Bombs or Balms? How to Use our Words for Restoration, not Retribution

Some days it’s hard to believe I craft words for a living. During moments of weakness, carelessness, or selfishness, I stick my wordsmith foot into my undisciplined mouth and produce sentences that wound those around me. I might share an unfiltered observation, an unwanted piece of advice, or an unkind criticism. Sometimes I speak in anger or self-defense, intentionally hurting those who have hurt me. 

How I manage to spit out such words around my size 9 foot, I’ll never know, but I do. And I always regret it. Sometimes as soon as the words leave my mouth. Other times not until later, when the debris field clears, and I can see what’s left in the aftermath of my word bomb. 

“Life and death are in the power of the tongue,” Proverbs 18:21 says. More than anything, I want my words—every single one of them—to bring life to those who hear them. 

If you share this desire, we can learn from a woman in the Bible named Abigail. 

Abigail's life wasnt' easy. Married to a surly, foul-mouthed, selfish man named Nabal (which, in God’s divine sense of humor, means “fool”). I don’t know what size sandal Nabal wore, but I suspect it was a size 14EEE, because one day he stuck his big foot in his big mouth in a really big way. 

David and his band of warriors had generously guarded Nabal’s flocks and herds, providing protection from animal and human predators. When the time came to reward David with bounty from the harvest, however, Nabal developed amnesia. He denied David’s request for food, heaped insults on him, and sent his men away in disgrace. 

Enter Abigail. 

When she heard about the exchange between Nabal and David’s men, she knew no self-respecting warrior would endure such treatment. Her household was in danger. She must act quickly. 

First she gathered food—lots of it—and sent it on ahead. 

Then she prepared herself. She leaped onto her donkey and tore out to meet David, thinking, thinking, thinking while she rode. I suspect Abigail had become a master communicator while living with cantankerous Nabal all those years. She’d learned how to deflect his anger during his drunken rages and present her requests with humility and respect, honoring him as her husband despite his behavior. 

All the lessons she’d learned about successful communication swirled in her head as she prepared to meet the man who had pledged to destroy the household of Nabal. 

“So it was, as she rode on the donkey, that she went down under cover of the hill; and there were David and his men, coming down toward her, and she met them.” 

Dismounting from her donkey and prostrating herself before David, she began her eloquent plea. “Please let your maidservant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your maidservant.” 

She acknowledged Nabal’s offense toward David. She accepted partial responsibility for failing to meet the needs of his men. She asked his forgiveness, challenging him to overlook Nabal’s sin. 

Then she spoke God’s blessing over him. In this blessing we see evidence of Abigail’s skill as a godly communicator. 

“… the lives of your enemies He shall sling out, as from the pocket of a sling” (v. 29). 

I don’t know if Abigail had heard of David’s history as a shepherd, or if the Lord put the words in her mouth, but like the stone that felled Goliath, they struck the mark. By referring to a sling similar to the one David had used so long ago in his battle against the Philistine enemy, she pierced David’s heart. 

When she reminded him of his victory against his past enemy, she reinforced God’s promise – that he would one day triumph over all who opposed him and take his place as the next king of Israel. He needn’t smear his integrity with petty skirmishes against foolish men. God had greater things planned for him. 

By choosing her words carefully, Abigail deflected David’s anger, earned his respect, and saved Nabal’s household. And although she didn’t know it at the time, she also secured her own future. (You can read about the interesting and romantic turn of events only God could orchestrate in 1 Samuel 25.) 

Oh, that we would become like Abigail. 

With God’s help, we can. We can prayerfully seek God’s wisdom, search for just the right words to best communicate our message to that particular individual, and speak humbly, keeping in mind the goal of restoration, not retribution. 

Instead of opening our mouths and blurting out the first thing that comes to mind, we can intentionally choose our words and responses to bring life and healing to those we are speaking. By doing so, we not only honor the one to whom we’re speaking, we honor the Lord. 

If you sometimes struggle with your words, invite God to set a watch over your lips. Pray, search, and speak words of life, not death into the ears of those around you. Like Abigail, use your words for restoration, not retribution. 

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  1. Amen! I spend far too much time apologizing for something stupid and thoughtless I've said. Had I spent more time in God's presence, perhaps I would have held the reigns of my big mouth just a little bit tighter. Great post ma'am.

  2. I have a note on my computer desk that says PRAY FIRST. I pray before writing and before speaking. I ask God to give me the words He wants me to share. Sometimes I don't need to share any words. I just need to sit and listen. :-)


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