I want to tag this little anecdote onto Mom’s post about encouraging rather than criticizing our husbands:
“On her golden wedding anniversary, my grandmother revealed the secret of her long and happy marriage. ‘On my wedding day, I decided to choose ten of my husband’s faults which, for the sake of our marriage, I would overlook,’ she explained. A guest asked her to name some of the faults. ‘To tell the truth,’ she replied, ‘I never did get around to listing them. But whenever my husband did something that made me hopping mad, I would say to myself, ‘Lucky for him that’s one of the ten.’” Roderick McFarlane, in Reader’s Digest, December, 1992.
“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 19:11
As a way of introducing me to the attendees of the College Church women’s retreat last weekend, one of the event coordinators conducted an interview with me on the first evening. A particular question she asked was: If given the opportunity, who is one famous person with whom you’d like to have dinner?
My answer: Actually, I’ve already been blessed to have that experience. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to meet Elisabeth Elliot. A few years ago, she was the guest speaker for my church’s women’s retreat and my husband and I were privileged to have dinner with Elisabeth and her husband.
After my mom, Elisabeth Elliot is the woman who has most affected my life. I still remember as a child my mom reading Through Gates of Splendor to our family. This book left an indelible mark on my young mind. Since that time, I have read most of the other books that Elisabeth has authored, and listened to oodles of taped messages by her, as well as subscribed to her newsletter. As you probably can tell, I deeply admire this godly woman and the uncompromised message of biblical womanhood she has imparted through her writing and speaking.
All this to say, there’s a quote in one of her books—actually, she’s quoting her husband—that would serve us well in keeping with this whole topic of encouragement that we’ve been considering. Lars Gren (Elisabeth’s husband), presented this helpful challenge:
“A wife, if she is very generous, may allow that her husband lives up to perhaps eighty percent of her expectations. There is always the other twenty percent that she would like to change, and she may chip away at it for the whole of their married life without reducing it by very much. She may, on the other hand, simply decide to enjoy the eighty percent, and both of them will be happy.”
Sometimes as wives, we are more inclined to concentrate on what our husbands are doing wrong rather than what they are doing right. We are more prone to criticize the twenty percent rather than encourage the eighty percent. That’s why this little quote has been such a great reminder to me as I endeavor to encourage my husband.
So, let’s apply this eighty/twenty rule in our marriage. Let’s enjoy all the wonderful qualities about our husband. For I daresay that Lars is right: when we enjoy and encourage our husbands, both of us will be happy!
(A little addendum to my College Church Women’s Retreat experience…The girl who wired me with the mic for each message came up to me after my interview and first message on Friday evening and said, “I wanted to introduce myself. My name is Elisabeth. I am Elisabeth Elliot’s granddaughter and namesake.” What a treat to meet this young woman!)
Before Caly’s birth happily distracted us, we were mid-way through a series we were calling “Top Three.” Our goal was to encourage wives to consider what were the “top three” ways they could please their husband. Although these are different for every man, we chose to focus on our husbands’ top three, one or more of which probably make many other husbands’ lists as well.
Nicole considered the importance of intimacy and Kristin the enriching effect of encouragement. We want to camp out at the encouragement site a little longer. And single women, we want you to hang with us, because whether it’s in your interactions with others or preparing for marriage, this topic is extremely relevant for you.
If you’re like me, you can be inspired by reading something on encouragement or watching another woman who exemplifies encouragement, but when we daily face the sins of others—our husbands, co-workers, family, roommates—that desire to encourage evaporates, leaving only resentment, anger, and then eventually discouragement. So how do we cultivate a genuine attitude of encouragement that withstands the rigors of everyday relationships?
I believe the foundation of encouragement is a growing awareness of our own sinfulness. As I wrote in Feminine Appeal:
“Like a pebble tossed into a pool of water, awareness of our sinfulness generates a marvelous ripple effect in our marriage. Here’s how it works: The more we understand the sin in our hearts, the more we appreciate the patience and mercy of God; and this, in turn, produces an attitude of humility and mercy toward our husbands.
