“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: … a time to be silent and a time to speak …” Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7b (NIV)
“Timing is everything.”
How many times have I heard that? How many times have I heeded that? Hmmm. Those two answers are not the same.
Just the other day, I spoke up when what I really should have done was remain silent. It was not pretty. I should have remembered the time that keeping my comments to myself helped my son figure out something for himself.
When my son, Steven, was about 7 years old, we went snow skiing. For hours, I instructed him how to stand up, ski down and get up once he fell. In his frustration, Steven fell down and fell down and fell down. He was not getting the hang of it at all. What’s the problem? I wondered.
Then I found out. It was me.
“Mom,” Steven cried, “if you just quit telling me what to do, I think I could get it.”
“Fine!” I said. “Go ahead and do it your way!”
And you know what? He did. Thirty minutes later, Steven was cruising down the slopes with ease. My continued instruction had been a hindrance to Steven working out the maneuvers on his own.
Sometimes the most powerful words are the ones we withhold. Ecclesiastes 3 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens … a time to be silent and a time to speak” (vv.1, 7).
In the Bible, Esther is a wonderful example of a wise woman who knew there was a time to speak up and a time to remain silent. Under the influence of the evil Haman, King Xerxes issued a decree that the Jewish people be destroyed. (Esther 3) However, the king didn’t know that Queen Esther was one of them.
After much prayer, fasting, deliberation and counsel with her uncle Mordecai, Esther went before the king to make her petition for her people to be spared. It was an important request because the entire Jewish nation was at stake. When the king asked her to make her request, she didn’t grovel at his feet and beg for her people to be saved. Rather, she calmly invited him to dinner.
The timing wasn’t right.
When the king attended the soiree the following evening, she still didn’t grovel at his feet and beg for her people to be spared. Once again, she invited him to dinner the following evening.
The timing still wasn’t right.
At the second dinner party, the king offered Esther yet a third opportunity to make her request. Finally, Esther revealed Haman’s plot to annihilate the entire Jewish nation, which included her. The Jews were justified, and Haman was hanged.
Esther waited until the timing was right. Sure, she could have quickly made the request the first time she approached the king. She could have given her petition at the first dinner party when he offered her anything she desired, “up to half the kingdom” (Esther 5:3c, NIV). But there was something in Esther’s spirit that caused her to remain silent.
Even though the Bible doesn’t tell us directly, it’s possible Esther was listening to God’s guidance and direction.
The woman in Proverbs 31 was such a woman. The Bible says, “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue” (Proverbs 31:26, NIV).
In this verse, the original Hebrew word translated “wisdom,” chokmah, also means skill, shrewdness and prudence. A skill isn’t something that comes naturally but something that is developed with practice over a period of time. When we practice knowing when to speak and when to remain silent, we become wise.
Whether we’re talking about raising children, deepening a relationship or interacting with a co-worker, we can follow Esther’s example to know when to speak and when to remain silent.
And here’s my rule of thumb: When in doubt, leave it out. Today, let’s take a 10-second pause before we give an opinion, an instruction or a response. May our words honor others, and more importantly, may they honor God.
Heavenly Father, help me know when to speak up and when to keep silent. Help me say the right words at the right time to the right people. And if the timing isn’t right, then give me the self-control to keep quiet. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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The words you speak shape the lives of others and become the mirrors in which they see themselves. With Sharon Jaynes’ book The Power of a Woman’s Words, explore how to speak life into those around you and tame your tongue by applying practical principles that help you think before you speak.
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FOR DEEPER STUDY
Psalm 141:3, “Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” (NIV)
Based on David’s prayer above in Psalm 141:3, why do you think it’s so difficult to remain silent? Who did David ask to help him? Who can we ask to help us?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
© 2021 by Sharon Jaynes. All rights reserved.
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