Our dear friend, Lauren, recently shared this testimony at Grace Church and we thought it would be a great encouragement to many of you who are experiencing “trials of various kinds” (Ja. 1:2).
After over 2 years of trying to conceive, I was still motherless and crying out to God in the midst of the heartache of wanting a family but not knowing if He would ever make it happen. I felt like Hannah in the Bible, who desperately wanted a child but could not conceive. The Scriptures say that Hannah “was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.”
Although I was happy for my friends who got pregnant easily, I struggled with hopelessness and loneliness each time I saw another pregnancy announcement. When I saw happy moms with their babies, it felt like a small stab in my heart. I wrestled with God over prayers that seemed to go unanswered. I was tempted to feel like God had forgotten me. I was humbled at my inability to make everything right. I struggled to believe that God was still good when my circumstances said otherwise. I had nowhere else to turn except to his Word where He reminded me of who He is.
Up until this point in my life, I hadn’t experienced much hardship or suffering. God used my inability to become pregnant to really humble me and show me his perfect sovereignty and wisdom. I thank God that he blesses us when we hide his Word in our hearts so that when trials come, we are not left to buoy out at sea alone. We have his Word as a strong and sure anchor for our soul. Charles Spurgeon says, “When you can’t trace God’s hand, you must trust in God’s heart.” I found that God’s heart for me, in his Word, was one of tender, compassionate love. He deals gently with those who are suffering and like Isaiah 42:3 says, “a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.”
Scripture like Psalm 145 nourished my soul:
“The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made…. The Lord is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works. The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.”
When we began the process of adoption, I actually became pregnant a few months later! We were shocked and over the moon excited. But only a few weeks later, God called that baby home. I was faced with yet another opportunity to reaffirm that my foundation was on the one and only solid Rock, and that in His precious sovereignty, He knew what was best and good.
Lamentations 3 was a lifeline:
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth…. For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart.”
Charles Spurgeon also says, “Delayed answers to prayer are not only trials of faith; they also give us opportunities to honor God through our steadfast confidence in Him even when facing the apparent denial of our request.” When facing the apparent denial of my request, God gave me the opportunity to honor him by trusting His Word. There were many times when friends and family would send me Scripture or excerpts from books that were exactly what I needed to hear to remind me of God’s sweet promises. God utilized the body of Christ, his church, to remind me he was there for me and knew me intimately and would never forsake me.
Looking back, I wouldn’t change that season for anything because He taught me so much and I love Him and trust Him more now. And, because God is so kind, He not only satisfied me with Himself, He gave me the desire of my heart to be a mother. It wasn’t the way we planned it when we got married almost 9 years ago, but it is more perfect than we could have planned! As I look into the faces of my three beautiful children, and at the sonogram picture of our glory baby, I can’t help but thank God for being so much wiser than me and answering my prayers in His perfect timing in blessing me with all four of their precious lives. I echo Mary’s song of praise: “He who is mighty has done great things for me!” (Luke 1:49) And for those of you who might be in the place I was 4 years ago in wanting a child, or maybe you are in the middle of another perplexing and painful trial, may my story and the trustworthy words of Psalm 68:2 encourage you: “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”
I’ll end with yet one more quote from my hero, Charles Spurgeon:
“Why yield to gloomy anticipations? Who told you that the night would never end in day?.... Who told you that the winter of your discontent would proceed from frost to frost, from snow and ice and hail to deeper snow and yet more heavy tempest of despair? Don’t you know that day follows night, that flood comes after ebb, that spring and summer succeed winter? Be full of hope! Hope forever! For God does not fail you. Do you know that God loves you in the midst of all this?.... You will yet, midst the splendors of eternity, forget the trials of time, or only remember them to bless the God who led you through them and works your lasting good by them. Come, sing in the midst of tribulation. Rejoice even while passing through the furnace. Cause the desert to ring with your exulting joys, for these light afflictions will soon be over, and then forever with the Lord, your bliss shall never wane.”