My husband’s historical hero Charles Spurgeon once said:
‘He who grows in grace remembers that he is but dust, and he therefore does not expect his fellow Christians to be anything more. He overlooks ten thousand of their faults, because he knows his God overlooks twenty thousand in his own case. He does not expect perfection in the creature, and, therefore, he is not disappointed when he does not find it.’
When we see our husbands as sinner like ourselves—sinners in need of God’s grace and mercy—it strips away any intolerant, critical, or demanding attitude we may be tempted to have. Every husband has areas where he needs to change and grow, but so do we!
Although we both are sinners, God is using our marriage to help us grow in godliness. In fact, our husbands’ particular sins, unique weaknesses, and even their idiosyncrasies are tailor-made for us. Likewise, our sins and weaknesses are custom-designed for them. Both husbands and wives will become more Christlike by having to deal with each other’s sins and deficiencies.”
Do you see how this works? If we are more critical than encouraging, more dissatisfied than grateful toward our husband, that is a sure sign of self-righteousness. And encouragement doesn’t grow in this proud environment. If we want to become an encourager, the first step is to ‘remember we are but dust.’ When we are overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s mercy toward us, it will be easy to encourage our husbands.
Finally, a word to single women, also from Feminine Appeal:
“If you are single, I would encourage you to study these truths now. They will serve you as you interact with single men, encourage your married friends, and prepare for our future—should God call you to marriage. Humility born of the awareness of our sinful tendencies is an essential character quality in mature Christians. As single women you should cultivate this humility and look for it in any man who might pursue you for marriage.”
Recently, someone sent us yet another blonde joke (we hope for no other reason than it’s our hair color). This one struck me as particularly funny because I was a secretary once upon a time before I married C.J. You can watch it here.
Enjoy your weekend!
for Nicole, Kristin, and Janelle
“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good….Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul (1 Peter 2:1-3, 11; emphasis mine).
Yesterday, Nicole helped us take a good hard look at the sin of envy in our hearts. Today, I want to encourage us to do battle against this “passion of the flesh.” As I Peter 2:11 tells us, envy is already waging war against our soul—the question is whether or not we are going to fight back!
Here is a simple (not easy mind you) yet effective strategy for going on the offensive against envy:
1. Pray daily for the person we are tempted to envy. Persistent envy can be overcome with persistent prayer. We will find it is very difficult to go on envying someone for whom we are regularly asking God to bless and prosper.
2. Study and meditate on God’s Word. We should direct our spiritual study to better understand and mortify the sin of envy. Let’s consider verses such as Psalm 73, Proverbs 14:30, Proverbs 23:7, I Corinthians 13, Galatians 5, and 1 Peter 2 and many more. Also, I want to highly recommend one of Jonathan Edwards’s sermons on envy which you can read online here.
3. Eagerly rejoice with and reach out to the one we are tempted to envy. The temptation to withdraw and avoid—in order to spare ourselves pain—is simply selfishness. Therefore, we need to purpose not to withdraw relationally. Isolation in heart and action will only become a hotbed for bitterness and resentment to flourish.
When we put this battle plan into action, do you know what will happen? We will, gradually, over time, weaken the sin of envy in our lives. It won’t happen in one glorious moment or after a couple of tries. But gradually, the sin of envy will lose its power and influence.
So let us not give up, even if the fight is intense. Jonathan Edwards in his famous Resolutions, “Resolved never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.”
Regardless of whether we feel like we are winning the fight against envy. Regardless of how much of a challenge it continues to be, let us never slacken our fight. For it is God “who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57).
Yesterday we contemplated the question: What do we do with a good, yet unfulfilled longing that won’t go away? First, we thank God that by His mercy we desire one of His good gifts.
However, we must also regulate our desires. We must not love or long for one of God’s good gifts more than we love or long for God Himself. If we do, then we have essentially made an idol out of this good desire and we are worshipping it instead of God. As teacher David Powlison paraphrases the eminent John Calvin: “The evil in our desires often lies not in what we want but that we want it too much.”
