Stuttering is a speech disorder characterized by the involuntary repetition of sounds, syllables, or words. The speech patterns may also include rapid eye blinks or tremors of the lips. Stuttering often begins in childhood and ceases in young adulthood. For many, however, the stuttering never leaves and can become an impediment to the stutterer’s plans and dreams.
The Bible only briefly mentions stuttering, in Isaiah 32:4, which refers to a “stammering tongue.” Mark 7:32 may be another place where stuttering is mentioned. However, in that instance, we are not told clearly if the issue was the same kind of stuttering we see today since the man was also deaf. Mark simply says that the man “could hardly talk.” Some scholars have suggested that Moses was a stutterer, based on his words in Exodus 4:10: “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
Moses felt that his speech inabilities should disqualify him from being used in the way God wanted to use him. The Lord’s response is one of the strongest biblical supports for His absolute sovereignty: “The LORD said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?’” (Exodus 4:11). God did not see Moses’ stuttering (if that was the problem) as a hindrance to His plan. It was Moses’ refusal to trust God and allow God’s power to work through him that angered the Lord (Exodus 4:13–14).
Stuttering can be difficult for the person who suffers from it. It creates embarrassment and self-consciousness, keeping the sufferer from pursuing goals that may require smooth speech. Some people have overcome stuttering through psychological therapy, meditation, or tricks that fool the brain, such as singing words they struggle with. But, despite our frustrations at our physical weaknesses, God is not limited in His ability to use us for great purposes.
God specializes in using our weaknesses to showcase His power (1 Corinthians 1:27–28). God’s answer to our Moses-like cries about our own inabilities is found in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” The apostle Paul may have struggled with a speech impediment, suggested in such passages as 2 Corinthians 10:10 and 11:6. Paul’s famous “thorn in the flesh” may have referred to a problem with his speech, maybe even stuttering (2 Corinthians 12:7–10). But the grace of Christ was sufficient for him, even in the midst of his weakness.
While it is wise to pursue various avenues of healing for a stuttering problem, we should never use stuttering as an excuse to check out of God’s service. If God can use Moses and Paul with all their limitations, He can use each of us who is fully surrendered to His will and plan.