“No one is exempt from suffering, but not every Christian is prepared for suffering. And if you aren’t prepared, you will be blindsided by suffering. It will feel as if God is distant from you and indifferent to your pain. Therefore, you will need your best theology for your darkest moments. [The book of] Job is one of the best gifts from God to man to prepare us for suffering and sustain us in the midst of suffering. In this book, Job reaches out in agony to God and God graciously reveals himself to Job.”
Some of you may be suffering right now. Others may need to be prepared for suffering. Either way, your soul will be strengthened by this remarkable book of the Bible. The God who graciously revealed himself to Job wants to reveal himself to you as well. We hope you will follow along with us in this series. You can subscribe to the Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville podcast feed or visit the church website each week for a new sermon.
Also in this sermon you will hear CJ mention the commentary Job: The Wisdom of the Cross by Christopher Ash. This book may be the most encouraging and helpful book on suffering I have ever read. I highly recommend you read it for yourself.
“Few things frighten me more than the beginnings of barrenness that come from frenzied activity with little spiritual food and meditation.” John Piper
Fall and the start of school means frenzied activity. So why do I forget this every year?
In those final, lazy days of summer break, when my kids get bored and restless, I start to long for the structure and schedule of school. Then I get what I wished for and wonder, “What was I thinking?!”
I’m running on cold coffee and stale brownies, struggling to keep up. The laundry is turning sour in the washing machine, we’re already a week behind our homeschool schedule, and yesterday I discovered that my son went into science class unprepared because I forgot to give him his homework. Let the mistakes begin! Mornings are the frenziest (and the time that I’m most likely to make up words). Getting a family of six prepared for takeoff and launched into the day is a challenge. Doing it without sinning against anyone and everyone? Extreme challenge.
And so my Bible reading and prayer have been pushed off to later and later in the day—so late that it isn’t happening. I’m not being lazy and I really want to spend time with the Lord. It’s just that I can’t send my son to school without a lunch, or give up teaching my kindergartner how to read, can I?
But I’m starting to feel it. The beginnings of barrenness. I need God’s Word. I need His presence. More than anything. (John 15:5)
So where do we find the time? Finding the time to spend with God each morning often begins the night before. We have to get practical in order to prioritize the spiritual.
Here are some practical ideas that are helping me right now, along with some suggestions the other girltalkers threw in as well:
I’ve started making lunches before I go to bed at night. No matter how tired I am, or how late it is, I don’t go to sleep until my husband’s and son’s lunches are ready in the fridge.
Mom used to empty her dishwasher before she went to bed, that way it was ready for dirty dishes each morning.
Make your coffee the night before. Set out your Bible, reading material, and supplies (pen, blanket, tissues etc.).
Train your children to stay in bed each morning until you come and get them.
We are still talking and reminiscing about our mother-daughter-granddaughter trip to Chicago to attend Elisabeth Elliot’s memorial service. It was a profound experience to hear from so many of Elisabeth Elliot’s close friends and family about her joy, humor, trust in God, and love for others. We are so thankful someone has posted the entire service online for all to see. It’s hard to imagine two hours of your week better spent than watching this service and learning from the godly life of this amazing woman.
Last Thursday morning, we received the agonizing news that our friend Rebecca’s husband, Wade, went home to be with the Lord after being killed in a car accident. Since that day, our church family has been grieving with Rebecca and her children. Our hearts are breaking for their loss. Wade was a godly man who served alongside our husbands in the church, a man who was greatly respected for his passion for God, his faithful and sacrificial service, his humility, and his kindness. He is already missed so very much.
On Sunday, my father and pastor, CJ Mahaney, sought to care for Rebecca, her children, and our church family, as we “made our way to the house of mourning together” (Ecc. 7:2-4). He shared words of comfort from Scripture as well as instruction on how to care for those who have lost a loved one. May these words serve your soul as well.
