The greeting sections of New Testament epistles fire my curiosity. We are given tantalizing morsels of information, hardly the full back-story. But if we look at these verses like archeologists searching for clues, we can discover a surprising amount of truth for our edification and encouragement. Take Romans 16, for example. You can’t read this passage without appreciating the vital role that women played in the ministry of the early church. Nine of the twenty-four greetings are to women, and their efforts are hardly peripheral or tangential. These women are at the nerve center of ministry in the local church, playing a vital role in its mission to preach the gospel. Four women are particularly interesting, for Paul greets them each in the same way:
“Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you” (v. 6)
“Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa” (v. 12)
“Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord” (v. 12)
Imagine it. You gather for the regular assembly of God’s people, and at the conclusion of this soaring theological letter, Paul greets ‘lil old you? I wonder what these women felt when they heard their names read aloud. Did they realize that they were going to be immortalized in Holy Scripture? Here, at least, are two lessons we can learn from what Paul does and doesn’t tell us about these four women.
Our Work Matters More Than We Think
Most of the time, our work for the Lord seems unimportant and insignificant. Especially when it seems to produce so little in the way of measurable success. We’re called on to organize an outreach event, but it’s poorly attended. We give hours to counseling a woman who decides she wants to be mentored by someone else. We make yet another meal for yet another new mom, but it’s just what everyone expects us to do. And so we measure our service the way that we measure everything else—by results, or by how fulfilled it makes us feel, or by the gratitude we receive. And frankly, it’s discouraging.
But Paul doesn’t commend these women for reaching certain numbers goals, or for their successful organization of the largest church event in local church history, or even for the warm fuzzy feeling of fulfillment they derive from their efforts. That’s not how Paul measures gospel success. Here, at the end of his soaring theological treatise, he commends four ordinary women for one thing: working hard. The verb here implies “strenuous exertion.” These women spent all their energy to further the gospel mission. We don’t know how much or little these women accomplished in the way of “measurable” earthly results, but we do know that they were wildly successful. They received one of the greatest honors in human history: to be commended, by name, in the eternal Word of God. Now that’s worth working hard for!
So if you’ve felt discouraged of late; if you’ve started to wonder if your work in the church is a grand waste of time and talent—take heart. Whether or not others recognize your efforts, God does. He called out these four women, and he calls you out today. Be encouraged and don’t give up. Keep working hard for the Lord. Or, as the author to the Hebrews encourages us: “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints as you still do” (6:10).
Our Work Matters Less than We Think
Often, it can seem like people only notice the women in the church who are gifted in public ways. The rest of us do our work quietly in the background, with little fanfare. But here in Romans 16, Paul not only draws attention to Phoebe and Prisca who were wealthy and influential but also to sisters Tryphaena and Tryphosa who were former slaves, freedwomen. In an ironical side-note, Tryphaena and Tryphosa’s names mean “Dainty and Delicate.” You have to wonder if Paul smiled to himself as he wrote: “Greet those strenuous workers in the Lord, Dainty and Delicate.” The point is: nothing in our background, no physical or spiritual weakness, no lack of experience or gifting hinders us from working hard in for the Lord. We are all eligible for the commendation these women received. “By the grace of God I am what I am,” said Paul in another one of his letters, “and his grace toward me was not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:10). May the same be said of us.
But all too often we get caught up in what “our role” is in the church, whether or not we have a title or a position or, as we like to call it, “a place to serve.” We get locked in petty rivalries with other women, comparing and obsessing about who gets recognized or utilized more. Paul’s greetings graciously redirect our gaze to the right reasons for ministry. Like Mary, we should work hard “for you”—our work is to be out of love for the people of God. And like the sisters and “beloved Persis” our work is to be “in the Lord”— for the glory of our Savior. These women did not strive for position or honor, but they served their hearts out for the greatest cause in human history: the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And so should we. Let us follow their example and remember that the cause we are working for is far more important than the kind of work we do for that cause. Let us be willing, eager in fact, to labor strenuously in a lowly position in the church.
It might be easy to skim the conclusion to the book of Romans, assuming that the important stuff got covered in the first fifteen chapters. But really, the book of Romans closes with a pressing question for each one of us: Are you working hard for the Lord? If Paul sent a letter to your church today, are you the kind of woman he would greet and thank? May we unhesitatingly seek the glory and honor these women were striving for, simply to be known as hard workers for the Lord.