One sure indicator as to whether or not a good desire has morphed into an idol is how we respond when someone else gets the very thing that we want but don’t have. When a close friend—who was perfectly happy to be single—up and gets married, and we are, literally, left behind. Or when, as is the case for a friend of mine, we know five other girls who are pregnant and we are not.
And what about the woman who gets married younger than us, whose job is more glamorous than ours, whose house is bigger than ours, whose marriage is better than ours, whose life is easier than ours, whose children are more well-behaved than ours, whose popularity is brighter than ours, whose intelligence is greater than ours? Need I go on?
Envy is a sin common to women. But do we always see it for the rancid evil that it is? Several months ago, I found myself envying another woman’s happiness. My husband encouraged me to study the topic of envy, and gave me some material to read. In the course of my study, the following string of thoughts by Cornelius Plantinga hit me straight between the eyes. Buckle your seat belt, for these are hard, yet necessary words.
“What an envier wants is not, first of all, what another has; what an envier wants is for another not to have it…The envier has empty hands and therefore wants to empty the hands of the envied. Envy, moreover, carries overtones of personal resentment; an envier resents not only somebody else’s blessing but also the one who has been blessed” (emphasis mine).
Upon reading those words, I didn’t want to admit that was me, that what I actually wanted was to empty someone else’s hands. But that was the truth of it. A good desire gone bad is often characterized by these wicked motives.
No wonder Scripture commands us to “Put away all…envy!” (1 Pet. 2:1) What wretched women we are! And yet, as Paul exclaims, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom 7:25) We who have repented of our sins and put our trust in Christ are no longer bound by the sin of envy. We can receive forgiveness and cleansing and grace to change—grace to truly rejoice with those who have been blessed!
How do we get there? Tomorrow Mom will share a biblical strategy for overcoming envy.
Several of you have kindly asked how I am doing in the midst of all the excitement surrounding Caly’s birth. As long-time readers may remember, I first posted back in August about my struggle with secondary infertility following the birth of our son Jack three years ago. As of today, my husband Steve and I still have not been able to get pregnant. And we still don’t know why.
Yet, in answer to your inquiries—which blessed me very much, I must say—I am doing excellently well! I honestly couldn’t be more thrilled about the birth of my little niece! There are times, I think, when God mercifully spares us from temptations which, given the wretched sinfulness of our hearts, should in fact, be present. This, for me, is one of those grace-flooded times.
For many of you out there, who have yet to see two lines on a pregnancy test, I realize that the posts about Caly’s birth may have felt like someone rubbing sandpaper over a scab. In a word, painful. What do I do with this unfulfilled longing that won’t go away? you wonder.
First of all, stop for a moment and thank God for this desire. Genuinely thank Him for this longing. He’s the one who put it in your heart; and when submitted to His sovereign goodness, it is a holy desire.
Tragically, on this very day, many women will spite this God-given desire and choose to end the life of their unborn baby. Recently, blogger Justin Taylor reported a story out of Scotland where a mother is suing a hospital over an unsuccessful abortion, which one of her twin babies survived. The mother is quoted as saying, “I still don’t know if, or what, I am going to tell Jayde [her surviving daughter] when the time comes. Maybe when she is nine or ten I will sit her down and explain it to her.”
Justin writes, “Try to imagine that conversation. Then weep at the depravity. Then realize that we would act in such a murderous, self-centered way but for the grace of God. May we cling to the cross, and cry out to God for both mercy and justice. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”
But for the grace of God, we would not be wrestling with an unfulfilled desire for a child. But for the grace of God, each one of us would choose to murder our children, just like this woman. And if this thought shocks us, it’s an indication that, maybe, we have not yet understood the true extent of our depravity.
So thank God for this desire to bear children for His glory. Thank God for any desire you have for one of His good gifts—a joyful marriage or the salvation of family members or godly friendships. For it is only by His mercy we desire anything good at all. This, of course, is not the only answer to what to do with an unfulfilled longing that won’t go away. It’s just the first one. Part two tomorrow.