2017 at 7:11 am | by Janelle Bradshaw
My third child and only son is six years old, and this mom is tired. While his intense and vivacious personality makes me laugh almost every day, those same strengths tainted with indwelling sin may just finish me. My boy has caused me to take a much harder look at the whole sowing and reaping principle. Is reaping a guaranteed result of sowing? Is it possible to sow and never reap?
While I have been far from perfect, I have tried to faithfully train Hudson in the way he should go (Prov. 22:6). I have prayed, sought counsel, read books, and prayed some more. Then why did we leave the library last week with him screaming? Or get a note from his teacher the other day saying that he is shouting “no” in class? Why do I feel like we are digressing instead of progressing? Why should I try again today?
The despair behind these questions is my warning signal that I have lost sight of the truth and hope found in God’s Word. And it is there that I must return. Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” I immediately find hope for my soul in these words. This verse makes it clear that sowing is often a wearisome job. It acknowledges the temptation to give up that often overtakes me. But that next line brings hope for my exhausted soul—“in due season we will reap.” There is a season for reaping. And there is a condition whereby we reap—“if we do not give up.”
“It is not God’s way to give everything at once. ‘Afterward’ is the time when He often chooses to work, both in the things of nature and in the things of grace. ‘Afterward’ is the season when affliction bears the peaceable fruit of righteousness (Heb. 12:11). ‘Afterward’ was the time when the son who refused to work in his father’s vineyard repented and went (Matt. 21:29). And ‘afterward’ is the time to which parents must look forward if they see not success at once—you must sow in hope and plant in hope.”
I may stay away from the library for a while. I never remember to return my books on time anyway. But I’m not going to give up training my son, because that day of reaping is coming. There is an “afterward” in this hard season of mothering. And ya know, we should take heart from the “afterward” of others who have gone before us. There are a whole bunch of moms that have actually made it. Yep, they have picked screaming kids up off the library floor and cried the whole way home, but they have persevered and reaped a harvest “afterward.” So take heart fellow moms, we are not alone.
It’s February in Louisville, and we haven’t seen the sun for more than ten minutes all winter. The air is wet and cold, the kids are sniffly, and it’s the time of year when you just feel blah. So what do you do with these feelings? How do you escape the blanket of depression that settles over many of us this time of year? Wait until Spring? Binge on Netflix? Go shopping?
Getting rid of the winter doldrums is the subject of a lot of conversation this time of year. Some suggest you can buy a happy lamp or maybe exercise more. You may have seen the buzz about what the Danish call “hygee”—their secret to happiness despite almost year round winter. But as Christians, we have a secret of our own. We don’t just have a better way to handle the winter blues; we don’t just apply a more “spiritual” solution to the problem. We know why God gave us feelings in the first place. And because we know why we have emotions, we know what do with them.
Emotions are from God. That much is clear. He is the one who created us with the capacity to feel happy and sad, fearful and hopeful. God gave us emotions so that we might know him more fully. And so that we might experience and respond to the world that he created. Now sin got in and created a mess of things. It damaged the world we live in and our emotional response to everything that happens around us. Thus, on the minor end of things, we have the winter blues.
In this past year of studying emotions and feelings, we’ve learned one thing for sure: emotions are complicated. You can’t always figure out where your feelings come from or why they shift all of a sudden, or why they won’t leave at all. Maybe it is the winter weather. Or it could be my hormones. Or am I’m finally going crazy over here? Tracing the varied sources of every emotion is a fruitless endeavor. We may never know. But we can always know where emotions are supposed to take us. Our feelings should always move us back to God.
So what do we do when winter weather seems to drag our feelings down? James says it as clear as anyone: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise” (5:13). In other words, whatever you feel, move to God. If you feel sad, pray to God. If you feel happy, sing to God. Don’t hesitate, don’t put it off, don’t wallow in your yucky feelings. Move to God! Feelings—high and low—should drive and propel us to God’s Word, to prayer, and to church. Our confusing, unpleasant emotions should cause us to cry out to God for grace.
And so, a blue winter mood can actually be a glorious opportunity. A chance to turn to God. You see, our depressed feelings reflect the reality that this world cannot satisfy our restless hearts. The winter doldrumsremind us that we were created for something more. Our joyless days reveal that we may have been seeking our joy in something other than God. Often, it’s not until we feel the coldness of our hearts that we become aware of our need for the warmth of God’s grace.
