750 13- to 17-year-olds found that 45% are online almost constantly, and 97% use a social media platform, such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. Social media use can negatively affect teens, distracting them, disrupting their sleep, and exposing them to bullying, rumor spreading, unrealistic views of other people’s lives, and peer pressure. (Mayo Clinic)
I hear about this through my grand kids. They talk about their group chats, where some teens within the group are bullied by making fun of them. Parties are planned where only some on the group chat are invited. Rejection from this kind of abuse cause stress, anxiety, and fear not only for those targeted students but those in the group who are spectators of such hurtful behavior. My grand kids have left their groups because they shared what was happening with their parents who strongly encouraged them to have the courage to step away. All responded that they felt relief after leaving their groups.
“Young people may be particularly vulnerable to social media’s charms and harms. During adolescent development, brain regions associated with the desire for attention, feedback, and reinforcement from peers become more sensitive. Meanwhile, the brain regions involved in self-control have not fully matured. That can be a recipe for disaster. “The need to prioritize peers is a normal part of adolescent development, and youth are turning to social media for some of that longed-for peer contact. The original yearning is social, but kids can accidentally wander into harmful content,” said clinical psychologist Mary Ann McCabe.
If our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews only hear, see, and believe what is on social media without the healthy voices of Christian parents and friends speaking truth into them, they will struggle with their identity. We have to teach them that they are not a product of their culture, but they are created in God’s image to love Him and to love and serve others. God’s Word is always true, no matter the circumstances or how we feel. When God speaks about who He says we are, we must listen, believe, and respond by trusting in His Son Jesus.
If Christ were present and could speak to us one on one, the following is what He might well say based on the Scriptures.
“I love you. I have loved you before the beginning of time. I put you together in your mother’s womb. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You matter to me. I made you different from all the people that I have created through time. The iris of your eye, your thumb print and your DNA are unique to just you. I designed you in my image so that you can reason, be relational and be able to receive my love and love me in return. I love you so much that I sacrificed my son to die by crucifixion to pay in full the price for all your sins, past, present and future! Because you believe, I have made you my child and sent the Holy Spirit, to live in you forever. This is not a little piece of me, but all of me. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in you, you now have access to all that you will ever need to live life to the full: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Through me, as you read my Word in the Scriptures, you will learn more of who I am, who you are and what it is I require of you. I do not want your performance as an attempt to earn my love, acceptance or acknowledgement. You already have it all. As my child, I want you to be a light of hope and encouragement to the world who need me. I want you to love me and to love others by loving and serving them and by being ready and willing to tell them about me. Yes, I designed you with the purpose of living life to the fullest extent, and when you die, you will no longer experience suffering and death but will live with me in heaven forever.” (Psalms, Genesis, John, 1 John 3:2, Ephesians, Galatians, Matthew, Luke, and John)
When you believe the words spoken directly from God, you will know that the lies and hurt others have put on you do not identify who you are as a person. As God rescues us from those who hurt us, He calls us to forgive those who persecute us, with the hope that someday, they too will find hope and peace in Christ our Savior. God wants us to not be controlled by others, but, as a Child of God, come to Him for direction and peace.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).