When I prepare a message to speak (which I did this past month), I always create two documents. The one document is the message itself, and the other is the message “extras.” My “extras doc” is full of discarded sentences, points, quotes and ideas, and usually ends up much longer than the message itself.
One point from John 21—that ended up in extras because of time restraints—continues to affect me. It’s about failure.
We all know about the apostle Peter’s failure. While Jesus was enduring unimaginable torture leading up to his crucifixion, Peter, just a few yards away, was denying that he ever knew Jesus. Three times Peter denied his Lord. Then there is that vivid scene that Luke records (22:60-62): After Peter’s third denial, the rooster crowed, “and the Lord turned and looked at Peter.” Can you imagine the agony, guilt, and shame that overwhelmed Peter when his eyes met his Lord’s? Peter “went out and wept bitterly.”
Fast forward to John 21. The resurrected Lord meets his disciples, including Peter, on the beach. They have been fishing all night, and they are tired, and in one of the most beautiful
scenes in Scripture, Jesus makes them breakfast. Then he turns to Peter.
Three times he asks Peter: “Do you love me?”—giving Peter the opportunity to make three public reaffirmations of his love and loyalty to the Lord, in place of his previous denials.
Three times he commissions Peter: “Feed my sheep.” Not only does he restore Peter, but he also commits his flock into Peter’s care.
Peter’s restoration and the renewal of his calling offer hope to all of us when we consider our grievous sins and failures. As John Stott put it, “No matter how desperate our failure, or how deep-seated our shame, he can forgive and renew us and then use us in his service. Failure is never final with God.”
Whether you live with regret because of a wife fail, a mom fail, or a friend fail. Whether you feel guilty because you compromised your gospel witness at school or work. Whether you feel shame because of sexual sin or because you had an abortion. Whatever sins and failures mark your past, remember: failure is never final with God.
First of all, if you have repented of your sins, you are forgiven. Completely forgiven! Even if the person you sinned against doesn’t forgive you, God does. Jesus Christ has taken the punishment for your sins. He received the wrath of God that you deserved. He suffered in your place. He took your guilt upon himself. You need not carry it around anymore! In fact, to do so is to deny the guilt-obliterating power of what Christ has accomplished for you.
Secondly, you are not finished yet. No matter what our past sins or failures, we are not useless or ruined for kingdom work. God not only forgives and renews us, but he also uses us for his good purposes. Jon Bloom writes: “Jesus is the great restorer of failures who repent…[He] specializes in transforming failures into rocks of strength for his church.” Peter is the prime example, but throughout church history up through this very day, God is still in the business of deploying forgiven sinners in kingdom work.
If failure is never final with God, then let it not be so with us. Let us repent. Let us ask God to restore us. Let us—a community of forgiven failures—devote our lives to serving our forgiving Savior.
When we were growing up, both our parents read to us almost every day. Dad read aloud to us after dinner. We would all sit, captivated by the world of Narnia, while Mom washed the dishes. Then Mom would read to us before bed, and I never wanted to miss a night. I still remember waiting up for her on the rare nights she would be out for the evening, greeting her with InGrandma’s Attic in hand, having no idea how tired mommies are at ten o’clock at night! She never let on, always sitting down to read to me no matter how late it was. I tried to remember her example last night when my girls ran to me, the same book in hand: because now I know just how tired mommies feel.
But you get the idea, reading together is a priority and we are always on the look out for new books. My kids are currently ages four to eleven, so I love it when a book comes along that captures everyone’s attention. And just such a book landed on my kitchen counter just the other day. It was from our friends at The Good Book Company. The One O’Clock Miraclebrings to life the story of Jesus healing the royal official’s son in John 4:46-54; or, to quote from the back of the book: “Discover a journey full of excitement and surprises as you find out just what happened at One O’Clock.”
The story is wonderfully simple, with repeating phrases that help children grasp the miraculous power of a loving Savior. The author’s creative approach to an all-familiar story did indeed make the book exciting and surprising. And the illustrations are the perfect complement to the writing. They are whimsical, colorful, and childlike, providing the visual aid that draws children in as you read. This book has been officially inducted into the Bradshaw Bedtime Reading Hall of Fame. Oh, and it was also CBA Children’s Book of the Year 2016. And guess what? Thanks to our friends at The Good Book Company, we have three of these books to give away. Simply send us an email, or comment on the girltalkFacebook or Twitter pages by midnight, and tell us your favorite children’s book. Tomorrow we will pick four winners at random. Even if you don’t win, consider adding this book to your family’s library.
