How does a mature Christian handle her emotions? “Keep a tight lid on them” is the answer many of us might offer. But this intuitive reaction is not God’s prescription. He made us in his image, and he gave us emotions. Suppressing our feelings goes against his good design. That’s why it doesn’t work so well. Instead, God gives us a better way to handle our emotions. We are to pray. Rather than suppressing our emotions we are to express them to God. Instead of denying or ignoring our feelings, we are to bring them to the throne of grace.
The Psalms—indeed all of Scripture—is full of countless examples, but let’s consider one today: the story of Hannah. As you know, Hannah was barren and unkindly treated by her husband’s second wife, Peninnah (1 Sam. 1:5-6). She was overwhelmed by wave upon wave of tempestuous emotions. She was so upset she could not eat (1:7).
Did Hannah bottle up all of those bad feelings and put on a good front? Did she deny the bitterness and pain in her heart? No, Hannah’s painful feelings compelled her to pray.
”[Hannah] was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.” (1:10)
Hannah prayed to the Lord. Her misery drew her to God.
Here we have a vivid illustration of the usefulness of unpleasant feelings. Bad emotions can have a beneficial role in our lives when they compel us to pray.
Charles Spurgeon highlights this point:
“Observe, that through her sorrowful spirit, Hannah had learned to pray. I will not say but what she prayed before this great sorrow struck her, but this I know, she prayed with more intensity than before when she heard her rival talk so exceedingly proudly, and saw herself to be utterly despised….Thus bitterness of spirit may be an index of our need for prayer and an incentive to that holy exercise.”
Hannah’s sorrow was the incentive to pour out her soul before God. Hannah rightly handled her miserable feelings. She didn’t allow her miserable feelings to drive her away from God; instead, they were the impetus to turn to God for help. So too our miserable feelings: they should drive us to God, they should compel us to pray.
Prayer is absolutely essential if we are to rightly handle emotions. If we expect to keep our emotions from wreaking havoc on our lives, then we must pray!
Dr. R.C. Sproul makes this assertion about prayer: “Prayer does change things, all kinds of things. But the most important thing it changes is us… Prayer changes us profoundly.”
Prayer changed Hannah profoundly. God changed her heart through prayer and subsequently her feelings changed. And as we know, Hannah’s emotions changed rather dramatically. She went from being “deeply distressed” at the outset of her prayer to being “no longer sad” by the end (1:18).
Pour Out Your Soul
Hannah’s prayer wasn’t some lifeless, dutiful, half-hearted prayer. It was an honest, fervent, “meet God where you are” kind of prayer. There were tears with this prayer. Lots of tears.
As the tears spilled out, Hannah spilled out her soul to the Lord. So emotional was Hannah’s prayer that Eli, the high priest, mistook them for drunken mutterings and wrongly accused Hannah of being intoxicated (1:13-14).
Hannah assured Eli that she was not under the influence of alcohol, but in a state of prayer: “I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord” she told him.
Did God condemn Hannah for her emotional prayer? Quite the opposite! He put her in Scripture as an example of a woman we should follow. It was Eli—the one who looked down his nose at Hannah’s emotional prayers—with whom God was displeased.
Hannah unburdened her soul before the Lord. She did, as Charles Spurgeon put it: “Turn[ed] the vessel of [her] soul upside down in [God’s] secret presence, and let [her] inmost thoughts, desires, sorrows, and sins be poured out like water.”
She poured out everything to God.
We can only imagine the lightness of soul Hannah must have felt after she poured out all the grief and resentment that had been pent-up in her soul for so long!
When we suppress our emotions, it weighs us down. It’s as if we are lugging around a heavy bag with us wherever we go. We all know what happens if we have to carry that bag for an extended period of time: The longer we carry it, the heavier it feels.
So it is with an overwhelmed soul. The longer we bear it, the heavier it feels.
The longer we ignore our sin and suppress our sorrow, the more weighed down we become. The bitter emotions only grow stronger. The depressing feelings only get more intense.
That’s why we should pray. There is no simpler, better way to find help for our overwhelmed souls than to pray. There is no other means whereby we experience relief from our sorrows and forgiveness for our sins than to pray.
That is why James instructed the believers to whom he was writing with these words: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray” (5:13)
Let me turn James’ question on us: Is there anyone here suffering? Is there anyone here whose soul is weighed down? Maybe you are burdened by a severe trial you are walking through. Possibly you are distressed about a particular sin you can’t seem to overcome. Or maybe you feel depressed and you are not even sure why.
