“I feel like such a failure. I’m a horrible mom and a terrible wife. I’m exhausted, depressed, and overwhelmed.”
Sound like a mom you know? How would you counsel this woman? What gospel-centered words would you give her? Maybe you are that mom. As your soul’s counselor, how do you apply the gospel?
So often, in our sincere desire to be gospel-centered, we skip over a biblical diagnosis and assume we know what the problem is.
“You’re caught in the performance trap,” we tell the discouraged mom. “You just need to remember that God’s approval isn’t based on your performance. He loves you, in spite of all your failures. He doesn’t expect you to do it all or be a perfect wife or mom. You just need to rest in God’s grace.”
True, to a point.
But Scripture trains us to be more careful counselors, to apply the varied grace of God appropriately to various mothering discouragements:
“[A]dmonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (1 Thes. 5:14).
In other words, gospel-centered counsel looks different for different counselees.
“Discouraged Mom” may, in fact, be experiencing genuine conviction for anger or impatience or some other area of sin in her mothering. She may need an exhortation to repent and encouragement in the grace of God available to help her to grow (1 John 1:9).
Or a mom may be discouraged because she is comparing herself to other moms or cultural expectations of motherhood. She may need to hear our Savior’s words, “What is that to you, you follow me?” (John. 21:22)
Maybe a mom is looking to her children’s performance as the measurement of her mothering success. She may need to be reminded of her call is just to be faithful, and to trust God with the fruit. Her children’s sin isn’t the final measurement of her motherhood (Gal. 6:9).
Often a discouraged mom is an exhausted mom. She needs a good night sleep and an hour in God’s Word.
I could go on, but point is, gospel-centered counseling doesn’t make a blank check out to grace and hand it over to a discouraged mom. We must be diligent to discern the specific gospel-truth that applies to a particular discouraged mom in her unique situation.
So whether we’re counseling a friend or our own soul, let’s be wise, gospel-centered counselors.
When we brought Jude and Sophie home—before we could even speak the same language—we had two simple priorities: show them we loved them, and teach them to obey.
The first one was easy. We said “I love you” non-stop in English and Amharic. We gave lots of hugs and kisses and smiles of approval. We bought new clothes and books and bikes. We took them sledding (a first!) and played legos and put together puzzles. We made it clear, through our actions and attention, that they were every bit as much our children as our biological son and daughter.
All these things were hugely important. In hindsight, though, I think they felt our love most of all through our gracious authority.
It didn’t feel that way at the time. To train them to obey we started with a few simple guidelines that were easy to understand: No TV until right before dinner (4:45 pm to be precise), no getting up from the table until being dismissed, and no hitting or biting.
They fought back at first—pouting about no TV or sitting at the table with their legs stretched out to the side, poised to bolt. Some days we were tempted to give up. Were we being to strict? Would they grow to hate us forever? What was the harm in letting them watch a little extra TV? But a well-timed word of encouragement from Mom always strengthened our resolve.
So we kept telling them “I love you” and put the remote out of reach.
A funny thing happened. Instead of becoming more resentful toward us and unhappy with the rules, Jude and Sophie became more compliant and obedient, and what’s more, they grew happier by the day.
Recently it dawned on me. One of the main reasons Jude and Sophie seem to have bonded with our family so quickly (in addition to the sheer grace of God!) is because the clear boundaries helped them feel like they belonged. They know the rules, the way things work around here. And so they feel comfortable because they aren’t on the outside trying to understand how this family works. They are “on the in” of the Whitacre family. Because they know what is required of them, they can relax and concentrate on other important things such as soccer and coloring and learning to read.
Don’t get me wrong, like every family, we have plenty of areas that need work. But this morning, as I write, Steve is downstairs going through our Advent devotional over breakfast. And tonight we will be able to sit down at the dinner table and talk and laugh as a family.
Now that they understand our words, and can sit still long enough to listen, we can tell them the greatest news of all: through Jesus Christ, they can join the family of God.
Obedience is the gateway to understanding the gospel.
“‘For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.’ It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:6-11 ESV).
As moms, we may be so afraid of raising little heathens of the self-righteous, legalistic, variety that we neglect to teach our children how to obey.
Perhaps we grew up in a home that was as unloving as it was overbearing, or maybe we have known children who conformed to certain outward standards but who were also arrogant and rude. Or we may fear that to be firm with our children is the same as being ungracious and unloving.
But here is where we have to be careful not to throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. In (rightly!) trying to throw out the bad motive of raising children who meet a certain external standard for the sake of our ease or reputation, we have to be careful not to throw out the biblical mandate to raise children who know what it means to obey, who can come to understand the gospel and live in submission to its claims on their lives.
Throughout Scripture, from the Pentateuch to Proverbs to Paul’s letters (e.g. Deut 5:16, 6:1-9, Prov. 6:20, Eph. 6:1-4), God couldn’t be more clear about a parent’s priority: we are to teach our children to come under the authority of God’s Word by coming under our loving authority. It is what Tedd Tripp so descriptively calls “the circle of God’s blessing.”
Lovingly teaching our children to obey, “right away, all the way, and with a happy heart,” is not legalistic, moralistic parenting. It is obeying God’s Word—if, and only if, we are doing it to please the Lord and not men. Obedience is the gateway to understanding the gospel.
