I love to talk! My mom reminds me that I was “talking even before I was walking.” As a toddler, I used to sit with my back to the television just talking to everyone who came into the room. When I reached middle school my love for talking began to evolve into public speaking. I was invited to share speeches in our church and community earning my first $250.00 when I entered a neighborhood public speaking event and won. In high school I was a part of the Speech and Debate club competing in the category of Extemporaneous Speaking and Oratory.
Friends would ask me why I was a part of these things and I would respond “I love to talk.” Now I know it was not just about talking but discovering that I actually had a voice. In college I majored in Speech Communications learning about the art of public speaking and using my voice to earn a grade and a degree.
When I became a Christian in college and was asked to “share my faith” it was the first time in my life I was afraid to use my voice. I loved to read scripture and was passionate about studying God’s Word but at times I found myself afraid to share with my family, friends and people I met about my new love for Jesus. Would they accept me? Did they want to listen? Did they even care? What would I say?
Have you ever been afraid to use your voice? Why? Is it the opinion of others? Fear of messing up? Wondering if you have anything to say? Let’s explore God’s Word and be equipped and empowered to use our voices as women of faith to the glory of God.
Let’s look at two Scripture texts to equip and empower us to use our voice:
First, related to fear, Joshua 1:7-9 reminds us twice not to be afraid and be strong and courageous because God is with us.
“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:7-9 (NIV).
In this text we first acknowledge God is with us, wherever we go, therefore we do not have to be afraid. Our strength and courage comes from God. As we mediate on God’s word allowing God’s presence and power to fill us and lead us; we learn to use our voice to speak with boldness and confidence. I learned to embody this scripture after reading a small pamphlet years ago from Joyce Meyer Ministries. The pamphlet was called “Do it Afraid”. It taught me that sometimes the emotion or feelings of fear might not go away but I could acknowledge feeling fearful in the moment and still obey God. I learned I didn’t have to wait for the fear, anxiety, stress or butterflies in my stomach to leave me. This was liberating! Even today, before I speak or share a message I still feel nervous, but guess what, I “do it afraid” and God gets the glory.
The second scripture relates to resisting the temptation to self-protect and be silent as a woman when you know you’ve been called, challenged, or asked to use your voice. I’ve experienced this temptation to self-protect and be silent instead of speaking when the stakes feel high, I think I have something to lose, or it’s going to cost me something if I use my voice to speak up and speak out.
The book of Esther chapter 4 records her Uncle Mordecai’s request of Esther to use her “voice” to appeal to the King to help save the people. Initially Esther offers a self-protective response that sounds like an excuse, then Mordecai’s response is found in Esther 4:12-17.
When they told Mordecai what Esther had said, Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” Then Esther said in reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.” Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him. Esther 4:12-17 (NRSV)
Every time I am struggling to speak up and I am tempted to keep silent, I read Esther 4:12-17. These verses remind us of the consequences of our silence. Silence does not necessarily keep us safe. In Esther’s case her silence could have cost her and her family everything. Mordecai’s awareness of God’s sovereignty in Esther’s life is shown in the phrase “perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”Esther realized she was in the palace at that time and season to speak up and use her voice to fulfill God’s call upon her life and to help save others from destruction.
The chapter concludes with Esther asking the community to fast and pray with her and she chooses to be strong and courageous deciding she can use her voice, speak to the King and help save the people. Esther was equipped and empowered by God and encouraged by others to use her voice. We too can be equipped and empowered by God’s strength to courageously use our voice.
Using your voice to glorify God can happen in many different ways but is always rooted in truth and in love. Sharing your testimony and the good news of the gospel is using your voice. Standing up for someone who can’t stand up for themselves is using your voice. Having a hard conversation with someone to pursue forgiveness and reconciliation is using your voice. Whether you are called like Esther to stand before a powerful leader and speak boldly or to walk across your street and talk to your neighbor, we are all called to use what God has given us to point others back to Him.
How can YOU use your voice in your everyday life?
Rev. Dr. Candace M. Lewis