2014 at 8:13 am | by Nicole Whitacre
My neighbor and I stood in our cul-de-sac, watching our kids ride bikes and try to fly kites without a breeze. “My son is having a hard time making friends at his new school,” she told me. “When I went to pick him up the other day he was standing all by himself. It was so hard to see him be left out.” Her mother’s heart was breaking for her child.
Few things hurt like watching your child get rejected. I’ve been surprised at the strong emotions that well up inside me at those times. I hurt when my kids hurt and often I hurt even more than they do.
With all those strong, mama-bear emotions we can lose sight of a biblical perspective. We forget to view the situation through the lens of God’s Word. But if we are going to help our child navigate these moments, we must think about them biblically, and we must help them to think that way too.
When your child gets left out, it is an opportunity for God’s grace to come in.
This relatively small trial brings with it big gospel opportunities for parenting our children. In fact, you could argue that there are more blessings than pain to be had, when we view being left out in light of biblical truth.
(Disclaimer: Although some of what I say may apply, this post is not about bullying or deliberate unkindness which requires appropriate parental action and protection for our children.)
1.An opportunity to develop character.
Often, being slighted or rejected is one of the first trials that our children experience, and as much as we hate to watch them hurt we need to maintain a biblical perspective. “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character,” it says in Romans 5:3-4. Suffering, even in small ways, helps to strip away the sin that “clings so closely” (Heb. 12:1), and it forges godly character you can’t get any other way. So while we will feel sad that our children must know pain, we can also rejoice in the good that pain will produce. Before he joined our family, my son, Jude, experienced the harsh realities of poverty as a very small boy. I often wish I could reach back and rescue him from those difficult experiences. But I also see how those early trials made him into the remarkably mature young man he is today. I’m not happy he had to go through those difficulties, but I delight in the thoughtful, strong, wise, and responsible boy that suffering has produced. In age-appropriate ways, we as parents can begin to help our children see some of the purposes of God in suffering: to produce endurance, which produces character, which produces hope in God. And hope in God does not (like people so often do) disappoint (Rom. 5:3-5).
2.An opportunity to become others-focused.
It may be the first time your child has been left out, but it almost certainly won’t be the last. We all, at one time or another, know what it is like to be rejected, uninvited, or lonely. These are unpleasant experiences in an unkind world. But they are also blessings in disguise. As parents we can turn these experiences into valuable teaching opportunities to help our children peel their eyes off themselves and live to serve God and others. Let’s help our children use the experience of being left out to look out for others instead. Feeling rejected can, with help from Dad and Mom, make them more sensitive to others who are lonely. They can learn how to reach out to the loner and show compassion to the outcast. The question is not, “will I be included today?” but “who can I include for God’s glory today?” Being left out is an opportunity to experience the blessings of serving others (Is. 58:10, Pr. 11:25).
3.An opportunity to escape the fool.
Every Christian parent wants his or her child to grow up to be a godly young man or woman. But sometimes we secretly (or not so secretly) want them to be popular too. If we learn anything from Scripture and experience, however, it is that popularity and godliness don’t often mix too well. Few adults can handle the headiness of popularity and fame, much less so children. It is a test of prosperity few can pass with flying colors. Nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to raise popular children or commended for wanting to do so. Instead, we are told to raise wise children who stay far away from the fool (Prov. 14:7). If the companion of fools comes to harm, then being rejected or left out by said fools spares your child (and you) all kinds of grief and consequences (Prov. 13:20). If our children are left out, we have to ask ourselves: do we really want them to fit in with that group in the first place? Far better that our children have no friends at all than have foolish friends. In other words, rebellion is worse than rejection. Of course we aren’t trying to raise loners. Godly friendship is a gift and we want to cultivate and encourage wise and helpful friendships for our children. But it is our job as parents to guide them toward friends who will point them to Christ. Any distance we can put between our children and the fool is a blessing from God.
4.An opportunity to draw closer to God and family.