We find a striking example of gospel-centered mothering in the life of Elizabeth Prentiss, author of well-known hymn “More Love to Thee.” A friend observed:
“With her children she was a model disciplinarian, exceedingly strict, a wise lawmaker; nevertheless a most tender, devoted, self-sacrificing mother. I have never seen such exact obedience required and given, or a more idolized mother. ‘Mamma’s’ word was indeed law, but—O happy combination!—it was also Gospel!” (from The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss by George Lewis Prentiss)
Here was a mother who was lavish with her affection as she was insistent on her children’s obedience. The fruit was found in her children’s love and in their receptivity to her gospel words. May our “Mamma’s word” be loving law and gospel grace to our children. O happy combination!
Dr. Russell Moore has some important, biblical, words on how Christians should respond to the President:
The American people have decided that Barack Obama should have a second term. And, behind them, in the mystery of providence, God has decided that Barack Obama would be re-elected. So how should Christians respond to our once and future President?...We are going to disagree with the President on some (important) things; there will be other areas where we can work with the President. But whether in agreement or disagreement, we can honor. Honor doesn’t mean blanket endorsement.
So many of you faithful, exhausted, moms wrote in following Janelle’s post last week on gospel-centered mothering. We hear ya because we are right there with ya! And we’ve had several encouraging conversations with Mom over the weekend that we hope to share with you in the days to come.
Yesterday we were so blessed to have Dr. Tom Schreiner, his wife Diane, and several family members join us for our Sunday service. Dr. Schreiner preached from Romans 3:21-26 on the glorious gospel. At one point, Dr. Schreiner, spoke a word directly to dads, but it was a great reminder to me as a mom as well, so I took the great liberty of changing “dads” to “moms”:
“Moms: The most important thing as a mom is the tone in your home, that tone of joy and gladness. Your kids will know it. Your husband will know it. No matter what you say, they’ll know if you’re happy—fundamentally a happy person. You can’t fool children. You can tell them all kinds of things but they know it, don’t they? That gladness comes fundamentally not from our circumstances but from the gospel. From knowing God. From knowing what God has done for us. Then we’ll be thankful.”
As we talk about gospel-centered mothering, let’s not forget that our happiness as mothers comes not from our circumstances but from the gospel. So may God help us find great joy in the truth of these words today:
We thought you might like to see this video that our friend Brittany Kauflin made of the first meeting of SGC of Louisville. We are so grateful to God for His kindness to us! “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” Psalm 115:1
“But not the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he night be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:21-26
“It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God’s Word and sacrament. Not all Christians receive this blessing….Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Listen to the first sermon from our first Sunday at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville: A Pregnant Prelude:Philippians 1:1-2
“The Triune God initiating and accomplishing salvation through and in Christ is the predominate theme of Philipiians; and by the grace of God it will be the predominant theme of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville. This will be the gloriously predictably theme of our Sunday meetings. This will be the gloriously redundant theme present in every message we have the privilege to preach in this church: the gospel of Jesus Christ and him crucified.” ~CJ Mahaney
I won’t admit to you how many years it has been since I attended the Next conference. It makes me feel my age and I have intentionally forgotten how old I am. But I will tell you that I am still reaping the blessings of that conference in my life today. And there are people all over the country and the world that could say the same. I know them.
There is the girl who came as a non-Christian and left regenerated. She wrote me after the conference to tell me that she had joined a wonderful, gospel-preaching church.
There is the girl who was convicted of lying to her parents and went home and told them the truth.
There is the young man who was ignited with a fire for the local church and the gospel. And I know all about him because I have been happily married to him for the past eleven years.
What is most unique about this conference is that it is more about what happens the other 362 days of the year. The Next conference isn’t about three days of spiritual high but about year round, faithful, grace-enabled service in the local church. And it is this message that continues to shape and inspire my life today.
I don’t want anyone who is still young enough to attend to miss out on this conference. This year more than ever! The conference is being led by Dad and Bob Kauflin and speakers include Kevin DeYoung and Matt Chandler. The theme is You + The Church.
So today, thanks to the kind folks at Next, we have FIVE free registrations (for a single or a married couple) to give away! To win you need to do at leat one of the following:
1. Facebook - like the Next page on fb and post a link to the Next website on your fb page.
2. Twitter - tweet about the Next conference.
3. Blog - write a blog post about the Next conference.
I can’t wait to hear the life changing stories that will be written this year!
In our greatest troubles, it often seems as if God has turned His face away. As if He doesn’t see, as if He doesn’t care to see.
And so we cry out as David did, “Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love” (Ps. 6:4). And we ask for the faith that concludes before it sees: “The Lord has heard my pleas; the LORD accepts my prayer. All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment” (Ps. 6:9-10).
Turn, O Lord and deliver us. And cause our enemies to turn back.
But no answer do we hear. No turning do we see. Or so it seems.
Until we return to the cross.
At the cross, our Heavenly Father turned away from His beloved Son. He did not hear His Son’s pleas. He did not turn back His Son’s enemies. He crushed His Son to fulfill the promise He gave to us through the prophets: “I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me” (Jer. 32:40).
God has not turned away from us in our trouble. He will not turn away. We deserve to have Him turn away from us forever, but He turned away from His Son instead—so that He might not turn away from doing good to us.
And what is that good? It is the fear of God. It is the grace that keeps us from turning away from Him.
This turning, our turning away from God is the greatest tragedy, our greatest trial. And in all our trials, it is this turning that God is working to prevent. He is turning back our greatest enemy of all: sin. He is making sure we do not turn from Him, that we might always bask in the light of His face.
Truly, the Lord has heard my pleas.
A text from my husband the other day: “The providence of God is like Hebrew words—it can be read only backwards.” ~John Flavel