We have a Savior who not only feels the effect of death in our lives and weeps with us, we have a Savior who was willing to bear God’s judgment for our sin so we will be forgiven of our sin and spared judgment for our sin. “Death is swallowed up in victory.” And the one who wept by the tomb of Lazarus will one day personally wipe away every tear from the eyes of His people.
(We’re in the throes of book writing at the moment, thus the recent slow-down in blogging. Here’s a recent archive written by Mom that continues to serve my soul.)
Where There is No Grace
by Carolyn Mahaney
What do our mothering fears have in common? They are all in our imagination. Our fertile minds generate countless scenarios whereby one calamity or another befalls our children: What if my son rebels when he hits the teenage years? What if my daughter doesn’t want to be my friend when she grows up? What if my son gets in a car accident? What if my daughter is diagnosed with leukemia?
After thirty-eight years of mothering, I’ve discovered that most of the bad things I imagined never actually came true. But there have been other trials—ones I never anticipated.
That’s why Elisabeth Elliot’s wise advice has been invaluable to me in fighting fear: “There is no grace for your imagination.”
God does not sprinkle grace over every path my fear takes. He does not rush in with support and encouragement for every doomsday scenario I can imagine.
No, instead He warns me to stay off those paths: “Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil” (Ps. 37:8).
There is no grace for our imagination. That’s why our fearful imaginings produce bad fruit: anxiety, lack of joy, futile attempts to control.
There is no grace for our imagination. But God does promise sufficient, abundant grace for every real moment of our lives. That’s why the Proverbs 31 woman can “laugh at the future in contrast with being worried or fearful about it” (ESV Study Bible note on Pr. 31:25)
There is no grace for our imagination. But there will be grace for our mothering future, the moment it arrives.
There is not grace for our imagination. But there is grace for today’s mothering trials. Not tomorrow’s imaginary trouble or next year’s envisaged problems. Just for today.
That’s why Jesus tells us: “[D]o not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:34)
Moms of all people know this to be true: each day really does have sufficient trouble without adding tomorrow’s worries!
But for today’s sufficient trouble there is God’s more-than-sufficient grace: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).
“As your days” it says in Deuteronomy, “so shall your strength be” (33:25).
What’s more, for the Christian mother, goodness and mercy are behind every moment of today’s trouble. Our trouble isn’t meaningless. God is pursuing us with goodness and mercytoday and all the days of our lives (Ps. 23:6).
“Courage, dear friend” encourages Charles Spurgeon, “The Lord, the ever-merciful, has appointed every moment of sorrow and pang of suffering. If He ordains the number ten, it can never rise to eleven, nor should you desire that it shrink to nine” (emphasis mine).
God is busy working today’s mothering trouble for our good. So do not worry about tomorrow but look to Him today.
“Fasting,” Piper writes, “comes in alongside prayer with all its hunger for God and says,
We are not able in ourselves to win this battle.
We are not able to change hearts or minds.
We are not able to change worldviews and transform culture and save 1.6 million children.
We are not able to reform the judiciary or embolden the legislature or mobilize the slumbering population.
We are not able to heal the endless wounds of godless ideologies and their bloody deeds.
But, O God, you are able!
And we turn from reliance on ourselves to you.
And we cry out to you and plead that for the sake of your name, and for the sake of your glory, and for the advancement of your saving purpose in the world, and for the demonstration of your wisdom and your power and your authority over all things, and for the sway of your Truth and the relief of the poor and the helpless, act, O God.
This much we hunger for the revelation of your power.
With all our thinking and all our writing and all our doing, we pray and we fast.
“Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Selah.” (Psalm 68:19)
I’ve been suffering from various mild ailments for what seems like a month now. This is an especially busy week for me and I have been tempted to self-pity over my lack of strength.
This morning my husband prayed this verse for me. The note from my Reformation Study Bible sent me to Isaiah 46:1-4. Here the Lord contrasts the “bearing ability” of idols to that of the One True God:
“Bel bows down; Nebo stoops; their idols are on beasts and livestock; these things you carry are borne as burdens on weary beasts. They stoop; they bow down together; they cannot save the burden, but themselves go into captivity. ‘Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.’”
