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Riffs, doodles & odes

About God’s words & our words #1

Okay, so today I’m starting a new series of posts. About transitive verbs. I know, it’s a little weird – a bit odd, a tad strange, a smidgen curious. But won’t you join me anyway?


Last January I was daydreaming about words, as I sometimes do. In my head, I began collecting transitive verbs beginning with the prefix en-. I thought of common ones, like enter and enjoy, and less common ones, like ensconce and enkindle.

For a moment, I imagined casually dropping ensconce or enkindle into my everyday conversation, but I decided I’m weird enough already. Instead, I began to write a list and scour the dictionary for more. Altogether, I collected thirty transitive verbs beginning with en-.

What I hadn’t expected – and this is why my list got so long – was that the more I searched, the more transitive verbs I found that describe how God works in the lives of his people. This was too good a discovery to ignore!

Grammar 101

Now, I’d hazard a guess that you don’t get as excited as I do about words or grammar. Most people don’t. But by the end of this post, I hope you’ll at least understand my enthusiasm for these transitive verbs beginning with en-, and for what they tell us about God.

First though, in case your memory’s a bit hazy on the basics or you missed Grammar 101, here’s a quick refresher on transitive verbs. I promise it’ll be worth it.

English is a language storehouse crammed to overflowing with hundreds of thousands of words – so many it’s impossible to count them. That’s because, for centuries, English speakers have appropriated words and fragments of words from other languages, adapting them to suit their own purposes.

French to English

The prefix en- is a typical example of a ‘borrowed’ word fragment. It came to us from French, meaning ‘in’ or ‘into’, and we happily put it to work doing what we wanted it to do.

Thanks to en-, we now have many more English words to choose from. And although we use them a lot, most of the time we’re probably not even aware that we do.

In particular, we add en- to the beginning of nouns and adjectives, and this converts them into transitive verbs. For example, if you add en- to the beginning of the noun courage, you get the verb en-courage. Add en- to the adjective able and it becomes en-able.

Words that ‘do’

Encourage and enable are verbs because they’re ‘doing’ words. They’re transitive verbs because they have a subject and an object. In other words, if you (subject) give me (object) courage, or if I (subject) make you (object) able to do something, one of us is the object of the other’s actions.

You encourage me, and I enable you. If you think about the original French meaning of en-, it’s like saying ‘you put courage into me’ or ‘I put ability into you’.

That’s enough grammar for now. But I hope you’re beginning to see how transitive verbs might reveal the living God at work in the lives of believers. Transitive verbs tell us how God (subject) acts towards, for and in his people (object). And as a bonus, they also tell us what he is like.

The God who does

So, if God encourages and enables us, he makes us the object of his actions. As he encourages us, he fills us with confidence in him and stimulates us to act by providing assistance or approval. As God enables us, he gives us the power, means or ability to act. He makes things possible for us.

Imagine where we would be without either of these transitive verbs. Without God instilling courage in us, we would be fearful and hesitant. Without him giving us the abilities we need, we would be weak and ineffective.

The truth is, without God’s intervention in our lives, we would not be like him at all. Much worse, without his initiating work, we would not belong to him at all.

God for us
Vector image by Andrey |

Every person who has ever trusted in Jesus as Lord and Saviour has depended upon God to take the initiative. Every one of us was once helpless and lost. Every one of us once hid from God in the darkness, dead in our sins and still his enemies.

And yet, that’s when he chose to act for us, in his mercy and grace. It is always, and only, when we are against him that God reaches out to save any of his people. His actions for each and every one of us are transformative and utterly unmerited.

In our rebellion against God, we once chose self-rule over his rule and our rejection of him was evil, hateful and willful. It made us the objects of his just wrath.

In our hearts, we had all turned away from God towards eternal destruction. Without him, there was no hope for us. There was nothing we could do, nothing we even wanted to do about it. Only God could save us. And in his great mercy, he chose to save us from what we rightly deserved.

Power & love

As sovereign Creator, only God has the power to save us from the eternal punishment of hell. As the righteous Judge of all, only he has the authority to pardon and forgive us.

As the God of compassion, only he has the grace to bring us to repentance and faith in Jesus. And as the God who is love, only he has the necessary forbearance and forgiveness to restore our relationship with him.

God’s righteousness is so absolute and his love so boundless, that only he could ever do this work of redemption. He was not compelled to send his Son to die for our sins. Nothing and no one can compel him to do anything. So his decision to act for us, through Jesus’ death on the cross, was his free and gracious choice.

Who knew transitive verbs could be so meaningful? But before I wrap up this post, I’d love to share two more with you.

Rescue & salvation

The Bible shows us over and over how God enacts the rescue of his people – he ordains it. In his sovereign grace, he destines his people to be brought from darkness to life, from death to life and from enmity to love.

We also see in the Bible how God ensures the salvation of his people. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, once for all, God makes it a certainty that those who repent and trust in Jesus will belong to him and live with him, forever.

We need transitive verbs

I’ve come to the surprising conclusion that you and I have always needed transitive verbs, especially those beginning with en-. Because when we were still sinners, we needed God to find a way to forgive us – nothing else would do. We needed him to make us the objects of his mercy and to save us through Jesus.

And even as saved sinners, we still need transitive verbs because we are not able to change ourselves. Only God can change our hearts and transform us inwardly. Our lives can only begin to reflect our Saviour, Jesus, when we submit them to God’s work of renewal.

How God does it

And this is how he does it. Our loving Father continues to encourage and enable us in every part of our lives as we pray and read his living Word, as his Holy Spirit dwells in us and we share in the fellowship of believers. So great is his provision for us! Praise his name!

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.”

(Eph. 1:13-14)

Featured image: Photo by Prixel Creative |


  • Sally Sims

    Love the blog Lee!
    I was reminded of Psalm 136, “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good. His love endures for ever….”

    • Lee

      Thanks, Sally! I’m loving how my faithful readers are joining in the conversation! 🙂 And Psalm 136, with this refrain about God’s love, is a great illustration of how we know that it endures forever – we need only to look at how he has cared for his people.

    • Lee

      Helen, thanks for sharing this wonderful verse with a transitive verb beginning with en- – one I didn’t have! I did have ‘encircles’, which is pretty close, but I’m delighted that you’ve encouraged us all with this truth about our God. 🙂

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