In his book Encouragement: The Key to Caring, Larry Crabb tells the story of how nerve wracking it was the first time he nervously volunteered to pray out loud during a church service. Larry, who struggled with stuttering as a youngster, recalled, “I found my theology becoming confused to the point of heresy. I remember thanking the Father for hanging on the cross and praising Christ for triumphantly bringing the Spirit from the grave. Stuttering throughout, I finally thought of the word Amen, said it, and sat down. I recall staring at the floor, too embarrassed to look around, and solemnly vowing never again to pray or speak aloud in front of a group.”
After the service ended, an older man in his church sought Larry out. With a hand on his shoulder, he said, “Larry, there’s one thing I want you to know. Whatever you do for the Lord, I’m behind you one thousand percent.” He said nothing else, and walked away.
Now there was a man who understood the power of a timely word (Proverbs 15:23). Here was a young teenager whose heart was deeply troubled. Who knows…maybe the older gentlemen had been there himself and personally knew of the shame contaminating this young man’s soul. Whatever it was that compelled him to speak, his words were an example of the Proverb that says, “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body” (Proverbs 16:24).
When it comes to words of encouragement, timing is everything. It’s why the Proverbs also emphasized that even cheerful words spoken at the wrong time can be “like taking someone’s coat in cold weather or pouring vinegar in a wound” (Proverbs 25:20).
More good than we know can come out of the right words spoken at the right time. They have the power to mend and restore a broken heart.