Overcoming the Curse of WordsMore Powerful Than Words
Leslie Basham: Words are forceful. But there’s something even more forceful than words. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: The power of what Jesus did on the cross broke the power of every curse in your life. That doesn’t mean you won’t get cursed, but it means that there is a power of God’s blessing that is greater than that curse.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, February 24.
I remember when I was little someone told me I walked like a monkey. I think they meant it to be cute, but I remember it even to this day. Even if they’re not true, the things others say can stick with us and affect our lives for years.
But there’s a way to be free. Nancy will talk about it this week in a series called "Overcoming the Curse of Words."
Nancy: A few days ago I received an email from a friend whom I’ve known quite well over a number of years. In this email she shared with me a part of her life that I was not aware of, and my spirit was just kind of crushed as I read more of her story than I’d ever heard before.
Isn’t it true that in most of our lives there’s more to our story than what people know, even if they think they know us well. Many of you have become dear friends, and as I look around here today, I know parts of your stories—you know parts of mine—but the truth is, there are things behind those facades that “all is well” that aren’t well.
My friend said, “I’ve spent a lifetime trying to overcome the abusive and insulting words that were hurled at me on a daily basis from my parents and my sister. I was called 'dummy,' 'stupid,' 'idiot,' and names I would not repeat. If I asked a question, I was a dummy, and if I made a mistake, I was stupid. The list goes on and on and those words have left a deep mark on who I am.”
She said, “To this day my mother can devastate me with insults and cruel comments. Last year when I visited my parents, it was so horrible that I spent the entire next month fighting suicidal tendencies. So here I am, a grown woman—mother and grandmother—still in pain from a lack of compassion and love that I so need from others.”
The curse of words can be really powerful, can’t it? Words that are spoken by others to us, or even sometimes words that we may speak to ourselves. Words that are intended to inflict harm or damage, to belittle us, to wish us evil. Let me ask you to turn in your Bible to 2 Samuel 16. I want to have us look at a story in the life of King David that illustrates the power of words and the curse of words and how to respond to the curse of words.
To put this in context, David is the King of Israel, and yet his own son has made a claim to the throne. He is trying to usurp the throne, has rebelled against the King, and David is now having to flee for his life from his own son. A man named Shimei comes up as David and his men are fleeing.
We pick up on 2 Samuel 16:5:
When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul.
Just stop there for a moment. This man was a distant relative of King Saul. Who was King Saul? He was the king who preceded King David. David had waited for years for God to overthrow King Saul—which in fact did happen—and then David took the throne.
So here’s a man from Saul’s family who’s angry that David has now taken the throne. His name is Shimei, the son of Gera and, “as he came he cursed continually.” The Old Testament word for “cursing” doesn’t necessarily mean profanity or bywords. It has to do with speaking words that are intended to inflict damage—words that are harmful, words that belittle and demean.
He was speaking ugly words intended to be destructive to David. He cursed continually, and verse 6, “he threw stones at David.” This is now not only cursing, but physical abuse. It’s relentless; it’s going on continually.
He threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David, and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. And Shimei said as he cursed,"Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man!" (vv. 6–7).
Some of your translations say here, “You son of Belial!” It’s a phrase that means, “You good-for-nothing!” It’s an ugly term. “Get out of here you worthless thing, you good-for-nothing!”
The LORD has avenged on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned, and the LORD has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood (v. 8).
So here’s David, already down and out. Now he’s experiencing cursing and physical abuse that’s relentless and continual, and it’s false accusations. David wasn’t the one who overthrew King Saul. He could have. He had some good opportunities to do it, but he refused to do it. Instead, God had overthrown King Saul.
But Shimei’s mocking David and saying that God is avenging the death of King Saul by driving David from power. As you read these words, perhaps you think of words that have been spoken to you—words that were ugly, words that were hurtful, words that were harmful, words that wounded you, maybe words that were totally, or at least partially, undeserved.
"You’re so clumsy!" "You’ll never amount to anything!" "You always . . ." "You never . . ." "You can’t . . ." "You’re just like . . ." "You’ll never change." "You’ll be just like your mother." "You’ll never find anyone to love you!"
I think of a friend who told me just recently that when she just made a childish mistake as a little girl, her father looked at her and said, “Drop dead!” “You worthless thing; you good-for-nothing.”
Being a child of God doesn’t make you immune to the cursing of others. Sometimes others do curse us, in the sense of speaking these hurtful, harmful, belittling words. Sometimes God doesn’t keep them from doing it, though He could. Sometimes God lets this happen. It’s a cursed world; it’s a fallen world, and sometimes God lets that just be lived out.
