Verbiage: Pursuing the Art of Making Less Mean More

“Academic texts are often characterized by verbiage—the use of more words than are needed to express an idea. Verbiage does nothing but hide the real message of the text under a load of needless words, frustrate and dispirit the reader,
and weaken the credibility of the author.”

less is more
Too many words.

Most of my readers – and my faithful friends – know this about me: I often use too many words. I may even use different words, but I am actually repeating the same thing I’ve said. Instead of stating something simply, I feel the need to explain what needs no explanation. One simple sentence that has clearly communicated turns into three or four … and then there’s a paragraph.
(Surely by now my point has been made. :))

And yet I hope.
I’m clearly far from perfect in this area, but there’s progress. And I’m so thankful for the evidence of God’s grace in my life. He is working in me to produce more Christlikeness in every area of my life. I love how the NLT says it: Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.
He is working it in, and I’m working it out. Thanks be to God!! 🙂

But the struggle is real. And persistent.
In my lifelong journey with Christ, using too many words is not only annoying to my people (especially my patient but sometimes truthful hubby), it’s a habit that causes me to overthink. Meditation is good, but there are times when a brief statement contains so much truth that the impact of it rests in the simplicity of it. This is especially true when it comes to scripture – words penned by writers under the influence and inspiration of the Spirit of God. My presupposition about the authoritative nature of scripture leads me to conclude that all of scripture speaks God’s truth (2 Tim 3). So, not only are essential truths spoken concisely by Christ Himself, other writers like James and John share with us the essentials for obedience in simple statements, leaving us wishing for more words of explanation. (This usually happens not because the teaching is difficult to understand, but because we don’t find it particularly easy to apply.)

Just this week, I have been aware of my continued struggle with letting simple truths stand alone. As the amazing new song of Lauren Daigle (one of my very fave artists right now) has circulated in social media, I found myself wanting to clarify some things for her. As if the words of the song somehow needed my help to be true. Or maybe I mean, true-er.
I would like to think it’s my affection for context (the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed; the parts of something written or spoken that immediately precede and follow a word or passage and clarify its meaning) that makes me overly critical of simplistic statements or lyrics. But as I observed the impact of the words of this song on so many of my friends/family, it became evident that people need to remind themselves of what God thinks about His children. Some are actually craving to know what God says/thinks about them. Paul surely noticed that yearning since he prayed for his beloved friends to “comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge.”

Although it’s not wrong to hold up lyrics against the truth of scripture, believers don’t need to make it their job to place an asterisk by every song they personally feel needs more explanation. We can embrace texts that communicate an important aspect of God, as long as they don’t mis-communicate, even if they don’t “say it all”. We can celebrate deep truths with elementary lyrics. I am so thankful that something can be simplistic and right.
On this day, I’m thankful that the biblical message of God’s perspective toward us is being sung to the souls of those who so desperately need to be reminded:

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing.
You say I am strong when I think I am weak.
You say I am held when I am falling short.
When I don’t belong, You say I am Yours.
And I believe.
I believe what You say of me.

[And just in case you ARE like me, I was able to confirm that this chorus is filled with scriptural truths. Although the Word of God is most importantly a story about Himself, it includes us. “The LORD is MY Shepherd! Surely goodness and mercy chase ME … all the days of MY life.”]

Years ago, I had to wrestle with some unfounded skepticism during one of the bible studies in which I was participating and facilitating. Beth Moore was teaching us about believing God. I wrote down the five statements she gave us on a card and began to rehearse them, even saying them out loud at times. At first I wasn’t sure I believed what I was stating. And I really wanted to add more sentences to each statement. It seemed too basic! But as time passed and we dug into the scriptures, these confessions became so dear to my soul. God HAD said them. And there was nothing taken out of the context of His purpose. Nor had it been taken out of the context of His Word. Beth had just condensed them for us to remember easily. I have referred to these confessions many times in the past several years.
How beautiful is God’s grace in my life …. He pursues me with patient and constant love.

And I’m learning. All the time.

And I’m sincerely grateful for deep truths that are communicated in concise sentences for easy remembering … but have profound impact!

God is who He says He is.
God can do what He says He can do.
I am who God says I am.
I can do all things through Christ.
God’s word is alive and active in me.

Beth Moore, Believing God

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