How often do you find yourself feeling angry toward your children? This is hard question to ask myself. I make significant effort to be gentle, but truthfully, it is quite often that I notice myself raging inside as my eldest, almost 4 years old, is becoming more familiar with right and wrong.
My moment of internal strife might play out in this way:
Why won’t she just listen and obey? What if someone gets hurt? What if she behaves like this in Bible Class?
I can’t let her act like this! I have to show her who’s boss!
In my anger, I lash out. The power struggle begins.
I make irrational statements in awful tones. I give ineffective punishments.
I feel horrible. She feels horrible.
Later on I hear her talking in the same ugly tone. Hmm… where did she learn to speak in that way?
Why is it that anger is the first instinct for so many of us, especially in regards to parenting? I believe most parents have good intentions. We want our children to act respectfully and we burn inside when we can’t convince them to cooperate. We are desperate. I believe that James, the brother of Jesus, and servant of God, speaks to the heart of this issue.
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” James 1:19-20
Anger Won’t Bring about Righteousness Living
In our Bible Class we recently studied this passage, and though James doesn’t specifically mention parenting, my heart couldn’t help but hear these words from a parent’s perspective. How often am I angry with my daughter because I want her to live righteously. Yet anger won’t bring about this righteousness- in myself or in my daughter. It is my experience that hasty anger often only brings about shame.
Let’s read on to hear the solutions that James offers.
“Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:21-22
“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after the orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:26-27
Righteous living is something that our children will learn through a lifetime of observation and loving instruction. James makes it very clear that being religious is about guarding our hearts and humble service.
Do our children see that in us?
Do our children see that we are humble and compassionate, ready to listen, and slow to become angry?
Do we have a tight rein on our tongue when we speak to our children?
There are many different styles of parenting, and I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers. Often parenting requires direct and assertive responses, but I believe this can be done gently and in love. It is my conviction that the instruction to be slow to anger also applies to our interactions with our children. Does this mean that we will never be angry? No, of course not!
It means that our instinct will be patience, kindness, and gentleness rather than anger.
We will have open arms and listening ears.
When it is time to be direct, we will try to stay calm. We will be our children’s “safe space.”
This type of parenting does not come naturally for me. I pray multiple times each day for the Lord to help me. I boldly pray for the fruit of the Spirit to be displayed as I interact with my daughters. This passage in James was a strong reminder that I need to make a conscious effort to tame my tongue and be slow to anger in my responses to my children. I absolutely can’t do this on my own. I need Jesus to work through me as I train up my children in the way they should go. We all need him to!
Praying Over Our Hearts
I’d like to end this thought with a prayer.
You are our Heavenly Father and we praise you and thank you for wonderfully making our children. Work through us as we train them in the way they should go. In us, express your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Help us to be slow to anger, with tongues that are tamed through faithful dependence on you. May our children see glimpses of you in our interactions with them. Forgive us for our selfish ways and for the times we respond poorly to our children. Give us strength and help when we need it. Soften our hearts and help us to find your joy every day.
“Oh, stink!”, I grumbled to myself as I pulled my wilted produce out of the refrigerator. I needed to make a batch of baby food, but I’d put it off too long and now my green beans, cauliflower, and zucchini were looking past their prime. I’m not sure if they would have even been sold in their condition if they were sitting on the shelf at the market.
I decided to go ahead and use them though. As I was snapping, and washing, and chopping, I couldn’t help but feel like those veggies- worn out and less than. Life had felt a little overwhelming and was only starting to spin faster. I was feeling guilty about all of the ways I wasn’t measuring up to my expectations.
The vegetables turned into a delicious puree that my baby loved. She didn’t know or care that the veggies didn’t look their best when I used them. Isn’t God able to use us in the same way? Couldn’t He still use me to be a loving and caring mother? Time and time again the Bible tells us of when God used someone who was “less than” do something great.
God Can Use You!
Just this morning I was reading about when God called Gideon to save Israel from the Midianites.
“But Lord,” Gideon asked, “How can i save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all of the Midianites together.”
For God’s Glory
God’s plan for Gideon was less about Gideon, and more about showing mercy to his children. Perhaps that’s why God likes to use the ones who feel like they don’t measure up. The truth is that all of us are blemished with sins and shortcomings. Even the strongest among us still need God. The arrogant ones take the credit, the humble ones know it’s only through God they can do great things.