Some of you, perhaps all of us here, have experienced at some time or another that God didn’t stop people from saying things to us that just were like a knife. They wounded, they inflicted enormous damage. You may not be able to stop it from happening, but the key is how we respond to that cursing—what we do with it.
In what happened next here in 2 Samuel, we see two different ways to respond to cursing that comes upon us. The first way is how Abishai responded. He was David’s bodyguard and his nephew. He knew the attack was not justified. He was defending his Uncle David, and he demonstrated the way of responding to cursing that comes most naturally.
Abishai says in 2 Samuel 16:9,
“Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head.”
What does he do? He curses back: “You called my uncle a good-for-nothing? Well, you’re a dead dog!” It was like the worst thing he could think of to say. “We’re not going to take this lying down! Let me go over and destroy him!”
The penalty for cursing the king was a capital offense. So what Abishai was really saying was, “Give him what he deserves. He cursed you; you curse him back. Destroy him! Decapitate him!” But David demonstrates a different way of responding.
By the way, in Abishai’s response, do you see yourself at all? Maybe you’ve never said those words, “Off with your head!” but did you ever think them? “You dead dog!” Give it back . . . cursing for cursing. “You get what you deserve. I’ll give you what you deserve.”
We may do it a little more subtly, but we often do it nonetheless. That’s what comes naturally. But David demonstrates a supernatural way of responding.
But the king said, "What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the LORD has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’ . . . Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. It may be that the LORD will look on the wrong done to me, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing today” (vv. 10–12).
David’s response is birthed out of a theology, and our responses to life are always born out of theology. What is the theology? You say, “I’m not a theologian.” Oh, yes you are. Theology is just your view of God—what you think about God. We all have a theology.
- If you view God as a vindictive God, then your theology will dictate that you become a vindictive person.
- If your theology doesn’t understand the grace and mercy of God, then you will not extend grace and mercy to those who sin against you.
But David has the theology—a view of God, a way of thinking about God—that enables him to respond to cursing in a totally unnatural, or in a supernatural, way.
What is David saying? “Leave matters in the Lord’s hands. God can handle this. He couldn’t be cursing me if God hadn’t been letting him do it. In fact, maybe God has sent this man into my life because God knows there’s something I need to hear.”
I would say, by the way, some of the things that have been said to me over the years that have hurt me most deeply, that I’ve reacted to, as I’ve looked back on those I've found there was a kernel of truth there God wanted to use to sanctify me. But because I so reacted to the untruth, or to the extreme or negative or harsh way in which it was said, I missed out on something that God was wanting to say to me.
I’m not justifying anybody talking the way Shimei did, and I’m not saying the person who cursed you did it in a way that was pleasing to the Lord. But David has room in his theology for God to be God. He’s saying in effect, “I’m not going to run the universe. I can’t run it. It’s God’s to run. So let God take care of Shimei, and God can take care of me. God can return good to me in place of the cursing that I’ve received.”
So rather than defend himself, rather than act violently, David restrains himself. He’s able to do so because he recognizes the sovereignty of God.
It’s that view of God that enables him to respond humbly and receive Shimei’s curse as from the Lord. As you think back to the people who have cursed you, maybe there’s one sentence, one phrase, one person whose words are still (years later) lodged in your heart, in your mind. In a sense they’re still cursing you because you’re still thinking about it, still remembering it, still being affected by it today.
Ask yourself, “Have I reacted more like Abishai did—‘You dead dog! Off with your head!’” Maybe you never said those words, but is there anger, bitterness in your heart toward those who cursed you? Or do you have a view of God that enables you to respond humbly, quietly. A view that enables you to be restrained and to say, “God can handle this. God will handle that person, and God can bless me in spite of what anyone else has done to curse me.”
Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back with the second half of today’s program. That teaching is part of the series called "Overcoming the Curse of Words." To order it on CD, visit ReviveOurHearts.com. While you’re there, you can also check out the daily transcript, and listen to archives of the program.
Here’s more teaching from Nancy.
Nancy: I have a friend who’s now a wife and mother of several children, who has talked to me a little about her upbringing. She was adopted as a little girl. Her adoptive father was involved in spiritual leadership in their church. But during her growing-up years in this adopted family, she experienced a lot of verbal and physical abuse.