If so, may I encourage you to pray?
Let’s pour out our souls before God. No matter how we are feeling, God wants to hear from us. He wants us to tell Him everything that’s on our hearts—to hold nothing back.
Many of us have the impression that emotions are bad. Some were raised in families where people didn’t express much emotion. No one ever said it was wrong to cry or to get too excited about something. But then again, no one ever did.
Quite a few people are raised in a culture where “too much emotion” is frowned upon. Like one woman from the UK who says she is speaking very generally, but “I’m British so we have a stiff upper lip that is part of our DNA. Anything else would seem false or forced to us.”
Maybe you were made fun for crying on the playground, or mocked for your exuberance or your laugh. Whatever the situation, we all know what its like to get the message from other people: your emotions aren’t welcome here.
Even if you grew up with a more positive view of emotions from your parents and culture, you may still have gotten the idea from some Christian books or sermons that feelings were a sign of immaturity.
No matter what our background, most of us don’t realize that negative views of emotion have an ancient history. Aristotle and the Stoics believed that “if you feel good about something you have nullified the virtue of it.” These ideas have profoundly influenced the history of emotional thought.
While more recently, freedom of expression is celebrated in popular American culture, it is also seen as a hindrance to success. In particular for women, whose emotions are particularly unwelcome in the workplace. And it is often frowned upon in the church where a legitimate fear of excessive emotionalism leads many to avoid emotion all together.
“You almost get the feeling,” writes Matthew Elliot of philosophers, “that emotions should be kept in cages, like lions at the zoo—nice to walk past and look at, but better left locked up.”
Lock ‘em up is what many of us do. We press them down, stifle our feelings, suppress any emotional expression. We tell our friends to do the same. Keep calm and carry on. Chill. Relax. Keep a stiff upper lip. Put on your game face. Try to be cool.
We suppress our feelings because it feels like the safe thing to do. It provides protection from the ridicule and rejection of others. It makes us feel a little bit like we are in control of our confusing emotions, which frankly, can be a little frightening at times. It feels like the mature or godly thing to do. Telling us we shouldn’t suppress our feelings is like opening up the cages and letting all the wild animals escape. How can that be a good thing?
“The response of some Christians” writes theologian D.G. Benner “has been to suppress emotional expression. However, such emotional suppression is not only the cause of many psychological problems, it should probably also be seen as a sinful response to emotion in that it violates God’s intentions.”
Emotions aren’t bad. Suppressingemotions is bad because it “violates God’s intentions.” You see, God, is an emotional Being who created us to be like him, to reflect his image (Gen. 1:27). He is not glorified when we suppress or stifle our emotions. He is not pleased when we view feelings as inherently bad or defective.
Stifling emotions is not only wrong, it is dangerous. It is the cause, as Benner points out, of “many psychological problems.” AW Tozer agrees:
“Be sure that human feelings can never be completely stifled. If they are forbidden their normal course, like a river they will cut another channel through the life and flow out to curse and ruin and destroy.”
Because emotional suppression runs contrary to God’s design, it wreaks havoc in our lives. Feelings that are suppressed do not disappear; they burst their bonds and rush forth to ruin and destroy.
We all know the mess a burst emotional pipe can make. Ulcers and migraines. Family feuds. “She finally snapped,” we say. Emotions that are stifled and suppressed—contrary to God’s design—are the source of significant trouble in our lives. Sometimes, after years of stuffing their emotions way down inside, people either “lose it” altogether or instead lose the ability to feel much at all.
Be comforted that God has not left us at the mercy of our emotions. He didn’t give us a gift that is wild and uncontrollable and then tell us we’re wrong to try and tame it. No, he has given us all the wisdom and instruction we need in his Word to help us deal with our emotions in a manner that glorifies him.
So often, and especially with our emotions, we choose a course of action based on past experience instead of God’s Word. We have bad experiences with emotions and so we decide that feelings must be bad. We get rejected because of our emotions and so we conclude that feelings are best kept under wraps. But God wants us to set aside our experiences and return to his Word to learn how to deal with our emotions.
For those of you who have found some degree of safety in suppressing your emotions, God wants you to know that he has a better way. He wants to put faith and courage in your heart. He is the one who gave us emotions and he has told us how to handle them, in a way that results in freedom and in joy.
Others of you may worry that we are opening up all the cages to wild and uncontrolled emotions. Are you really advocating that everyone just express how they feel whenever they feel it? Of course not! If you’ve been reading our blog for any length of time you know us better than that. Rather, we want to encourage everyone to take a fresh look at what Scripture says about our emotions. In the next couple posts we’ll consider one way God helps us to properly handle our emotions.