But if we move to God, the winter blues can be transformed into a season of grace. Our frigid hearts can blaze brightly with the fire of love for Christ, once again. When we cry out to God, he revives our feelings of love for Christ which have grown cold. We must not let a depressed mood drive us deeper into listless self-pity and self-absorption. We shouldn’t let the winter blues pull us into an online coma or a tv show binge. Rather, our depressed emotions should be a marvelous motivator. A catalyst to drive us to God.
Winter won’t last forever. One day soon the hot summer sun will shine and we’ll probably (to our shame!) be complaining about the infernal heat. But even more certain is what will happen to the emotions of those who believe in Jesus Christ. One day, all of our feelings will coalesce and culminate in pure joy and love for God. We will know ecstatic raptures of his presence. And we don’t have to wait. We can warm our hearts in the glow of the gospel of Jesus Christ today. As the old hymn puts it, “I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of his face.”
How do you feel? There are, no doubt, as many shades and shadows of emotions, as there are women reading these words. But no matter what you are feeling, you can know one thing for certain: your feelings are intended to move you to God. Look to him in your restless despair. Praise him in your happiness. Thank God that through Jesus Christ you can come to him, no matter what you feel today. You can have a foretaste of the joy of heaven, even in “bleak midwinter.”
To all of you who sent encouraging messages about us restarting girltalk, thank you! We have been so blessed to hear from you, and we’re excited to get started again. This blog really is a conversation; we enjoy receiving and responding to your questions and comments. Needless to say, book writing doesn’t provide the same kind of interaction, and we’ve missed you.
But we’ve also watched with dismay, along with all of you, at many of the cultural changes taking place in our world today. Hostility to the gospel has increased and intensified. The definition of marriage as a sacred union between a man and a woman has been upended. The fabric of the family has been ripped to shreds. The most basic understanding of what it means to be a man or a woman created in the image of God has been chucked out the window. Most disturbing of all, we see some of these grievous trends making inroads into the church.
Teaching biblical womanhood in this day and age can sometimes feel like talking to the wind. So what’s the use? The four of us have talked about this together. And then this is the conversation we’ve been having around my house lately.
Me: “I might as well give up encouraging women in biblical womanhood. It’s a losing battle.”
My husband: “You can’t give up. You’ve got to do your ‘measly bit.’” (Something I once said, that he now likes to quote back to me.)
It’s not that I’m tired of talking about biblical womanhood. It’s not that I no longer think it’s important. But honestly, I have wondered at times: is it worth it? All around us the situation seems to be getting worse, not better.
Then it hit me. Rather than bemoan the awful that is happening all around, I must remember the glorious that has already happened: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people” (Tit. 2:11). The grace of God has already appeared in the person of Jesus Christ! He has already died on the cross and risen from the dead for our sins. The glorious has already happened! And it is still happening. The grace of God that has appeared is still at work today: he is drawing men and women to himself, and he is “training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Tit. 2:12).
He has given us a mandate: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19).
He has given us his presence: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
And he has given us a solemn charge: “Older women…are to teach what is good, and so train the young women” (Tit. 2:3-4).
So why is it worth it to keep teaching biblical womanhood?
...that the word of God may not be reviled (v. 5),
...that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us (v. 8),
...that in everything we may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior (v. 10).
It’s not like our mandate comes with a conditional clause. Give it a go, but if things get really bad, then you can stand down. Retreat is not an option. Too much is at stake. After all, it’s for the sake of the gospel that we must live and teach “what is good.” Things may be getting worse, it’s true. But we must be faithful to obey and leave the results to God.
I recently read this passage from Eve in Exileby Rebekah Merkle and found myself saying out loud: “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
“We have an awful lot of us Christian women in this country, and the road of feminine obedience is wide open. Not only that, we’ve stayed off of it for so long it is now completely unguarded. I believe that if we women decided, as a group, to take that road, we would knock a serious dent in the side of our culture’s rebellion. But the truth is, a movement of women doing this wouldn’t be terribly exciting or sexy. It wouldn’t involve marches or protests or petitions or lobbying or t-shirts or fun runs. It would involve a lot of women manning their own separate battle stations in their own lives, in their own families, in the day-to-day grind. It would involve disciplining ourselves in the small, seemingly inconsequential areas of our lives—what we admire, what we try to get good at, what we strive for, what we prioritize, what we love. It would involve faithfulness, obedience, and sacrifice. It wouldn’t seem like much. But one thing we know is that God loves to use the seemingly trivial things to accomplish staggering results. We may each feel like an insignificant little drop of water, and it may seem like the direction we take in our day-to-day lives doesn’t make any difference to anyone. But when all the drops of water move the same way, what is more powerful and unstoppable than a wave?”