Finally when she was a senior in high school, she got up the courage to go and talk to her pastor. She waited one night until the end of their youth group activities and then stayed after to talk to the pastor, fearing that since her father was one of the leaders in this church, the pastor would be concerned about this.
She talked to the pastor who basically told her, “You’re going to have to wait it out. You’re about to graduate. Just hang in there.” This was not particularly encouraging to her. But then, worse, when she got home late that night, somehow her parents had found out that she had been talking to the minister, and they had waited up for her.
This is what she says happened when she got home. She said, “They didn’t lay a hand on me, but for the next hour or so they told me repeatedly about how much I was an embarrassment to them, that I was ugly as dirt, that they wished they had never adopted me, and that I would never amount to anything.
"All I remember doing was sitting there and crying. Finally, after saying those things over and over to me, they let me go up to my room. I fell on my face and cried out to God, and said that I couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted to die.”
How many of you remember something that was similar—or maybe it was quite different—that was said to you as a child? Maybe it was said by parents, maybe by a friend (or someone you thought was a friend) or maybe by a classmate or teache or a sibling . . . something that was said to you that hurt so deeply that you look back on it and see it as a curse of words. You still remember it, it still affects you today. How many of you have something like that that you can think of in your background? Most.
As I’ve talked with women in particular over the last several weeks as I’ve been working on this series, I’ve been amazed at how many have things that just went way back in their past, that they remember as if it happened yesterday. It was so hurtful, so harmful, so damaging. It’s been something that has held on to them and, in some cases, been highly destructive into their adult lives.
In some cases, the person who said it is not even alive any longer, but these women—and sometimes men as well—are still carrying this curse of words with them today.
As I’ve listened to these heart cries and I’ve been in the Word of God studying this subject, I’ve been heavy-hearted on the one hand. I so feel the weight and the sadness, that people should have to live with these things for all these years. And yet, I've been so encouraged as I’ve gone to the Scriptures to find out that in the Word of God are the resources to help us break free from the curse of words.
Whatever that curse might have been, however it was placed upon us, whoever may have placed it upon us, there’s hope that we don’t, as children of God, need to be in bondage to these curses that have been placed upon us in our childhood. For some of you it’s not your childhood. For some of you it’s in your marriage. Some of you are still living in a home . . .
I get these emails and letters from women who are living with a cursing man. Again, let me say, we’re not just talking about profanity. We’re saying words that are intended to demean, to control, to hurt. Whether you’re living with it now or you remember it from your past and it still has a mark in your heart that won’t go away, based on the authority of God’s Word, it is possible to overcome the power of those curses in your life.
I want to talk, over these next several days, about some practical biblical principles to overcoming the curse of words, in your past or in your present. Now all these points, to help you remember them a little, start with the letter “r.” You may want to jot down these key points. If you don’t get them all, we’re going to post the on the website as a list, with some Scripture verses to go with them, and you can go back and retrieve them there.
Number one, if you want to overcome the curse of words in your life, there’s something you need to realize (there are several things you need to realize). This is where we need to lay a foundation for our thinking. For example, you need to realize that no one can curse you apart from God’s permission.
We saw this earlier. When Shimei cursed King David, and David said, “Let him alone. Don’t take off his head. God has allowed him to do this.” Don’t ask me to explain how God allows, why God allows, does God order it? God does not ordain sin, by any means. But somehow in God’s providence and in His dealings with man, He allows—and orders—the things that come into our lives. You have to start there, and you have to realize that no one can curse you if God doesn’t let them.
In the book of Numbers, chapter 22, there’s the whole story of Balaam, who was bribed by the king of Moab to curse the Israelites. He tried several times to curse the Israelites, but God wouldn’t let Balaam do it. So you read Balaam saying to Balak, “Have I now any power of my own to speak anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that must I speak” (v.38).
And Balak comes back to Balaam and says, “I wanted you to curse them, but you blessed them! Why did you do it?” He had even paid Balaam to curse the Israelites. And Balaam says, “[How can I curse those whom God has not cursed?] Behold, I received a command to bless: he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it. . . . There is no enchantment against Jacob, there is no divination [or evil cursing that can be spoken] against Israel” (Num. 23:12–20, 23). That’s the illustration.
On the other side, in David’s case, God allowed Shimei to curse. In the case of Balak and Balaam, God wouldn’t let Balaam curse Israel. So realize that no one can curse you if God doesn’t let them. The most hurtful, harmful things that were said to you did not escape the notice or the attention of God.