Gideon’s story was centered around God’s glory. God wanted to make sure Israel would see that it was He who saved them. God sent home more and more men from their army so that Gideon had only 300 men with him to attack their enemy. God gave Israel their victory through Gideon, but make no mistake, it was the work of Lord not of man.
As a wife and mother I fall short in many ways, but I don’t want my story to be about me. Like Gideon, I want my story to be a reflection of God’s glory. With his help I can do great things, but not for the purpose of fulfilling my own superficial expectations. No, with his help, even though I am selfish I can offer life to my family in the way I tend to their needs and build our home. It is for the glory of his kingdom, not mine.
Take the pressure off of yourself to perform and decide to let God work in you. Let your story be about showing God’s grace and mercy to others. Let your story be about Him. Pray continually. Read the scriptures. Listen. Obey. Let him take you from wilted veggies to a yummy puree! No matter your defects, God can use you!
“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world, by holding firm to the word of life.”
An Invitation to Go Without Complaining
I invite you to take a moment to meditate on Philippians 2:14-16. Do you feel you are following this instruction in your day to day life? Would others describe you as blameless and pure? Does your life stand out in this sinful generation we find ourselves in? Are you holding firm to God’s word?
A few weeks ago we read this scripture in our bible class and I could feel my heart freeze. I immediately remembered the way I huffed out of frustration when my daughter wouldn’t leave my feet. I thought about how I often lamented over the stress of motherhood and the envy I’ve often felt in my heart toward my husband who goes off to work around other adults, and finds himself with 60 minutes of commute time each day to listen to whatever he wants.
As I thought about my tendency to grumble, my chest grew tighter as the Sprit continued to convict my heart.
I love staying home with my young children. It is my first choice, but I admit, the enemy has still found footholds through the challenges that come with my day to day life. The temptation to grumble is not reserved for stay-at-home moms. The enemy hits us all with deceptive ways, no matter our age or circumstance.
And oh, do we grumble.
Scripture gives us a different way to live.
Scripture tells us to live without grumbling. Why? So that we might shine like stars in the world for the purpose of bringing God glory.
Do you know anyone who is always able to find joy no matter the circumstance? A couple of different people come to my mind. These sweet friends of mine are the brightest lights. They radiate God’s love. I’m always so refreshed after spending time with them. It is not that their life is easy, without any strife.
To live without grumbling is more than just ignoring one’s burdens, it is living with the joy of the Lord inside their heart. Philippians 2:16 says this happens by holding firm to the word of life. We must know God’s word, believe it, and put it into action in our lives. In God’s word, we will find two beautiful characteristics to lace our hearts with.
A Heart of Service
Matthew 20:28 says “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” Grumbles often stem from entitlement. Christ, on the other hand, displayed a very sacrificial way of living. We must reflect on our life circumstances and look for the opportunities to serve and bring God glory.
A Heart of Gratitude
“When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed, when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, count your many blessings; name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 instructs us to “give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Embracing a heart of gratitude and continually looking for the blessings in life will not only help us to live more joyfully, but will also align our lives to God’s will.
As I’ve reflected on my tendencies to grumble these last couple of weeks, I’ve been reminded to embrace the season I find myself in, and to serve my family patiently and joyfully. I know that I will continue to grumble from time to time, but I pray that God often leads me to this passage in Philippians. In a world that feasts on entitlement and selfishness we will surly shine like stars from the joy of the Lord, if we serve and love those around us without grumbling.
So go ahead, jot down Philippians 2:14-1. Put it in a place where you will see it often and be reminded of a better way to go through your days!
“Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” Hebrews 10:24
I love going to church. Growing up as a minister’s kid, church was my life. This joy has stayed with me into adulthood. That being said, I realize this is not the case for everyone. Some people have been so turned off by an experience they have had with a church that they’ve completely turned away from the Lord. Some people are just on the fringe–perhaps they wonder why they even bother coming.
Can you think of anyone you know who might not enjoy church?
It truly breaks my heart to see this, and perhaps it hurts me the most because I know that I’ve been a part of the problem.
Do you view your church as a mission field?