What is your burden today? They come in countless shapes and sizes—from clingy colds to crushing cares. But one thing’s for sure: our idols cannot bear their load. Leisure and escape don’t provide true rest. Sinful anger cannot relieve the pressure. Even friends are not strong enough to bear up under their full weight.
But have we forgotten? We have been borne by Christ since birth. He carried us from the womb and will not stop even when we are old and bent and gray. He alone has borne the full weight of our sin, and He alone can bear the burdens of life in a sinful world.
He doesn’t pop in once a week or every month to relieve us of our heavy load. Daily, everyday, today, He promises to bear us up. He will carry and he will save. Today. So big or small, let’s cast our burdens on Him. God is our salvation.
By the tender age of thirteen, I was already an accidental feminist. I wasn’t reading Gloria Steinem or asking to join NOW rallies. In fact, growing up in a strong Christian family and gospel-preaching church, I had limited exposure to feminist ideology. But I do remember thinking that I wanted to do something more important than be a wife, mother, and homemaker. Those jobs were all right for some women, but they weren’t good enough for me. I was going to change the world.
Around this time, my mom decided to take me and my sisters through Elisabeth Elliot’s Let Me Be A Woman—letters to her own daughter on the biblical meaning of womanhood. Only recently, somewhat to my amusement, did I learn that this was for my benefit. My wise mother realized that I needed to anchor my developing convictions to God’s truths about womanhood. Her teaching me through that book changed my life.
“Ecclesiastes tells us that there is nothing new under the sun (1:9). Feminism, while it may seem like a new concept, is really an ideology of the oldest kind.”
“We have all asked the question, ‘Did God actually say…?’ Sound familiar? A lady named Eve thought the same thing (Genesis 3). If we are going to make any progress in understanding what it means to be a woman in this crazy world we live in, we must first understand that we come from the same stock. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, we have been in a battle of the sexes, but—more importantly—we have been in a battle against our Creator.”
This age-old battle is exacerbated today by the pervasive influence of feminist ideology. “Like so much of the feminist movement,” writes Courtney, “the good that has come out of it is mixed with bad”:
“Feminism is in our bones now, and many of us do not even know it…Feminism is in the core of our hearts apart from the saving work of the shed blood of Christ….We are all feminists in need of recovery. We have all shaken our fists at God and wanted something different from his good design for us.”
The thrust of Courtney’s book is not merely to expose the accidental feminist in all of us, but to survey, once again, the beauty and glory of God’s gracious plan for women. She covers topics such as singleness, marriage, homemaking, modesty, motherhood, and a woman’s role in the church. She wants to point us past the mommy wars and the battle of the sexes to God’s inerrant Word:
“We are not part of a rebellion against a generation gone by. We aren’t thumbing our noses at the feminists of our mother’s generation. Rather, we desire full-fledged restoration to what God intended for us from the very beginning.”
“But to understand what it means to be a woman in God’s economy, we must first understand his design and plan for us. Then we will see that womanhood has nothing to do with our capabilities, and everything to do with what we were created for.”
Not only did I appreciate this book as a refreshing reminder of God’s gracious and exciting call on our lives as women, I’m tucking it away to use with my daughters someday soon. Because, like my mom before me, I want to raise young women who delight in God’s design for womanhood. I want to raise my daughters to change the world.
Elisabeth Elliot was always there for me. She was there for me as a young girl when my mom read Through Gates of Splendor to our family, stirring my young heart with a passion to live for Christ.
She was there for me as a new wife and mother as I listened to oodles of her taped messages, read her books, and poured over her newsletter. While my mother provided a living example of godliness, Elisabeth’s teaching was the biblical content that shaped my life.
She was there for me when I raised teenage daughters. When my oldest showed hints of feminist thinking in her conversation, I took all three of them through Let Me Be a Woman. Each one was captured by the biblical vision of godly womanhood Elisabeth set forth for her own daughter.