So often, God uses loss in our lives to draw us to himself. The same is true for our children. When our children are well liked and comfortable and have all their hearts’ desire, they don’t often have a hunger for God’s Word or his presence. It is when those things are taken away that they often (by the Spirit of God) are drawn to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (Ps. 119:67). As parents, we must point the way. We must tell our children that God is using this trial to call them to himself and encourage them to seek his face. Also, seize the opportunity to strengthen family relationships. I’m so grateful for the way my parents insisted that my siblings and I always look out for each other. “Friends will come and go” they said, “but you will always have your family.” You may not have that relationship with your own parents or siblings but you have an opportunity, by the grace of God, to create a family where that is the case. Fill the empty social calendar with more family time. Eat meals together and make memories and have fun together. Teach your children to rally around and support each other. This doesn’t make all the pain go away, but it does make your home a haven from the pain.
5.An opportunity to learn courage.
More and more each day we realize that we are parenting our children through great cultural changes. The world they are growing up in is far different than it was ten or twenty years ago, and we must prepare our children to engage a hostile world with the gospel in a way that is loving and winsome but also bold and wise. Our goal is to raise, as John Ensor once put it, “non-conformists”: children who do not conform to this world but who are transformed by the renewal of their minds (Rom. 12:2). Being left out teaches our children how to stand alone. It teaches them what it means to live without the affirmation of others but solely on the truth of God’s Word. We have a tremendous gospel opportunity when our kids get left out. In fact, we should want them to get left out if the ticket to “fit in” is disobedience to God’s Word.
To seize these gospel opportunities we must be sympathetic and understanding toward our children. We must enter into our children’s pain before we can lead them to see the gracious opportunities it provides. “Those kids may have meant evil against you,” we can tell them, “but God meant it for good” (Gen 50:20).
The other night, my girls and I met with a group of women for an informal question and answer time. One of the women asked about marriage: “How do you keep falling in love with your husband through the years?”
We talked about the eighty/twenty rule, and about looking for ways to show love to our husbands that are meaningful to them. Last week here on the blog we considered the importance of not being so busy serving them that we don’t cultivate affectionate love.
But one of the biggest love-killers in a marriage is sinful comparison.
We’ve all done it. You spend an evening with another couple and notice how sensitive or understanding the husband is toward his wife. You then consider how your husband is doing in the communication department and find him wanting.
Or you chat with your girlfriend and hear about ways her husband is leading in the home. My husband isn’t the leader I want him to be, you think.
Maybe you bump into that woman at church whose husband is successful in his career. If only your husband worked that hard and made that much money, then you’d be happier.
It doesn’t take much. A comment or a glance is all we need to decide that, in comparison with her husband, my husband has let me down. Sinful comparison curdles into dissatisfaction. And dissatisfaction sours our love and respect for our husbands. We no longer find joy in our marriage relationship.
Which is why we must resist it at the first. We must absolutely refuse to go down the road of sinful comparison, no matter how tempting it may be. Because one thing is sure: sinful comparison never leads anywhere good.
By avoiding sinful comparison, we aren’t saying that our husbands don’t have room to grow. And it doesn’t mean we don’t ever share concerns. But if our “concerns” sprout from sinful comparison, they are suspect. We cannot see our husbands strengths and weaknesses clearly when our own sinful comparison is in the way.
Instead of comparing our husbands to other men, let’s compare our hearts with God’s Word. Let’s take seriously the command to respect our husbands (Eph. 5:33). Taking the measure of our own hearts instead of comparing our husbands to others will cultivate humility and graciousness in the place of intolerance and discontent.
What’s more, we need to focus on what we appreciate about our husbands. Sure, he may not be as great a leader as that guy, or as good of a communicator as the next, but he is your husband, and he has strengths and qualities none of those other men possess. Focus on evidences of grace, and you will fall in love with your husband over and over again through the years.