Think about it…we can do all the outreach and evangelism outside the church walls that we want (and should!), but if our church is not welcoming every person who steps through our doors with warm love then we are failing. What good is it to get someone through the door if they never experience Christ’s love within his church? Our church building is a mission field in so many ways, but I’m going to try to stick with one very important way: relationships.
It’s so easy to get caught up in ourselves when we go to church services or activities. Our desire to fellowship with our friends can sometimes cause an unintended, but detrimental effect. Nothing sends the message “You’re not welcome here” like a church full of cliques. Yet this happens, maybe without us even noticing.
Missing the Mission Field
Sometimes, during the distractions of entertaining our personal friendships, we miss those around us, and we miss opportunities to show Christ’s love.
the visitors, the elderly, or the handicapped.
the ones who are hurting or who need help.
the new members who haven’t made any connections yet or the new Christians who need support and someone to study with.
the children and the teens who need to know they are important.
I don’t put this blame on others, as I’m very guilty. I’ve been on BOTH sides of this and it’s very likely that you have too. So what can we do about this?
Mission Field, Not Social Club
Let’s change our mentality when we are within the walls of our church building. Let’s view our church as a mission field rather than a social club. “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” (Hebrews 10:24)
We love visiting with our friends, and we should because Christian friendships are important. Fellowship time is a huge blessing, but we’ve got to open our eyes to those around us and realize that some have no one to fellowship with. Our moments of fellowship at church can’t just be about those with whom we are comfortable; we must reach out so that every person in our church building or at our church activities experience what the body of Christ is all about: love.
I get it, there isn’t much time to talk to our friends, much less other people. Have church friends over on a Tuesday night for dinner. You can even invite someone you don’t know very well! Get together with another church family on Saturday and go to the zoo. Find time to build relationships and enjoy the company of your Christian family! But how about during church gatherings we make it a goal to see the mission field? Maybe we can even get our friends on board with us! 🙂
During Visiting Time:
Here is what often happens: We say “hi” or smile to those we don’t know and we have conversation with our friends. Let’s reverse that! Start conversations with those you don’t know and give a wave to your friends, or even better, introduce your friends to this person. The moment we walk through our church’s doors we should be on the look out for those who might need our encouragement or friendship.
Be a greeter! I’m sure your congregation likes for people to stand by the door and greet people as they come inside. This is so important!
MEET THE VISITORS! This seems like a no-brainer, but in my experience it’s more normal to be ignored when you’re visiting. Would you want to come back to class if it felt like you weren’t even noticed? Seriously–we can visit with our friends later. But if we don’t make the effort to walk across the room and meet a visitor, we might never have an opportunity again. What’s more important?
Volunteer to teach or help in a class. The functionality of a church should be a community effort. We should never go to church expecting everything to be done for us. There is always a way to pitch in and help. Talk to the ministry leaders at your church if you don’t know where to start. By doing so you will have the opportunity to see others and show them Christ’s love.
During Worship Service:
It’s tempting to go straight to our usual spot by our usual people, and it’s OK to do that sometimes! It’s also fun to change it up though. You will get to know new people and you can hear new voices praising Jesus.
Help in the nursery or children’s worship. Who doesn’t want to snuggle with a baby? By doing this you have the opportunity to help out and encourage young families. You might even be the first friendly face for visitors, and giving their children loving care shows Christ love so beautifully!
Sit with someone who has no one to sit with. Sit by a family or a single parent with young children who might need an extra hand. Sit by a mom who just watched her last child go off to college. Sit with an elderly couple who lives away from all of their family. Sit with a visitor. Sit with someone hurting. Sit with someone who might need your help. Realize that the pew you choose to sit on might very well be a mission opportunity from the Lord!
Find a Way to Show God’s Love
Life is hard…sometimes we don’t feel like we have anything to give. We might feel empty and broken and needing to be filled. Pray that someone will find you, my friend. Reach out to someone. Draw close to Jesus every day of the week.
Is your church family one that radiates God’s love to all who walk through your church building’s doors? I certainly need to work on this more. It’s easy to fall into what’s comfortable. You might be more of an introvert, so this concept might have your knees shaking in anxiety. There are also quiet ways to serve and encourage, like sending cards to those on the prayer list. You don’t have to meet everyone, but try to find someone to invest in and love on. Let’s hold each other accountable and look for opportunities to serve God and bring him glory during our church gatherings. Let’s have Hebrews 10:24 on our hearts always!
“Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.”
In a Christian marriage there is a goal to put God first, but I’ll be honest–my husband and I didn’t really know what that meant when we got married. We knew we wanted to honor God in our life together and be part of a church family, but we really didn’t know the extent we’d be called to put God first.
At the beginning of our marriage we were consumed with personal needs. We’d read all kinds of marriage books talking about needs and love languages and respect, and while we tried hard to please each other, we got upset when we didn’t feel the same effort in response. Now, the lessons in those books are great–but we didn’t have the right mindset. We needed a mindset of grace if we were ever going to really put God first in our lives. Thankfully, over the last couple of years we’ve learned more about how to live a grace-filled marriage and it’s made such a wonderful impact on our life together.
Here is the new foundational truth for our marriage:
Our relationship with God is more important than our relationship with each other. This is how we truly put God first in our lives and in our family.
Now, you might not like the way that sounds but hear me out—
Supporting each other on your individual walks with God is the most important thing you can do for your marriage.
When your spiritual life becomes top priority you think differently. Your mission in life is no longer about your happiness on earth but your eternity with God–and this affects your marriage in a good way! When you are focusing on your eternal destination more than your current one you will be a better spouse. How do I know this? Well, focusing on my eternal destination means that I’m striving to be like Christ, and who can love my husband better than Christ? My best love for my husband will be fruit from my relationship with Christ.
“Every marriage goes through moments of anger and temporary failures. But you must determine your goal. What matters most: winning arguments or resembling Christ?” – Francis Chan (You and Me Forever)
I don’t know about you, but I want my life to resemble Christ. That’s way more important to me than making sure my needs and love languages are met. I’m not saying love languages and meeting needs are bad–they can be a very good thing when you are putting your desire to please Christ above your desire to please yourself. Then you will use those methods as God intended–as a way to serve your spouse.
Now, as wonderful as all that sounds we still have a little problem.
Are you still with me? My husband and I have a very tricky enemy working against us and he can use those needs and love languages as a stumbling block. Sometimes our spouses don’t meet our needs and don’t speak our love language and then what?? How will we respond?
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8
The devil is looking to devour me. The devil is looking to devour my husband.
When a spouse messes up (no matter how insignificantly), you can bet your bottom dollar that Satan is on the hunt for victory. He’s watching how we will respond. This is why we need to lavish our marriages with grace.
Why? For us it’s simple.
Because the devil will NOT gain victory in our household.
No, he will not get an ounce.
Christ gets all the power, all the glory, and all the victories in our house.
So what do we do when the devil is prowling at our door? How do we let Christ get the glory in our home? Well first, we stay on our guard and know who our enemy is! It’s really easy for me to feel brokenhearted when things aren’t going my way. In return, I can act pretty ungodly, treating my poor husband like he is my enemy. I know that my husband has triggers too, times when the devil is crawling at his feet. There are going to be misunderstandings and times when we mess up and end up hurting each other.
However, Satan is our enemy in these times. It’s not my husband. It’s not me. Knowing that Satan is the enemy makes it easier to extend grace to each other because we know that we are each on the pursuit of holiness. We want to encourage each other on this process, not get in the way. We want Christ to come first in our marriage. This means that we want to be like Christ and we want to show Christ’s love to be fruitful in our marriage. We want God to take the victory, and he does! God takes the victory every time we set our personal needs aside and extend loving grace in His name!
Live a grace-filled marriage.
When you and your spouse find yourself at odds, offer grace. Once you extend grace, you can then demand the enemy leave your home. If you’ve seen the movie War Room, then you remember that powerful scene where Elizabeth Jordan literally yells at Satan to get out of her house–she even yells him out of her front lawn! There is something to be said for verbally voicing Satan to leave. It shows we really mean it and we want him to hear it! Also, then you should pray.
We can’t fight the enemy on our own. We need God’s help. So get down on your knees -together or alone. Beg God to fight the enemy out of your life and your household.
Let God do all the fighting in your marriage.
“God will fight for you; you need only to be still.”- Exodus 14:14
Let God claim the victory in your grace-filled marriage.