There are many times in our lives where God chooses to place us right in the thick of a situation which frustrates us and tests our patience. And in many of those situations, we often fail to say the right thing to the person or people who seem to be testing our limits. How can we as Christians effectively exercise self-control in those difficult moments?
First of all, we must understand that we are not alone in facing this problem. James 3:8-10 says, “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” Without the grace of God, no Christian would have the ability to control his tongue at any point in time! Second, we must remember that the Bible sharply warns us against the improper use of our tongues. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” But perhaps the sharpest warning the Bible has concerning the improper use of our tongues comes from James 1:26, which says, “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.” In other words, there is no reason for us to be practicing our religion at all if we are continually unable to control, or “bridle,” our own tongues! What a sharp and painful warning that should cause each of us to examine our own heart!
But what are some good ways (besides remembering what the Bible has to say) to “bridle” our tongues in situations that tempt us to do just the opposite? First, think before you speak! Remember that no matter how angry we are, what we choose to say will always have some sort of lasting impact on the person who is making us angry! Second, think of these difficult situations which tests our patience as opportunities! Opportunities to do what, you might say? Well, what about our calling as Christians to be effective witnesses to each person God chooses to place into our lives? Although difficult, using these frustrating situations as opportunities to be good Christian witnesses and even an encouragement to the person who is “testing our limits” can serve to motivate us to say something positive in that moment that will “build the person up” (I Thessalonians 5:11) instead of tearing the person down, which we are often tempted to do in those moments! In the meantime, we ought to pray for grace and the ability to say the right thing in moments which tempt us to sin with our tongue as David did in Psalm 141:3, “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.”