August 7, 2019

Healing Words in a Hurtful World

Gary Thomas — 

It’s been exactly a year since Lisa went into surgery to have her tumor removed. That morning, she told me she wanted two things. First, she wanted me holding her hand and praying for her as she was taken away, and second, she wanted to wake up from sedation without the breathing tube still in her mouth (which would signal they didn’t have to remove a large portion of her lung) and with me holding her hand telling her, “It’s not cancer.”

That became my fervent prayer. I pleaded with God to allow me the opportunity to say “it’s not cancer” to my wife, his daughter. By his grace, I was able to hold my wife’s hand in the recovery room, brush the hair from her groggy eyes, the same gentle eyes I’ve looked into first thing in the morning for the past thirty-four years, and be the first to tell her, “It’s not cancer. It’s not cancer. You’re going to be okay. Now it’s just about getting better.”

I was beyond grateful to God for allowing me to deliver that news to my wife.

I was reminded of this encounter when I read the Apostle Paul’s admonition for us to “Encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). It was such a blessing to be able to encourage my wife in the hospital, but would I carry that same attitude home?

Paul obviously wasn’t talking to husbands whose wives were in the hospital. Paul wasn’t writing to wives whose husbands had just been fired. As a matter of course, in the normal patterns of life, he wants us to deliver encouraging, healing words to others every day, beginning with our spouse.

Though my wife’s body was attacked by a tumor, her soul is consistently attacked by unkind words, the spiritual rebellion of those she loves, her own imperfections, and negative self-talk. Every spouse regularly experiences these “soul attacks.” We can be the dissenting voice speaking encouraging words of assurance, hope, and comfort.

What if we prayed, “Lord, please give me at least two things I can encourage my spouse about today?”

“Lord, I’m asking for some supernatural insight to build up my husband/wife. What would you have me say?”

What if we waited eagerly for our spouse to come home so that we could share with them what God inspired us to say? Wouldn’t that be better than “holding a fight” inside, just waiting to unleash on them as soon as we have a moment alone?

We don’t have to wait until there’s a potentially life-altering illness, a betrayal, or a personal failure to encourage and build up our spouse. But when others do launch an assault, that’s the time for us to step up and put encouragement into hyper drive.

“No, you’re not the worst dad in the world; you’re one of the best! I’m so proud of the way you love our kids.”

“Your boss doesn’t understand how good she has it to have you working for her.”

“I only wish others could see the wonder of you the way I do; then they’d be knocking each other over to include you in their lunches instead of excluding you.”

Let’s be our spouse’s chief encourager. No one else can encourage them the way we can. Their parents may favor other siblings; their friends may get too busy to call; young children may resent being told “no” and older children may be too busy to call. It’s our job to survey whatever threatens our spouse’s physical and spiritual well-being and cooperate with God to say, “I have some good news for you. Some wonderful news…”

It was such a joy to have encouraging words for my wife in the hospital, but I pray that year old episode will become a more regular pattern of encouragement in the years ahead.  

“Encourage one another and build each other up.”

P.S. I realize as I re-read this that many of you woke up from surgeries only to be told, “It is cancer” and had to face a very long road of recovery. I share a special prayer for you that God will comfort you, heal you and encourage you in the days ahead, and that He will give your spouse extra grace to serve you and support you during this difficult time.

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14 responses to Healing Words in a Hurtful World

  1. Thanks for this wonderful reminder, Gary. My first husband was abusive and controlling, and I’ll never forget the jarring revelation that struck me one day. “You echo the voice of the Accuser in my life.” I thank God every single day for delivering me from that terrible marriage.

    Fast forward and I am now married to a wonderful, godly man who echoes the voice of CHRIST to me:

    “You are dearly beloved.”
    “You can do all things through Christ, who strengthens you.”
    “You are more than a conqueror.”
    “Nothing can separate you from His love.”
    “I have called you by name.”

    We would all do well to ask ourselves that question before words pop out of our mouths, towards our spouse, children, anyone: Whose voice am I echoing?

    I like how Coach Rex Hudler put it: “Be a fountain, not a drain.” 🙂

    Blessings to you and Lisa today! Praising God for His tender mercies to both of you!


  2. Thanks Gary for this encouraging words to me. Most times I tend to give up encouraging people most especially when looking at the challenges before me. Thanks for encouraging to be an encourager to others.

  3. Charlie Johnston August 7, 2019 at 5:09 pm

    Thanks Gary,
    With my wife we knew ahead of time that it was an aggressive cancer. Our hope came directly from Jesus, His word, His promises. All proved to be true and trustworthy. It became an opportunity to give our lives away to a whole new group of hurting people who were not accessible to us before. Also proved to be the most precious time of our whole marriage.
    She ministered to many medical people even planned her own funeral and spoke at it. It took six long years and she is now in the presence of Jesus.
    It seems to me the great temptation in all of this is to go backwards instead of going higher and deeper with Jesus. I had 40 some wonderful years with a good woman. I am so thankful

  4. Encouraging as always! Praying right this minute for wisdom in how to encourage my husband during a discouraging time.♥️

  5. Jeff and Sally Hillesland August 7, 2019 at 10:24 am

    Gary and Lisa, We are SO excited that you will be back to speak at Northern Pines in 2020; it’s been too long. Thankful that you and Lisa are healthy and continuing to love and serve Him through your writing and lives.

    • We’re looking forward to being back there! Thanks for the invite. If anyone wants to join us at this great family camp, click on my schedule for 2020

  6. How much better things would be if we just used the language of encouragement more intentionally! I aim to do this more. Thanks for your thoughts.

  7. Wow! This was a gut punch but a highly needed one. Thank you for reminding me that it is only through supernatural insight that I will be able to see my spouse as God sees Him. I will be including both of the suggested prayers in my morning time with God. Thank you for continually showing us the way.

  8. This was such an amazing teaching! Thank you for sharing it! And I’m glad Lisa is ok.

  9. Hi Gary;
    So glad you did not have to go down that road. It has been 2 weeks since I was told that I have cancer. I have given it to God to handle no matter the outcome. What became more painful that in those days after, my husband only hugged me once. Never said I love you, what can I do today to make this a better day for you. I am so heart broken, you have no idea. When someone shows you who they are believe them. I am at a crossroad in this marriage. It has not been a good marriage & I have followed Christ and carried this everyday. In the world they call it the big C. For me the big C is CHRIST. Whatever the outcome it will always bring me closer to God my Father.

    • I just read your comment. I will pray for you right now, that you will be renewed with increasingly hopeful thinking. And healing. And support from friends. And wisdom for what to do in your marriage. Praise God, your faith is strong! A book that will surely be supportive is Hope Rising, by Casey Gwinnett and Chan Hellman. Available on Amazon. From one survivor to another, I say to you: don’t let cancer define you! Hugs and love to you from Anne in Canada xo


  10. Thank you for this perspective renewal & for your endnote about readers who did not receive the good news hoped for. My husband has battled multiple health crises for the past 4 years. I honestly have experienced God’s help in loving and encouraging him more readily accessible in the hospital than in the home. I believe it’s the “in between times” when encouragement is most forgotten. And he needs it then at least as much! I’m glad for this reminder that God can use me to bring comfort, hope & truth during the ”in between times” of our battle to glorify God through our marriage during this challenging season.