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Bless Your Heart: Speaking Blessing in a Broken World

By Tripp Prince
Memorize
February 6, 2023 3 min read
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“Bless your heart.” 

Three simple and seemingly innocuous words that, when combined, have the power to convey previously unimaginable meaning. With a sweet tea in hand, the American Southerner exhibits true mastery of this phrase, using it at times to express sympathy, affection, and surprise, while equally able to convey exasperation, disgust, or pity. Ironically, rarely do these words communicate the one thing they actually promise: blessing.

From early childhood, we are taught that words carry little meaning, that they “can never hurt me.” It’s the sticks and stones we need to worry about. In fact, avoidance may be the most helpful way to categorize our common approach to speech. We’re taught what not to say. We learn lists of “bad” words. We often misspeak, and therefore fear speaking at all. Yet with each of these negative examples, a powerful truth is contained within. Words do carry profound power, and while they can be abused, this must not keep us from using them and sharing the gift that they are meant to be.

In Scripture, words are one of the primary ways that the Lord gives good things to his people. 

They are a wonderful example of the incarnational way in which God interacts with and speaks to his people. Yes, there are many examples of the Lord speaking directly, often from within the mystery of a cloud. However, notice how this immediate word is spoken to a leader of his people, such as Moses (e.g., Exod 19:9). Interestingly, this word is then meant to be declared by an individual over the people as a means through which God blesses the whole family. Thus, famously in Numbers, 

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them,

The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.
 (Num 6:22-27 NRSV)

God is the one who blesses, yet he chooses to do so through broken and bent people. Our failures and shortcomings are not a barrier to God blessing us, or speaking blessings to others through us. It is for this reason that St. Paul, a man who spent his entire life keenly aware of his own failures and need for grace, was able, time and again, to boldly speak the blessings of God over the faith communities he dearly loved. To name but a few:

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Rom 15:13 (NKJV)

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:7 (NIV)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Col 3:16 (ESV)

As their spiritual father, Paul was intimately aware of their joys and sorrows, their fidelity to Christ and their painful shortcomings. Yet in each of his letters, no matter how dire the situation, he spoke words of blessing that invited them into a new way of being. These words called them out of the darkness and into the light of life. They were never punitive nor manipulative, but grace-filled and overflowing with hope: who you were yesterday is not who you have to be today. 

Looking to these examples of old, let us keep these ancient words of blessing on our hearts and minds, remembering that Love is on the move, longs to bless us, and through our words, bless the hearts of others.

Benedictions and Doxologies

Russell - NLT
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About the author

Tripp Prince

Tripp Prince is the Head of Formation at Dwell. He lives with his wife and three children in the countryside of North Georgia.