Pain can leave us speechless. It’s hard to know what to say when someone has just lost someone dear to them. How can you encourage your friend with a terminal illness without sounding trite? How can you comfort someone whose home has gone up in smoke? Who suffers in a loveless marriage? Who endures so much heartache and turmoil every day that you wonder how they keep going?

Sabina Wurmbrand was arrested in 1950 and spent three years in a Romanian labor camp during the Communist reign, because she was a Christian.  She and other believers were thrown together with murderers, thieves, and hardened criminals. Surrounded by such darkness, many were tempted to despair. Sabina visited that same prison in the 1990’s and told the inmates her story about the power of words.*

When she was there the prisoners began each day with hateful words—to each other and the world at large. Opening their eyes to this every day was worse for the believers than all the torture, beatings, and hunger.  “It was like being in hell,” Sabina said. They wondered how they could maintain any kind of hope in such a place.

One young woman in their group spoke up. “We have a program for all the Christians wherever they are—Psalm 107. Do you know how it starts? ‘Oh, give thanks to the Lord for His mercy endures forever.’” Then she emphasized the rest of the verse. “‘Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.”

And so the battle ensued. These Christian women decided to make Psalm 107:1 their morning greeting to everyone they saw, believers as well as unbelievers. And it transformed the prison! “The hell was changed completely by the Word of God, by giving thanks to the Lord even in the most difficult circumstances.” Non-believers began asking them in the middle of the night if they would teach them the greeting and they began repeating the words.

The rest of Psalm 107 fleshes out many difficulties people experience in life: homelessness, hunger, thirst, imprisonment, depression, storms, and oppression. In every situation, their hope came when they turned away from despair and gave praise to God. The last verse says, “Let the one who is wise heed these things and ponder the loving deeds of the LORD” (Psalm 107:43, NIV).

Ponder. Think about God, then praise Him. What a plan!

In these months of “imprisonment” under COVID-19’s tyranny, we’ve heard voices of cursing, fear, bewilderment, and deception. We can begin each morning with the news and lose all courage to face the day and reach out to those around us. Or, we can begin each day in God’s Word and give thanks for His unfailing mercy. Then speak this hope to whoever we meet. We’re redeemed! Let’s say so.

How might our words of faith and praise to God affect those around us? What we choose to speak from the prison of our own trials and suffering can make all the difference in how others view our faith and the God we believe in. Will they put their hope in Christ and ask us to teach them the words too?

* Sabina and Richard Wurmbrand were taken from their home and young son by the communists in Romania. They were starved, beaten, and persecuted for their faith in Jesus. After their eventual release they started a ministry to make the rest of the world aware of modern day persecution. The Voice of the Martyrs continues to inform saints around the world how to equip and pray for our brothers and sisters who have lost jobs, homes, families, and are suffering torture and death for their faith. Quotes in this article are from the May 2020 issue of “The Voice of the Martyrs.”