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Mar 22

A Case of Mommy Guilt

2017 at 5:25 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Motherhood

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.

Mar 15

The God Who Looks After You

2017 at 7:15 am   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Trusting God

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.

Mar 8

Book Review: Eve in Exile by Rebekah Merkle

2017 at 7:31 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Resource Recommendations

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, and Eve 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.

Mar 1

What Women Want and What Obedience Gets

2017 at 11:25 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Trusting God | Marriage | Submission

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!

Feb 22

Words of Hope for Weary Moms

2017 at 7:11 am   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Motherhood

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.”

In his book, The Duties Of Parents, J.C. Ryle wrote:

“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.

Feb 15

Surviving the Winter Blues

2017 at 6:50 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions

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 doldrums remind 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.”

Feb 10

Why It’s Worth It

2017 at 8:16 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Trusting God | Gospel

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 Exile by 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.

Feb 7

New Year, New Content

2017 at 8:02 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood

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!

The girltalkers

Apr 12

Q&A: Should I Make My Daughter Have a Quiet Time?

2016 at 4:52 pm   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Motherhood | Parenting Teenagers

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

~from the archives