An Appropriate Answer

By Marcy Barthelette

To give an appropriate answer is a joy; how good is a word at the right time! Proverbs 15:23

We were standing side by side at the pharmacy and she looked totally spent. Our prescriptions weren’t ready and so I opened a conversation with her. She’d been caring non-stop for an ailing husband over a long period of time and felt helpless and exhausted. I tried to lighten her burden with a few moments of friendly dialogue but her weariness was clearly too profound to be affected by the mere conversation. My prescription soon arrived and, as a conversation ender, I told her that I hoped her husband would soon be better. She answered, “That isn’t going to happen.” I’m sure my breath caught for an instant, but the words, “I wish you peace” just rolled off my tongue and, for the first time, she almost smiled. She then thanked me and told me that was exactly what she needed to hear.

I know that response didn’t come from me. I’m the one with no filter on my mouth … no, I don’t swear, but I do often speak without thinking through my responses. Those words had to come from God through me. He used me as a conduit to comfort another person. That was a humbling realization and it made me wonder how many opportunities I had missed because my mind was too busy with other things to let my heart take control.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10 NIV

You know how it is, you’re driving down the freeway and a thoughtless driver cuts you off at an exit. The spontaneous reaction is anger and frustration. Maybe you can’t even say an audible word but your actions convey your message quite clearly. Your child comes bouncing in the door after school asking a million questions and begging for a snack but you mentally shove those pleas aside because you’re in the middle of a good book or stressing over something job-related, especially now that so many people are working from home. Your spouse blows through the door, tired and hungry, asking what’s for dinner and your response is something like, “Really? Couldn’t you at least say hello first?”

These situations may seem to pale in comparison to the lady in the pharmacy, but if we address those we care most about with indifference or greet a careless traveler with anger, is it likely that when push comes to shove, we’ll be open to a proper God nudge. If it were only God’s choice, he’d just clean up our hearts and make us responsive to the needs of others. But God’s nudges are a two-way street. He nudges but we have to be ready to absorb that nudge and act on it. I could have said to the woman, “Take care,” and walked away but that nudge was so strong that I had to wish her peace. I had no idea it would produce such a profound effect, but God did. I didn’t even have time to question my response. God knew her need and telegraphed it to my heart. And, wonder of all wonders, I was listening at that moment.

I can only recall a few instances when I felt so strongly after receiving a God nudge, a nano-second impulse, that I simply obeyed. There was no time to question the impulse … I was told exactly what to say and my heart responded. How many more times has He tried but my heart just didn’t hear?

I wish I could say that my lesson was well learned that day and that I have listened to every nudge since, but the truth is I still respond without a filter when a situation or individual catches me off guard. I typically regret my response as soon as it leaves my mouth. I’m going to try and work harder on that particular personality trait. Maybe one day, God will honor me with another important nudge and my heart will be listening. In the meantime, I’ll try and respond to all those around me in a voice that echoes His Word.

God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way.

He wants you to be just like Jesus. Max Lucado

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