There is a saying in English, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. However, words do hurt us. Especially things that our parents say about us.
There was a man in the Bible whose mother had a bad time during her labour, so she called him Jabez, a Hebrew word which sounds like “pain!” Unfortunately, she had a negative attitude towards him from the moment he was born.
Imagine spending the whole of your childhood and youth being called Pain. No doubt other children teased him and cause him more pain. But I think the greatest heartache must have come from constantly hearing his beloved mother speaking to him in such a negative way. Every day, without respite, she called him Pain. I expect there were times when his parents and teachers expanded on it, saying things like, “Pain, you have the right name, you ARE a pain!”
As children, we long to hear people we love saying warm, affirming, positive things about us.
But sometimes that doesn’t happen. Sometimes all we seem to hear is insults, put downs and sarcasm. Whether it is spoken or not, the underlying message we can start to believe in these circumstances is, “I wish you had never been born”.
Jabez lived like this all his life. Even as an adult, he still had the same name, reminding him that he wasn't like anyone else. He was a pain!
But the Bible says he was ‘more honourable than his brothers’. How do we know that? Because of how he responded to the circumstances. Instead of becoming bitter, or depressed or grimly resigned to a life where he would always be on the bottom of life’s pile, he turned to God.
Here is his story, from 1 Chronicles 4:9-10.
Jabez was more honourable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.
Instead of becoming angry and bitter, Jabez turned to God and prayed earnestly, pleading with his whole heart ... “Oh God, please turn my destiny around. Don’t let me live in pain. Don’t let me cause pain or suffer pain. Don’t let this curse stick to me. Please God, use your power and love to change it for me. Please let me be blessed, not cursed. Let your favour be on me. Even though my mother cursed my life with this name, please neutralise the curse, and more than that, please give me blessing instead”.
And because he looked to the Lord, he was released from the curse of living up to his name, and he lived a life of blessing instead.
Many people have been raised in circumstances which leave them feeling cursed in some way. Maybe through insulting words that are said to them every day of their growing up. Maybe in other ways. They have been called by names which have negative meanings. If you think “I can relate to that!”, then why not ask the Lord to set you free from the consequences of it, just as Jabez did?
Prayer: Oh God, please bless me and take the power away from all the negative names that people have ever called me. These words in particular come to my mind (tell God the negative things that were said to you, or are tied up in your name). I choose to forgive the people who spoke these words. Oh God, please set me free from this. Please don’t allow these negative things to be fulfilled in my life. Instead, please bless me, so that good things will come to my life instead. Thank You that You are a God who loves to turn curses into blessings. Thank You that Jesus was cursed on the cross so that I could be set free from every curse. I trust You to hear my prayer. Thank You. Amen.
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