This is why we decided to keep writing here at girltalk. To challenge ourselves and encourage you to “faithfulness, obedience, and sacrifice” so that we may adorn the gospel of Jesus Christ. It may not seem like much, but we are going to do our measly bit.
After almost a year hiatus—which sounds a whole lot more restful than it was—we’re excited to re-start the conversation here at girltalk. We never meant to stop, actually. What we thought was going to be a short break to finish up our book on feelings turned into nine months of intense rewrites. But we’re wrapping up final edits now (phew!) and looking forward to a good long chat with you again.
The unplanned pause gave us a chance to consider—with the glut of online content these days, should we continue writing on this spot? We don’t have special talent or creativity, but we do have the same desire to encourage women in their every day lives as when we started writing girltalk over ten years ago. Besides, the four of us still talk all the time, and we missed having you in the conversation. So here, once again, you’ll find the same simple thoughts from one mom and three daughters as we encourage each other to faithfully follow the Savior. If it serves you in some small way, we’ll be thrilled.
One new thing we’re starting is a monthly (or so) newsletter which includes all the content from the previous few weeks, along with a more personal update, stray thoughts and quotes we didn’t include in our weekly writing, books we’re reading, funny stuff we’ve run across, and maybe (if it’s really good) what we’re cooking. So, if you don’t want to miss out on what’s happening here at girltalk, you can sign up using the link on our sidebar and you’ll hear from us by the end of each month.
For now, it’s good to be back. Thanks to all of you who asked. Hope you enjoy the new content!
My ten-year-old daughter told me she feels like she has heard about God all her life but he feels far away from her. I am trying not to panic as a mom. I know I have felt that way too before. But I am not sure how to guide her without lecturing her. Would you require her to do a quiet time or just let her do if she wants to?
The feelings of panic (and I know them well!) often arise in these moments when we feel helpless to change our child’s heart. We feel that way because it is true! Salvation belongs to the Lord (Ps. 3:8). We cannot open the eyes of our children’s hearts or give them a heart of flesh for a heart of stone, but we must turn our panic into prayer that God would do what only he can do.
But there is a lot that we can—and should—do to parent our children in the ways of the Lord, and the God who gave us this mothering job in the first place has also given us wisdom in his Word for how to do it.
First of all, as I often remind my girls, we must parent in faith. We must parent with confidence in the steadfast love and faithfulness of the Lord, his power and desire to save (he saved us, after all!), the wisdom of His Word to guide us, and the ever-present help of the Holy Spirit.
You may already be doing this, but I would encourage you to keep talking to your daughter about how she feels. Tell her you have felt this way too. Encourage her that God often makes us aware of a lack of his presence so that we might seek his presence. God is at work! You can pray with her and ask that God would grant her salvation and assurance. Stories from you or your husband or grandparents, friends, etc. can be a real comfort so she does not feel strange or alone.
Then I would encourage you to help her develop a habit of reading the Bible and praying every day. There is an unhealthy skittishness parents often feel about making their children do what they don’t want to do. We worry: if we push the Bible on them, will we push them away? Maybe we had a bad experience growing up, or this just smells like legalism to us. Isn’t it better to pray, encourage, and wait for God to do his work?
I would counter that leading a child to God’s Word is doing God’s work. It is what he commands us to do (Deut. 6:4-9) and it is the means He most often uses to bring a child to Himself. I am no exception. In many ways, it is the habits of my childhood, set in place by my parents, that most profoundly shape my life to this day. Growing up, my parents required us to go to church three times a week. Sunday morning. Sunday evening. Wednesday night. No exceptions. These were not, as my husband always refers to Sundays “my favorite days of the week.” I was bored silly at church. I couldn’t wait to get back to school on Monday morning and be with my friends. But my parents didn’t consult my feelings on the matter. I was going to church whether I wanted to be there or not. And it was in one of these church services that God first opened my eyes to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
One other example comes to mind. As a young girl I had to memorize 200 Bible verses to get into a summer camp I really wanted to attend. I didn’t care about the verses, but I cared about camp and so I completed the assignment. My motives may have been totally wrong, but these Scriptures embedded in my mind and heart have encouraged and comforted me throughout my Christian life.