P.S. The second edition of the girltalk newsletter just went out last week, and it is full of all kinds of favorites, including one of our favorite children’s book series. Subscribe on the sidebar to receive your issue each month.
It happens when we walk into a room. We compare. We mentally measure our beauty, status, talents, or situation against the other women present. If the numbers come out in our favor, we get a boost of confidence; if we come up short, we feel depressed and self-conscious. Comparison is a mood changer. But it’s also a sin from which we can and should get free.
This past Saturday, the women of our church gathered for worship, teaching, and fellowship. It was a sweet time. Mom shared her revised and updated message on “The Snare of Compare,” and we share it here with you now. This is my personal favorite of Mom’s messages, maybe because I need it so much! If you ever struggle with sinful comparison, this talk on John 21 will encourage you to keep your eyes on Christ. Enjoy!
2017 at 5:25 am | by Nicole Whitacre
The other night my husband and I sat with our children and watched home videos until long past bedtime. We laughed at how our youngest daughter used to be obsessed with hand sanitizer because of the glitter and how our oldest son’s curls used to hang over his eyes. We were reminded of God’s faithfulness to our family and, at the same time, experienced it once again. As the kids went to bed, one of my sons said, “That was great Mom, we have to do this again soon.”
You’d think I would be basking in the glow of a sweet family bonding time, but as I washed the dinner dishes, feelings of guilt were already engaged in hand to hand combat with the warm fuzzies. Guilt, as per usual, soon won out. “Those videos don’t show the whole picture. You may have looked like a fun mom playing hide and seek with your kids, but you know you didn’t play with them enough.” Or, “How could you have forgotten the day when all the hot air balloons raced over our house? You didn’t enjoy your children enough when they were little.” You should’ve. You didn’t. You failed.
How should we handle the unpleasant emotion of “mommy guilt”? There is much more to say than I can pack into a post, but here are a few thoughts that I hope prove helpful.
First, it seems to me that there are two main strains of “mommy guilt.” The first kind of mommy guilt isn’t really guilt at all. It’s an emotion we call “guilt,” but it’s usually a vague feeling of discouragement that points to some pride or approval-craving masquerading as “guilt.” We talk to a mom who believes her parenting method is the only way to go. Or we read the latest study that proves parents of really smart, successful children do x, y, and z—and we aren’t even doing x. Bring on the self-flagellation.
The problem with a lot of mommy guilt is that the law we have transgressed is not a biblical one but a cultural one. We have to watch out here: How much of our idea of what it takes to be a good mother is shaped by Scripture and how much is shaped by my friends who believe children should only eat, sleep, or learn in a particular way?
I’m not saying it doesn’t matter how we feed or educate our children. It matters a great deal! Motherhood is an intensely practical endeavor. But how we raise our children should flow from and run back to the one grand goal of mothering: to train up our children in the ways of the Lord (Prov. 22:6). When we start here, mothering gets a lot easier, a lot less burdensome, and a whole lot more fun. We will find a wide scope for our imagination, creativity, and gifting when we chuck the obligation to measure up to certain cultural standards. There is time enough to do what matters in mothering, but only if we do it for what really matters.
To deal with faux mommy guilt, we must learn all that we can from other moms, but preferably older, godly, women who have seen many mothering fads come and go, and have a sense of what matters for the long-term. But most importantly, we must evaluate all parenting advice in light of God’s Word. To borrow a John Piper image from another context, if training our children in the ways of the Lord is like the sun, then everything else such as feeding and sleeping and educating our children will, like the planets in their course, find their proper place. And we moms won’t feel guilty for things we shouldn’t feel guilty about.
The second kind of mommy guilt is the true kind. We are in such a hurry to outrun this unpleasant emotion that we forget it is a God-given feeling. I should feel guilty sometimes because I am a guilty mom. I have broken God’s laws, and I do so multiple times a day. I break God’s laws when I am impatient with my children or when I complain about an interruption. I break God’s law by things I do and things I don’t do. Far from being a negative emotion to avoid at all costs, I must ask God to help me feel the right kind of mommy guilt at the right time.
But true conviction from the Holy Spirit isn’t the vague sense of failure I had the other night. The way to deal with these feelings is to admit that yes, I am a guilty mom—guilty of many sins of commission and omission—but thanks be to God I have a Savior whose sacrifice on my behalf is sufficient to cover all my mommy guilt. He is at work to make this guilty, repentant mother fruitful in her home. That’s what I should have seen the other night when watching home videos: not only my failures but the amazing grace of God in spite of my failures.
