Every culture has jargon, common words and phrases that mean something to those in the group. I’m not against these phrases.
Some commonly used phrases, however, are more than a tired collection of words. They’re harmful. They inaccurately reflect something about God’s character.
Here are five phrases Christians needs to stop saying.
1. “I don’t have peace about it.”
Seven years ago, I found myself faced with a life-altering decision: stay at my current job as an engineer or leave engineering for full-time ministry.
I prayed about it for weeks. I begged God for a clear sign—I mean, we’re not talking about choosing a candy bar at a checkout line. We’re talking about a complete uprooting of everything. I knew nothing about working at a church. And my 25-year retirement plan? Gone. Being a pastor isn’t about money and certainly not about benefits. Can a brother get some insurance coverage?
Faced with the most difficult decision of my life, surely God would give me a sign. Maybe an angel would come to me in a dream like Joseph? Maybe God would speak audibly to me like he did Abraham and Moses?
Nothing happened, friends.
And here’s the thing: At no point did I feel “peace” about this. I felt terror. Like suddenly realizing you forgot to put on pants before tripping to the local market.
This terror is not much different from basically every door God opens in the Bible. Where in the Bible did someone feel peace about an open door from God? Did Abraham feel peace about leaving his family, his culture? When God opened a door for Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, did peace like a river attendeth his way? What about Jesus? Did our Savior feel peace about going to the cross? No, no and no.
I wonder how many Christians have refused to enter the life they were called to because they didn’t “feel peace” about stepping through a door in front of them. Often, when we don’t have peace about something, what we really don’t have is certainty. What we really don’t have is comfort and familiarity.
The path to a bigger, more meaningful life is almost always through doors of uncertainty. God doesn’t give us all the answers because he wants us to trust him with every step up to and beyond the door.
2. “This will pass. Things will get better.”
When we suffer, our first thought is, “When will this be over?” Maybe we’re just responding as humans—raise your hand if you like to suffer? But perhaps it’s the way we’re conditioned living in a mostly safe, comfortable country.
I’m not against freedom. But you won’t find such statements as “things will get better” in Scripture. Suffering was a door’s knock away for most folks in the Bible, you see. Sometimes it was the rival empire (Philistines) or the governing empire (Romans). Regardless, God’s people knew that things didn’t always get better.
Some of you know the same.
A couple months ago, I spent several weeks at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Every day, scooting from one “ologist” to another, I walked past hundreds of people who would not get better. I remember one girl vividly. After a long morning, I sat down in the cafeteria. I noticed this girl across the way, visibly tired but otherwise fine. Until she sat down. As soon she hit the chair, she lost it. She started weeping. I couldn’t help but wonder what she was just told.
Was she given a terminal diagnosis? Was she teetering on the edge of hope and despair?
I don’t know. But in that moment I realized suffering must be more than a season to endure. Because sometimes the season doesn’t end, not on this side of eternity.
Eugene Peterson says, “One of our commonest ploys in comforting the suffering is to talk about the future even though we know nothing about it.”
Do you see the danger of such a statement like, “It will get better”? We make ourselves and others believe God will make things better. He will take away the dark cloud of depression. He will remove the pain of losing your spouse. He will heal your cancer.
And God might. But he might not.
The message we need to hear is this: God doesn’t promise us a better tomorrow, or a future without storms; instead he offers to be with us in the present, to walk with us through the storm.
Suffering isn’t a mark of divine absence. Comfort is primarily tied to the present because that’s where we experience his presence.
3. “I’m blessed.”
God loves to bless his people. He starts early. Like in Chapter 1 of the Bible. Hardly out of the starting gate, in Genesis 1:28, we read, “Then God blessed them (Adam and Eve) …” If your God is more concerned with smiting than blessing, you missed something somewhere.
So what’s the problem with saying “I’m blessed”? At times, we see it through a cultural lens:
“Tom, how are you?”
“Aw, man. Life is good. I’m blessed.”
“Sally, where is your daughter going to college next year?”
“She got a scholarship to attend Stanford.”
“Scholarship? Wow, what a blessing.”
“Just closed on my first house. Livin’ the blessed life.”
Too often, we equate God’s blessing with our circumstances or possessions. Both are flawed interpretations of the blessed life.
Let’s take circumstances. Last year, I went through the most difficult year of my life. I felt a lot of things—lost, confused, depressed. What I didn’t feel was blessed.
In the Bible, however, the blessing of God has nothing to do with the events of your life. Blessing is a declaration of God’s approval of you, that God is for you and loves you. God’s blessing is a reflection of your identity, not your circumstances.
What about possessions? Look, I’m not against houses and cars, and certainly not scholarships. But many people in the world own neither a car nor a house. Are we to say these folks aren’t blessed? Of course not. If you’ve ever flown or chartered across waters to visit folks who have next to nothing, you were probably struck by how much they enjoyed life.
In God’s kingdom, the blessed life comes to the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted. I’m referencing, of course, Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:1-12).
Possessions and circumstances have nothing to do with the blessed life. The statement “I’m blessed” is as foundational a statement of truth as anyone can utter. You are blessed, right now, no matter your circumstances. No power of hell or scheme of man can negate this. You are loved by God. He is for you. Receive this blessing.
4. “It’s a God thing.”
I get it. Sometimes stuff happens that is so beyond reason, so past your power and ability, that you can only conclude God stepped in. Christians also say “It’s a God thing” as a way to deflect personal attention and give praise to God.
This statement implies, however, that some things are without God’s involvement, mostly the things within our power and reason, the ordinary and normal. Ninety-nine percent of days, in other words.
God is present and active in all situations at all times. The best and worst. The unexplainable and the hopelessly mundane. The mountain’s summit and the valley’s darkness.
When you change little Billy’s diaper, that’s a God thing. Monday morning is a God thing. So is a weekend with the in-laws. Every moment is a God moment, if we have eyes to see.
5. “Prayer works.”
For many Christians—including me—prayer has mostly been a one-sided dialogue with God. I would talk to God about the stuff I wanted him to fix, and more frequently depending on the severity of the stuff needing fixin’.
I approached prayer this way because God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing he cannot do. And because I was led to believe if I prayed hard enough for long enough, he would answer my requests (i.e., fix my problems).
But sometimes he didn’t. This angered me: “God, were you not listening? I asked specifically. Did I say it wrong? Was my posture incorrect?”
Good friends, prayer is not a means to get what you want. Prayer is a means to enter into a relationship with your Creator.
That’s what prayer is: relationship with God. That’s not to say God won’t give you what you want. Sometimes, he does the miraculous. But if he doesn’t heal your cancer or give you that child or that dream job, nothing has changed—not with God or with you. Prayer hasn’t stopped working. God hasn’t stopped desiring a relationship with you.
I would love to hear from you. What is a statement Christians need to stop saying?
Frank Powell is lead writer and editor for the blog at Bayside Church in Granite Bay, California. He is also a husband, father and Jesus follower. Occasionally he plays golf. Often he drinks coffee. You can find more of his content at Blog.BaysideOnline.