It wasn’t until after dinner on December 1 that I finally went out to the garage in search of our large, wooden, Advent calendar. All I found was an old, used, cardboard calendar. My search for the traditional Advent candles was equally fruitless, so I grabbed a small, misshapen candle from my bedroom dresser. Let the Advent season begin.
As if the holidays aren’t crazy enough, this year my husband and I are fixing up an old farmhouse and moving in (God-willing) by the middle of December. Right now, we are living in between two houses, making packing lists, carpenter checklists, and Christmas lists all at the same time. Which is why I can’t find my Advent stuff, or anything else for that matter.
You don’t have to be moving to feel like the pressure of the holidays is putting the squeeze on your emotions. We all want to experience the peace and joy of this time of year, but things are so busy. And the busier we get, the more anxious and stressed we feel.
“Your life is so intense right now” my mom sympathized “and that’s just reality. The work isn’t going away. You are, as Paul describes the married woman in 1 Corinthians 7, ‘anxious about worldly things’ (v. 37).”
Then she asked me this question:
“How can you simplify your day so that you can carve out a couple of minutes to contemplate the incarnation?”
Each day, as you make your to-do list, ask yourself this question. What is one task you can eliminate or one tradition you can simplify? How can you turn that extra five minutes or half an hour into time well-spent, focusing on the truth of Immanuel, God with us.
“This is what will make you happy,” Mom reminded me, “contemplating the good news of the gospel.”
She followed her advice with this thought from Martin Luther:
“We must both read and meditate upon the nativity….There is such richness and goodness in this nativity that if we should see and deeply understand, we should be dissolved in perpetual joy.”
The other night, after I had collected our rather pathetic Advent supplies, we gathered our children around the table, turned off the lights (hiding all the dirt and boxes), and lit our solitary candle. Everyone was quiet as my husband helped our youngest, Sophie, read from Luke 2:11:
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
One simple verse, packed with richness and goodness. One tired mom, dissolved in perpetual joy.
The small town in Kentucky where we live grew up about 150 years ago around a train station. Trains still rumble through all day, to the delight of my children who try to count the cars and guess what’s inside.
The other night, though, we came upon an ugly scene. The train had collided with a huge white semi, which lay twisted on the track, illuminated by the glow of emergency vehicles. Thankfully no one was hurt, but it was a dramatic sight.
For some of us, this is where our emotions are headed this Thanksgiving. We are a train wreck waiting to happen.
Maybe we sense a crash ahead. Things haven’t been great with the family lately and a holiday conflict is in the offing. Or we are tense and irritable, unhappy about a lot of things in our life: we’re speeding into the holiday with no emotional brakes.
But maybe we’re totally unaware a semi is ahead on the tracks. We’re happy because the Thanksgiving table will be full this year. We’re energized by all the dinner preparations.
All of us, the excited and the anxious, must consider the source of our emotions this Thanksgiving. Can our happiness be taken away if things suddenly go wrong this Thursday? Is a peaceful holiday or some change of circumstances the only thing that will make us happy?
Tim Keller has a few words of wisdom for the holiday:
Most contemporary people base their inner life on their outward circumstances. Their inner peace is based on other people’s valuation of them, and on their social status, prosperity, and performance. Christians do this as much as anyone. Paul is teaching that (in Eph. 1:15-19 and especially verse 17), for believers, it should be the other way around. Otherwise we will be whiplashed by how things are going in the world.
If our holiday happiness is dependent on what the people we spend Thanksgiving with think about us, or how our children behave, or whether the gravy thickens, we’re headed for an emotional crash. We’ll get whiplashed by how things go.
But Paul wrote in Philippians (4:10-13), that he had learned to avoid such collisions. He had learned the secret to being content (happy!) whatever the circumstances. The strength of his joy was in his Savior.
If we set our joy in God at the beginning of this week, our happiness will be unassailable. It won’t be ruffled by a family member’s put-down or burnt with the rolls.
You know what? We do not need the approval of our family or success in our job or a feeling of significance. We don’t even need to have a conflict-free holiday in order to be happy. Our happiness can really be, as we’ve quoted often here at girltalk, “out of the reach” of all these things. That’s because for those of us who are Christians, our joy is safely and securely in Jesus Christ.
