WORDS OF TRUTH
There are some stories that change your life. This is one of them for me.
by Ellie Holcomb
I WAS EATING DINNER at a Young Life camp called Windy Gap outside of Asheville, North Caroline. The sun was setting golden across the water in the lake, scattering light all over the valley, and I was sitting across from my sweet friend who battles depression. As I was listening to her share her heart with me, I realized that she was believing a lot of lies — lies about who God is and how He loves us, as well as lies about who she is and what she was made for. In the middle of that conversation, I started to get really mad. I realized that I was believing a boatload of lies myself.
I remembered that there is an enemy, who is called the father of lies (that punk), and steals most of our joy and peace and the “life to the full” (see John 10:10) that Jesus comes to offer us. My heart rate was rising, and I thought, You know what? I’m not going down without a fight, and if God calls His Word a sword, I think we should start using it.
So, I stopped my friend in her tracks and said, “I think we’re believing a lot of lies, and it’s not enough for us to just acknowledge the lies we believe. We desperately need to replace the lies with something much stronger, so you and I are going to start memorizing Scripture together, and we’re going to call the verses we memorize our ‘fighting words.’ So, get out your journal and write these down!”
When I think about it now, it makes me laugh, because I was being awfully bossy. I started flipping through my Bible in a frenzy, looking for any verse I had ever underlined. I spurted out each Scripture reference, and my friend graciously agreed to write them down and join me in memorizing them. I had no idea that what we started that day would change me for the rest of my life.
Sent from Heaven
Truth be told, we weren’t very good at Scripture memory. I hadn’t done anything like that since I was a kid in Sunday School. But as we slowly worked to bury God’s promises in our hearts, it started changing us! It didn’t necessarily change our circumstances, though. Memorizing Scripture didn’t take away my friend’s depression, but it started changing us from the inside out and giving us solid ground to stand on when the shame storms rolled in.
God’s Word became a shelter, comfort, light, balm, and song that we started singing into the darkness within us and around us. We realized that God isn’t lying when He says that His Word is just like the rain that falls from the heavens and doesn’t return without first nourishing the earth, causing it to bud and flourish … the words that go out of His mouth will accomplish the purposes for which He sends them (see Isaiah 55:10-11)! That is a serious promise that I have so often taken for granted, but my goodness, I’ve found this promise to be true over and over again.
Some of the first verses we memorized was Psalm 73:21-26: “When I became embittered and my innermost being was wounded, I was stupid and didn’t understand; I was an unthinking animal toward you. Yet I am always with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me up in glory. Who do I have in heaven but you? And I desire nothing on earth but you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever.”
So often, when my heart would get itself into trouble, make mistakes, stumble, or doubt, I would fall into a pit of shame, running away from God to hide my failures. But as I committed these verses to memory, they helped my weary and forgetful heart remember that:
- God is always with me, and
- When my “flesh and my heart” fail, God is my strength and my portion forever.
What a comfort! I make a mess of things, but God is good and full of mercy and faithfulness to cover every bit of my failures. Having access to these verses in the depths of my soul has been vital for me. It’s like having a constant source of light in the darkest night. I don’t have to have extra batteries on hand; the Light is within me, deep in my heart. And it shines like the stars when the enemy stands trying to accuse me and send me into those places of shame where all I want to do is hide from God.
This is just one example of how memorizing Scripture has brought me light, life, and hope, but there are so many others.
Set to Music
As we continued to struggle through memorizing verses, a thought hit me one day: I have a hard time with Scripture memory, but I can sing a thousand songs easily without a thought or care in the world! This was nothing new under the sun, but I wondered what would happen if I began to sit in God’s Word and let music come out.
At first, I thought I was writing songs for myself to help my weary and unbelieving heart on the days it felt hard. I thought, If I can sing it, maybe that will help me to believe that this promise in God’s Word is true. If I can sing it, maybe I’ll have a better shot at remembering it when I need this truth the most. What I thought were songs for me and my friend turned into an entire music career that I never dreamed or imagined would be a possibility. This wasn’t the goal or the vision, of course, but sometimes God takes our surrendered yes and turns it into something we couldn’t have dreamed or imagined on our own.
My husband calls me a “modern day psalmist.” I’m usually writing to work out my faith in a song. God’s Word has been a treasure to me, and even though I don’t fully understand all of it, I’ll never be able to shake the way it’s changed and shaped me or the way it has been such a source of hope and light and peace.
Treasure and Light
Several years into this Scripture memory journey, I was on the phone with my friend, Sara, marveling at how consistently God’s Word had been to changing and encouraging me. She said, “Ellie, it makes total sense. This is what Jesus did when Satan was lying to Him in the desert.” She was exactly right!
There’s a story of Jesus being tempted in the desert for 40 days. Each time the enemy lies to Him, Jesus responds, “It is written” and then follows up with truth from the Word of God (see Matt. 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13). I was floored! If Jesus Himself fought off the lies of the enemy with God’s Word, we should probably do that too.
So here is my wide-arms, broad-grinning invitation to you: I want to invite you to bury some treasure and light in your heart.
Let’s kick back at the shadows with the light. God says that the truth will set you free (see John 8:32), and I’m certain it will change you and leave you with more hope. That’s what God’s Word has done for me and my forgetful heart. I don’t want anyone to miss out on the beauty that comes on the other side of memorizing God’s promises, of tucking away some “fighting words” in your soul to replace the lies with the truth. Join me? I hope you will.
Each Friday, I post on Instagram a verse that is speaking light into the darkness for me. I call these posts Fighting Words Fridays. I invite you to join me and my online community to memorize some of these promises together.
So often I forget to trust His Word more than what my eyes can see. I forget to let His Word have the final say on my worth and identity instead of likes or comments on Instagram or the way that people receive or respond to me. Having God’s Word tucked into my heart has been like medicine for my soul, because often on the very days I forget, His words float up to the surface of my mind, reminding me of who I am: a beloved daughter of the most high God. No matter what I’m facing, He is with me. God is the best storywriter, the Author of all that is good, my Redeemer. His Word reminds me that He is the One who knows me best and loves me anyway.
I can’t wait to hear the stories of how He’ll use His Word in your life to guide, comfort, heal, restore, transform, and protect you. I’m smiling now at the thought of how much life and light will come as you find some “fighting words” of your own. My prayer is that in sharing some of the verses that have been liberating and deeply encouraging for me, we all would be encouraged to shift our focus from our fear to His faithfulness, from our not-enough to His more-than-enough, from our weakness to His strength, and from the lies we so often believe to His truth that will set us free. •
Ellie Holcomb began her musical career touring with her husband in the Americana band Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors. In 2014, she began weaving Scripture into songs, including “The Broken Beautiful,” “Red Sea Road,” and “Canyon.” In 2018, she began creating a new generation of little fans with her children’s books, Who Sang The First Song? and Don’t Forget to Remember, each with companion children’s music. Ellie, her husband, Drew, and their three children live and make music in Nashville.
This article originally appeared in HomeLife magazine (October 2021). For more articles like this, subscribe to HomeLife.