Then remember, realize, that if you are a child of God, you are blessed, regardless of what others do or say to you. Something again, that you need to realize, others may have cursed you, but you have the blessing of God on your life if you are His child.
Then, realize that the blessing of God in your life is more powerful than any human curse—no matter what anyone may say to you, no matter how they may curse you. We have some listening who have even received Satanic curses or spells put on the through Satanic ritual abuse . . . horrible things done to little children.
There are women listening who have been through that kind of cursing, and even there I would remind you that the blessing of God in your life is more powerful than any curse that anyone can put upon you.
One other thing you need to realize is that through Christ God has made provision to set you free from every curse. There is no curse of words, or any other kind of curse, that has the power to control your life any longer if you are in Christ.
The power of what Jesus did on the cross broke the power of every curse in your life. That doesn’t mean that you won’t get cursed, but it means that there’s a power of God’s blessing that is greater than that curse. That curse that comes to you has no power to overcome you. It cannot overpower you; it cannot take over your life unless you let it.
Through Christ there is the power—the provision—to be free from every curse that anyone has ever—or will ever—put upon you. So realize those things:
- No one can curse you apart from God’s permission.
- If you’re a child of God, you’re blessed in spite of any cursing that has been put upon you.
- The blessing of God is more powerful than any human curse.
- Through Christ there is the provision to be free from every curse.
You say, “What do I do with these curses?” Think about the curse that’s been spoken, and then having realized these foundational principles, review the source of the words that were spoken to you. Review the source of the words. The words that others have spoken to you, review them in light of God’s Word. Ask yourself about the things that have been spoken to you, that came as cursing: “Is this true? Does it agree with what God says in His Word?” Review the things that have been said.
Then, reject any things that have been said, that are not true. Review what was said in the light of God’s Word, ask yourself, “Is this true?” Then reject any words that are not true. You see, curses that have been spoken to you, if you are a child of God, only have power over you if you receive them . . . if you believe them.
If the things that are said are not true, if they’re not consistent with God’s Word, they have no power over you. What makes them powerful is when we believe them, when we receive them. When we believe things that are said about us: “You’ll never amount to anything; you’re worth nothing; you’re no good.” When you believe those words that are contrary to the Word of God (they’re not true), you invest power in those words.
Do you know what, ultimately, you’re doing? You’re cursing yourself. That’s what gives those words their power. Proverbs 26:2 says, “Like the fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow . . .” You watch birds and they just dart around, here and there. Don’t they get tired? They never land it seems. Proverbs says, like that fluttering sparrow and darting swallow, an undeserved curse—words that are spoken that aren’t true—“an undeserved curse does not come to rest.”
It can’t rest unless you say, “I accept it. I believe it. I receive it.” So, think about the words that have been spoken. I think about a friend who told me last week as we were talking about this whole thing of blessing and cursing,
“One instance comes to my mind immediately. When I was in junior high school, I was small; I was not developed physically. When we had gym class, we were changing and having to shower. One of my little girlfriends looked at me and said, ‘Are you sure you’re really a girl?’ You cannot imagine how much that hurt!”
And then she said, “I started to wonder. Was I the first freak that God made on earth, that maybe I wasn’t a girl?”
I said to her, “When did you discover you were a girl?” She laughed—she’s a beautiful woman—and she said, “I don’t know when, but that so hurt.” Now forty years later she still remembers that. That curse had power in her life as long as she received it.
You know when it lost its power? When she realized it wasn’t true, and she began to reject it because it wasn’t true.
- Realize that those curses don’t have to have power over you.
- Review where those words came from. Are they true? Compare to God’s Word, evaluate them in light of God’s Word.
- Reject any words that aren’t true.
Only if you agree with those words will those words have any power to overcome you.
Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss in a series called "Overcoming the Curse of Words." She’s been showing us how Jesus provides the ultimate freedom from the curse of words. Nancy will be right back to pray. First, let me remind you that we’ll be getting to know Jesus better during the Lenten season here on Revive Our Hearts.
Nancy will teach a new major series called "The Wonder of His Name: 32 Life-Changing Names of Jesus." The series begins Wednesday, March 5, and I hope you’ll get a copy of the devotional book that complements the series. In the book The Wonder of His Name, you’ll read thirty-two devotional entries from Nancy and enjoy the beautiful illustrations from artist Timothy Botts.
It’s yet another way to focus on Jesus leading up to Easter, and getting to know Him more. We’ll send you the book, The Wonder of His Name, when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Ask for the book when you call 1–800–569–5959, or visit