When you can honestly say, “My worst fears about this holiday may come true, or it may be the best holiday ever, but either way, I know I will be happy this Thanksgiving” you know you’ve discovered Paul’s secret. Here’s praying we all will find it.
Today the girltalkers are sitting down over lunch (maybe leftover chicken and orzo or a couple of roast beef sandwiches from Arby’s—Janelle’s still deciding on the menu) to plan Thanksgiving. Yes, we’re a little early on the Christmas music and late on the Thanksgiving planning this year, but we’ll pull it together.
Holiday planning is essential. We plan menus and seating arrangements, we make lists of gifts to get and to give. But there’s one holiday event we often fail to plan for, and that is our feelings.
The holidays stir up feelings we thought were ancient history, feelings that only seem to surface this time of year and if we aren’t prepared, our emotions can end up running (even ruining) the holidays.
Anxiety spikes over the holidays. Will the children like their presents? Will the turkey be moist and will the gravy thicken? Is the family going to get along?
When life is hard and we are down, we feel bitter and resentful of holiday cheer. Maybe Scrooge had a point.
Disappointments litter the holiday season. Your daughter couldn’t come for Christmas. The party wasn’t a huge success. Your husband wasn’t as excited about his present as you’d hoped.
Envy and jealousy rear their ugly heads this time of year. You were reasonably content until you had to spend an evening listening to your cousin talk about her new house and her amazing church and her wonderful kids.
We feel stressed about all the work and irritable because no one is helping us do it.
Feelings of judgment and anger (you thought you’d repented from) are rekindled along with the yuletide fire. Guilt is served up like a side dish.
Many of us feel happy and excited over the holidays, only to get hit with a bad case of post-holiday blues.
For some, the holidays bring a sharp stab of pain and sadness from the loss of a loved one.
How do we deal with our holiday feelings? There’s a ton of advice out there, but as Christian women, we have a higher goal. We want to glorify God with our holiday feelings. We want to rejoice in our Savior’s birth. We want to have hearts full of gratitude for the gift of salvation.
We have a higher goal, and we also have a greater hope. Our hope is in our Savior, who has rescued us from the wrath of God and forgiven us from our sins. Our hope is in the Holy Spirit who is active in our hearts this holiday season to help us rejoice in Jesus Christ.
How can we experience God-glorifying emotions this holiday? Let’s receive wisdom from God’s Word to make a plan.
“[T]ake the…sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Eph. 6:17-18).
To fight fear we are to “pray at all times.” But we have another weapon in our arsenal: the promises of God. We are to wield the Word against the onslaught of mothering fears.
We are to ”take” the Word of God and use it. To do this, we need to have it nearby. This means we need to be daily reading the Word and consistently meditating on it.
And we need to pull out the promises and put them into action. We have to pick up the sword and fight. A sword must be swung in order to deliver a blow.
We have a legacy of faithful, fear-fighting, women to follow: “And you are [Sarah’s] children if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (1 Pet. 3:6).
John Piper writes: “[T]he daughters of Sarah fight the anxiety that rises in their hearts. They wage war on fear, and they defeat it with the promises of God.”
Let’s be daughters of Sarah and fight our mothering fears with the promises of God.
To conclude: Our two, fear-fighting, strategies are:
Prayer: “...do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).
Promises: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).
Saints throughout the centuries have leaned on God’s promises and called out to Him in prayer. And each and every time, they have found Him to be faithful. “I sought the Lord,” David tells us, “and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears” (Ps. 34:4).
So, let’s follow the example of David and that great cloud of witnesses. Let’s seek God through constant prayer, and in the space of His promises, let’s park our souls.
When feelings of fear for our children overwhelm our souls, we often look for something “new” to help us deal with them. But instead, we must rely on the true and the tried strategies from God’s Word. The first, never-failing, fear-fighting, strategy is prayer.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7 ESV).
For the anxious mother, God has provided a solution in His Word. It is simple: Pray. Give Thanks. Repeat.
It covers all of life: Don’t be anxious about ANYTHING. Pray about EVERYTHING.
And it comes with a promise: God’s peace will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
As we pray and give thanks IN EVERYTHING, our trust in God deepens and His peace pervades our lives. Anxious thoughts don’t have the same sticking power.
“Prayer is the unfailing resource of anxious mothers,” to paraphrase Charles Spurgeon:
“If they are driven to their wits’ end, they may still go to the mercy-seat….Let us never forget to pray, and let us never doubt the success of prayer… Mirth and carnal amusements are a sorry prescription for a mind distracted and despairing. Prayer will succeed where all else fails.”