Recently my dad sent me this quote from John Newton to encourage mothers who struggle with mommy guilt:
“You say you feel overwhelmed with guilt and a sense of unworthiness? Well, indeed you cannot be too aware of the evils inside yourself, but you may be, indeed you are, improperly controlled and affected by them. You say it is hard to understand how a holy God could accept such an awful person as yourself. You then express not only a low opinion of yourself, which is right, but also too low an opinion of the person, work, and promises of the Redeemer, which is wrong.”
Contrary to what our culture tells us, it is right and biblical to have a low opinion of ourselves. What’s wrong is to have too low an opinion of the person, work, and promises of the Redeemer.
So the next time we are struck with a case of mommy guilt, let’s ask: Do I feel guilty because I have broken one of God’s laws or one of my own “laws”? And if we have broken one of God’s laws, let us have a low opinion of ourselves. Let us admit our guilt and ask God (and our children, if appropriate) to forgive us. But let us have a high opinion of Christ. Instead of wallowing in “What a horrible mother I am” let us immediately turn to contemplating the person and work and promises of God. Let us thank him for his amazing grace revealed at the cross and at work in our mothering. And let us trust in his promise to help us in our time of need. This is the way to true freedom from mommy guilt.
I was reading along with my “Read the Bible in a Year” plan the other day and found myself in Genesis 16. (Please don’t do the math on this, cuz you will see how behind I already am.) It’s the Sarai and Hagar saga. And toward the end of the chapter, I came across these words by Hagar: “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me” (Gen. 16:13). The ESV footnote on this verse says, “Or ‘You are a God who sees me.’” In my quiet house, on that early morning, the Lord impressed these words on my heart, bringing fresh wonder and encouragement.
God sees me. Little me, sitting on my couch, already behind on my Bible reading plan, desperately in need of His grace to tackle another day.
And God sees you. Whether you are in a season of plenty or of want, He sees you. He sees your exhaustion as you face another day training your strong-willed two-year-old. He sees your longing for the husband that seems unlikely to ever appear. He sees your tears for the teenager that is wandering far from home. He sees your overwhelmed heart as homework and exams seem like they will never end. He sees your discouragement as you wrestle with the sin that so easily entangles.
God saw Hagar. She wasn’t the great Abraham or Sarah (although He saw them too). But God gave this encouragement specifically to Hagar, the lowly and despised servant. He saw her in her desperate plight and He “looked after her.”
Here are the words Charles Spurgeon spoke to his congregation about this passage:
“Mark, God sees you—selecting any one out of this congregation—he sees you, he sees you as much as if there were nobody else in the world for him to look at. If I have as many people as there are here to look at, of course my attention must be divided; but the infinite mind of God is able to grasp a million objects at once, and yet to set itself, as much upon one, as if there were nothing else but that one; so that you, to-night, are looked at by God as much as if throughout space there were not another creature but yourself. Can you conceive that?”
God sees you today, right now, as if there were not one else but you. Inconceivable!
So cast your cares on this great “God of seeing” and rest in the knowledge that the God who “looked after” Hagar is “looking after” you.
We’re a little late to the party, but we’d like to nominate a book for “2016 Best Book of the Year”: Eve in Exile and the Restoration of Femininity by Rebekah Merkle. Eve in Exile is winsome, witty, and conversational; it is also a grand and inspiring call for women to reject the selfish pursuits of feminism and give their lives away to serve family and home for the sake of Christ. We’ve all four read it (and Dad too!), and we believe is is an important and timely book for the church today.
When I was a teenager, my mother could tell I was being drawn by the siren call of feminism, so she tied me to the mast of truth by taking my sister and me through Elisabeth Elliot’s Let Me Be A Woman. That book helped expose the empty promises of feminist ideology and gave me a biblical vision of femininity to follow as a young woman. Then, when I was pregnant with my first son, Jack, I had the privilege to assist my mom in writing her book Feminine Appeal, which—along with Scripture and my mom’s example, has been my daily guide these last fourteen years of motherhood. Now, in the trenches of motherhood, with two teenagers by the end of this year (yikes!), here comes Eve in Exile giving me fresh encouragement, correction, and creative ideas for how I can serve my family and Christ’s kingdom as a woman.