All that to say, I would encourage you to help your daughter develop a habit of having quiet times. Even if she doesn’t want to. Even if she’s bored silly. By placing God’s Word in front of her every day, you are laying the kindling under which our gracious God may light the spark of his presence. Tell her you are doing this because you love her. We make our children brush their teeth and eat their peas, not because they like it, but because we know it is best for them. How much more the reading of God’s Word?
And do whatever you can to make it easy and exciting. Buy her a new journal where she can write down her questions and thoughts; use a solid Bible study book or program (several of my grandkids use these Bible reading notes from the Good Book Company and the ESV Seek and Find Bible is a great option for children); have a time each day at breakfast or dinner where the kids can ask Mom and Dad questions from their daily Bible reading (stump the parent!); give them a challenge to memorize or read for a reward.
Finally, don’t underestimate the effect of your genuine passion for the Lord on your daughter. As she sees you read your Bible every day, talk about Scripture, live out your faith (not flawlessly but faithfully), she will be indelibly impressed by the work of the Spirit that she sees in you.
I’ll leave you with these bracing words from JC Ryle. As you lead your daughter in faith toward God, may you see much fruit in her life.
“I know that you cannot convert your child. I know well that they who are born again are born, not of the will of man, but of God. But I know also that God says expressly, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go’ and that he never laid a command on man which he would not give man grace to perform. And I know, too, that our duty is not to stand still and dispute, but to go forward and obey. It is just in the going forward that God will meet us. The path of obedience is the way in which He gives the blessing. We only have to do as the servants were commanded at the marriage feast in Cana, to fill the water-pots with water, that we may safely leave it to the Lord to turn that water into wine.” ~Ryle
coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:7-8, ESV)
“To be kept from all evil does not imply a cushioned life, but a well-armed one. The psalm ends with a pledge which could hardly be stronger or more sweeping.
going out and your coming in is not only a way of saying ‘everything’; it draws attention to one’s ventures and enterprises and the home which remains one’s base; to pilgrimage and return; to the dawn and sunset of one’s days. But the last line takes good care of this journey. It would be hard to decide which half of it is the more encouraging: the fact that it starts from now, or that it runs on, not to the end of time but to time without end; like God Himself who is my portion for ever.” ~Derek Kidner
2016 at 9:27 am | by Nicole Whitacre
Last Friday afternoon I was talking to my sister, Kristin, about parenting our boys. Four of them were competing in a soccer tournament the next day, and we were strategizing about how to help them grow in godly character—win or lose. (They lost, which provided a great chance to grow in humility.) We had talked about some of these character issues the week before, and we’ll probably talk about them again next week too. Parenting is a job that is never done.
I like to finish things, check them off my list, close the file…you get the idea. So I find the never-finished nature of parenting work to be discouraging at times. I see progress, for sure, and many answered prayers and evidences of God’s grace. But the growth usually comes far slower than I would like, and some days I wonder if my training and teaching efforts are even hitting the mark.
The fact is, the never-finished nature of parenting work gives us one of our greatest opportunities to glorify God. That’s because parenting is what Charles Bridges calls “a work of faith.”
“As such,” he writes, “it can only be sustained by the active and persevering exercise of this principle. This is what makes it a means of grace to our own souls, as well as a grand medium of exalting our Divine Master.”
In other words, only faith in God can sustain us in the day in, day out, never-completed business of parenting, and this is how God has designed it to be: we’re forced to rely on him, and then he in turn uses that faith as a means of grace to our souls and glory for his name.
Faith fills the gap between faithfulness and fruitfulness in parenting and infuses it with “perpetual cheerfulness.” When we look “too eagerly for present fruit” we may grow weary or feel like a failure; but when we look to Christ we find “daily pardon of deficiencies,” relief from “oppressive anxiety” and “hope that even mistakes shall be overruled for his glory.”
“It is faith that enlivens our work with perpetual cheerfulness. It commits every part of it to God, in the hope, that even mistakes shall be overruled for his glory; and thus relieves us from an oppressive anxiety, often attendant upon a deep sense of our responsibility. The shortest way to peace will be found in casting ourselves upon God for daily pardon of deficiencies and supplies of grace, without looking too eagerly for present fruit.”
The work of parenting may never be done, but it cannot exceed the inexhaustible supplies of God’s grace.