We are often “at our wits’ end” with our children. We feel like we’ve tried everything and we don’t know what else to do. So we worry and fret.
Instead of giving way to fear, we must cry to the Lord on behalf of our children. We must pray. We must never forget to pray. And we must not doubt the success of prayer. We must believe that prayer works.
Prayer will succeed where all our mothering efforts fail.
“They…were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” Ps. 107:27, 28
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 mercy today 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.
Our mothering fears are conceived with our children. We see two little blue lines, and we are tempted to worry. We worry about eating something bad, lifting something heavy, sleeping in the wrong position.
Then our baby is born, and we fret about her life outside the womb—her eating, sleeping, talking, walking, developmental progress.
Our child starts school and we fear he will never finish. Will he make friends, make good grades, make something of himself? No sooner does high school start and we begin to worry about college.
We worry about our children’s health, their education, their friends, and above all, the state of their souls.
But once our children leave home, get a job, get married—then we can stop worrying, right?
Not so fast. Instead of leaving with our children, new worries move in. In my case, I now have nineteen people (including sons-in-law and grandchildren) to worry about instead of four! And the world in which my grandchildren are growing up seems much scarier than the one in which I raised my children.
What mothering fears have you battled lately? Whether you are pregnant with your first child or trying to steer your youngest child through the teenage years, temptations to fear (or to its opposite: self reliance) litter the mothering landscape. Scripture seems to bear witness to this. While all Christians are frequently urged to trust God, women are specifically exhorted in 1 Peter 3:6: “do not fear anything that is frightening.”
I love Scripture’s honesty! It admits right upfront that there’s stuff that is frightening. In fact, Scripture often predicts we will face much trouble and hardship in this life. And nowhere is this more true than with our children. Where else in life do we have more significant responsibility (eternal souls), face such daunting challenges (sinful heart, hostile world), and feel so inadequate and ineffective?
But we are not to fear anything that is frightening. We are to trust in God.
Trusting God is not a one-time decision or something we can accomplish in a month. We will have to fight to trust. Some days we must fight hourly, even on a moment-by-moment basis. Like raising children, growing in trust is a life-long effort.
But we are not alone. We have the Holy Spirit inside of us to guide us into all truth. We have our Sovereign Father ruling wisely and graciously over all. We have our Savior’s righteousness to run to when we fail. Many things are frightening, but we have many more reasons to trust God than to fear.
Mothers, we will never outgrow our need to trust God for our children, but neither will we outgrow the faithfulness of God: “the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children” (Ps. 103:17).
I once saw a Family Circus cartoon that showed three children leaning on the edge of their parents’ bed, watching them while they slept. The caption underneath was one child’s remark: “They look so sweet and peaceful when they’re asleep. You wonder how they could ever yell at us during the day.” Do you ever wonder if this happens in your home? That your kids think of you as a mean mom? That your failures as a mother define you and determine your children’s future?
When you add the feeling (or reality) of a mothering failure to the exhaustion, the endless work, and the temptation to compare yourself to other moms, you have a perfect motherhood storm.
This happened to me countless times when I was raising my children. I would fail in my mothering—either by something I did, or something I didn’t do—and I was sure it was a sign I would ultimately fail. That was it. My kids would never “turn out.” I had ruined them forever.
I remember one time I got angry at one of my daughters. Although I had repented before God and asked my daughter’s forgiveness, I still felt terrible. I berated myself for treating my child in such a manner. I was convinced the damage was irreparable.
But my husband encouraged me: “Because of your humility in asking her to forgive you, she feels close to you now than before.” And he was right. This daughter and I were experiencing the sweet closeness that follows repentance in a relationship.
Now I’m not issuing a free pass to sin! I am not saying, “It’s okay to be unkind to your children. They’re tough. They can handle it.” Sin is always the wrong choice. It does have consequences. So by the power of the Holy Spirit, we must work tirelessly to eradicate it from our lives (Rom. 8:13). When we sin we must not make excuses, we must confess our sin to God and humbly ask our children for forgiveness.
But we must not succumb to despair or live with low-grade condemnation or guilt. This maligns the gospel and does not produce the fruit of repentance or serve our children. Rather we must return to Scripture. We must remind ourselves of the truth that God is faithful and just to forgive us from our sins and to cleanse us from unrighteousness (1 John 1:9), that he is busy conforming us to the image of His Son (Rom 8:29), and that he works all things (even our mothering failures!), for our good and the good of our children (Rom 8:28).