“The cultural chaos in which we are currently living has caused many to despair, and others to simply shrug and accept the postmodern crazy,” observes Rebekah. “But I want to argue that we are in the perfect moment to rethink this whole subject. Because our culture has kicked everything over, since nothing is left but rubble, we actually have the remarkable privilege of being able to think through each line before redrawing it. We can check each boundary against the Scriptures before setting it back in its place. What a blessing! What an opportunity!”
How did we get here? Rebekah’s fly-over of feminism is the best I’ve read, tracing key factors and offering a biblical diagnosis. Where do we go from here—especially considering the mess we’re in now? In the second half of the book, Rebekah takes us back to Scripture to trace God’s design for us as women to subdue, fill, help, and glorify. Rebekah gets practical without being prescriptive, helping us to consider how we may apply Scripture to our lives and situation, whether single or married. If you have felt discouraged and confused, wondering how you can serve Christ faithfully in a culture that is hostile to the gospel and all of its ethical implications, this book will breathe new life into your godly desires and spark your feminine creativity.
We’re so excited about this book, we’ve created a course for women here at our church using Eve in Exile and Feminine Appeal. Our hope is to encourage every woman with a biblical vision of femininity: “Feminine glory is fruitful. It produces. It builds. It creates. And it does so in ways that are profound and staggering and surprising and beautiful and frequently messy and hilarious and ridiculous….As we build, as we glorify, as we try to imitate God in our fruitfulness, we should make sure that our vision for what that will look like is shaped by what God himself has shown us.”
As soon as my girls are old enough, you can bet I am going to take them through Let Me Be A Woman, Feminine Appeal, andEve in Exile. Thank you, Rebekah, for carrying on a godly legacy of women writers and for giving me a gift that I can give to my girls.
I had just set the speed (not very fast) and the incline (not very high) on the treadmill at the Y and put my earbuds in to watch TV for the next twenty-four minutes (not very long), when the first segment of the news program I turned on to watch was introduced this way: “Sixty-nine percent of all divorces are initiated by women; that’s because women want to be in charge.”
This particular segment introduced the author of a new book that apparently was garnering some attention. I don’t recall the title of the book (my comprehension is severely impaired when I’m trying to keep pace with a moving treadmill!), and I only got a vague sense that the author seemed to be suggesting that it is destructive to a marriage when the wife tries to be in charge of her husband. However, the woman conducting the interview seemed so incensed by the author’s position that she barely let the author answer a question before she would interrupt with her own argumentative opinions. In fact, by the end of the interview, I was more aware of the position of the interviewer than that of the author.
While I never got to hear what the author actually meant by “women want to be in charge” and I don’t know if her divorce statistics are accurate, I do know that women wanting to control their husbands is not a new phenomenon. In fact, the origin of this desire goes all the way back to the beginning of time. One of the consequences of the Fall for women, it says in Genesis 3:16, is that their “desire shall be for [their] husband[s].” The form and context of the word desire actually have a negative connotation—an urge to manipulate, control, or have mastery over. So you see, every wife struggles with the desire to control her husband. I know I certainly do! Only by the transforming grace of God can we battle this sinful desire in our hearts.
All this got me thinking about how little our culture understands about the nobility and dignity of God’s commands to men and women in marriage. While it’s true that he calls wives to submit to their own husbands (not all men!) as to the Lord (Eph. 5:22), he also calls husbands to love their wives sacrificially as Christ loves the church. Tall orders, both! Notice that God never commands a husband to make his wife submit, nor the wife to make her husband love her sacrificially. These are commands each is to obey, as to the Lord.
What God commands, he enables; and what he commands he also blesses. The Bible doesn’t just say submit to your husband, period. Respect your husband, period. Love your husband and children, period.
Submitting to our husband makes us beautiful (1 Pet. 3:5).
Our submission displays the beauty of how the church submits to Christ (Eph. 5:22-24).
Respectful and pure conduct of a wife can win unbelieving husbands to the Lord (1 Pet. 3:1-2).
Loving our husband and children adorns the gospel (Tit. 2:4, 10).
Practicing the virtues of Proverbs 31 wins us praise (Pr. 31:28-31).
And given that marriage and motherhood entail a whole lot of serving, we will become great (Matt. 20:26).
When we strive and strain to control our husband, we will never get what we want. But Scripture promises that by God’s grace we can actually achieve greatness, win praise, and become beautiful through submission and sacrifice. Blessings, indeed!
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.”