“Do you often feel like parched ground, unable to produce anything worthwhile? I do. When I am in need of refreshment, it isn’t easy to think of the needs of others. But I have found that if, instead of praying for my own comfort and satisfaction, I ask the Lord to enable me to give to others, an amazing thing often happens—I find my own needs wonderfully met. Refreshment comes in ways I would never have thought of, both for others, and then, incidentally, for myself.” ~Elisabeth Elliot
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched. Pr. 11:25
If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. Is. 58:10
2014 at 10:09 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
As wives, we frequently face situations where we are tempted to think harsh and critical thoughts about our husbands. Sometimes we are more inclined to concentrate on what our husbands are doing wrong than what they are doing right. We are more aware of their deficiencies than areas where they excel. But if we submit to these temptations, they will only lead to the demise of warm affections. In her book Love Has a Price Tag, Elisabeth Elliot includes some very good counsel from her husband for wives:
“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.”
The apostle Paul understood the influence of people’s thoughts and feelings on their behavior. He exhorted the Philippians in this way: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worth of praise, think about these things” (Phil 4:8).
If we make it our aim to think these kinds of thoughts about our husbands, we will experience tender feelings for them. As Shirley Rice writes:
“Are you in love with your husband? Not, Do you love him? I know you do. He has been around a long time, and you’re used to him. He is the father of your children. But are you in love with him? How long has it been since your heart really squeezed when you looked at him?...Why is it you have forgotten the things that attracted you to him at first?...Your husband needs to be told that you love him, that he is attractive to you. By the grace of God, I want you to start changing your thought pattern. Tomorrow morning, get your eyes off the toaster or the baby bottles long enough to LOOK at him. Don’t you see the way his coat fits his shoulders? Look at his hands. Do you remember when just to look at his strong hands made your heart lift? Well, LOOK at him and remember. Then loose your tongue and tell him you love him. Will you ask the Lord to give you a sentimental, romantic, physical, in-love kind of love for your husband? He will do this.”
Let’s heed Shirley’s advice: If we have forgotten the things that first attracted us to our husbands, let’s change our thought pattern and start to remember them.
Now I am not just promoting the helpful counsel of a wise woman here. But isn’t her recommendation to wives in keeping with the counsel of holy Scripture: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”? I dare say it is.
Let’s humbly ask our heavenly Father to help us change our thought patterns and then watch what He will do. As we begin to replace sinful thoughts with biblical thinking, the Lord will help us grow in affectionate, loving feelings for our husbands once again.
2014 at 2:27 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
Wives are called to love their husbands (Titus 2:3-5). Sad to say, I often become so preoccupied with the duties and responsibilities of marriage, home, and family, that I fail to nurture tenderness and passion in my relationship with my husband. I get so busy serving him that I overlook enjoying him.
I remember one day…
By the time my family stirred from their beds that morning, I had already been awake for several hours. Guests were arriving from out of town for the day, and I was busy cleaning the house. Absorbed in my preparations, I gave C.J. a brief but distracted kiss as he left for work.
When he called several hours later to inquire how I was doing, I kept my answers short. Many tasks still needed my attention, and I certainly didn’t have time to ask how his day was going.
After our guests arrived I took them to lunch. In between driving them around town, I managed to drop C.J.’s pants off at the cleaners, make a deposit at the bank, and fill up the car with gas. I did stop by C.J.’s office, but only to rush in to inform him of my schedule for the remainder of the afternoon. I left so quickly that he barely had time to give me a hug. I finally returned home from taking our guests to the airport around eight o’clock that evening and shortly after I went to bed.
It was some time later before I realized that I had once again failed to love my husband with a tender and passionate love. I had been remiss in expressing physical affection. I had ignored opportunities to communicate care and encouragement. I certainly was not enjoying my husband; I was too busy serving him.
I wish I could say this only happened once or twice. But there have, to my shame, been many other days when I have been more caught up with my to do list than my husband. That’s why I must continually remind myself: Scripture’s mandate to love our husbands involves far more than merely doing household chores. We are required to love them with nothing less than a passionate, tender, affectionate kind of love.
This kind of love commends the gospel. First John 4:19 says that we can love our husbands because God first loved us. As we submit to God’s command, He will show us how to love, and He will make it possible.
“God has wisely kept us in the dark concerning future events and reserved for himself the knowledge of them, that he may train us up in a dependence upon himself and a continued readiness for every event.” ~Matthew Henry
“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” ~Proverbs 27:1
“He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.’” ~Acts 1:7