2015 at 9:01 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
Purveyors of chocolate, makers of plush teddies and tacky pajamas, and restaurateurs everywhere are enjoying the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, but this yearly celebration of romantic love sometimes produces more disappointments than diamond sales.
The holiday can be a painful reminder of unfulfilled hope for women who are single. For women in difficult marriages Valentine’s Day brings to the surface disappointed hopes. Even in a strong, happy marriage, women can experience deflated hope on Valentine’s Day.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Prov. 13:12).
Valentine’s day buckles under the weight of high hopes, just as marriage does. It will never satisfy all our desires and longings, because God created marriage, not as a hope-fulfiller, but as a picture of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31-32).
Our disappointed hopes reveal that our hope has been misplaced. And God ordains our disappointments—big and small—in order that we may replace our hope on the one person who will never disappoint. Like the “holy women” of the past we are to hope in God (1 Pet. 3:5).
Hopes deferred aren’t a dead end, but a gracious redirect. They are a pointer to the “living hope:” our Savior, Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:3). Hope in God enables us to joyfully face the future, whether or not we get married, whether or not we have a happy marriage, whether or not this holiday is all we hoped for.
If Valentine’s Day magnifies our misplaced hopes, we must put our hope in God (1 Pet. 3:5). We do this by focusing on all that God promises to be for us in Jesus Christ.
Our difficulties will be “unbearable” writes Martin Luther, “if you are uncertain that God is for you and with you.”
God is for you. He is working for your good on this Valentine’s Day.
Once he was against you. The full fury of his wrath was set against your sin. But he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to bear the justifiable “against-ness” of God. Through the cross we have not only received forgiveness but all the “for-ness” of God in Christ Jesus.
Our hope in pain:
You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
No uncertainty here. This I know. God is for me.
And God is with you.
“[F]or he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Heb. 13:5-6)
He is not watching your pain from a distance, just out of sight. He is “near” (Ps. 34;18). He is near to comfort, near to encourage, near to strengthen, near to bless.
John Piper writes: “When you think he is farthest from you, or has even turned against you, the truth is that as you cling to him, he is laying foundation stones of greater happiness in your life.”
What may seem like a difficult holiday is really another “foundation stone of greater happiness,” lovingly laid by the Savior.
God is with us. He is for us. He is our hope this Valentine’s Day.
Underneath the cheap red cellophane of a hope-less Valentine’s Day lies a glorious opportunity: a chance to put our hope in God.
Q. I’d be grateful if you could talk about emotions in response to when we are hurt by other Christians, particularly when there has been no reconciliation.
Few things dredge up so much emotional pain and confusion as broken relationships with other Christians. In poetic, haunting language the Psalmist describes the acute nature of this pain:
“For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together;
Within God’s house we walked in the throng.
“It is not an enemy” that causes me pain, writes David. I know what to do about him. I can handle his attacks just fine.
“I could hide”
“I could bear it.”
So for us, it is not the enemies of the Christian faith, the insulters of the godly everywhere, whose words and actions pain us most.
“But it is you,” says David. My companion. My familiar friend. My sweet co-counselor. My fellow worshipper. It is your betrayal that hurts the most.
The friends we welcomed into our home and into our lives, the friends we confessed sin to and worshipped with and shared the gospel alongside—these broken relationships are painful in direct proportion to how sweet they once were.
In other words: give me a vicious enemy, any day, over a false friend.
Many of you know the pain of a broken friendship:
~You’ve been through a church split and lost half of your friends.
~A close friend has rejected you and the Christian faith.
~Your former friend still sits in the same pew at church but refuses to speak to you.
~You’ve had to leave a church because of the slander or persecution from other church members.
How do we handle the jagged edges of un-reconciled relationships? How do we process the grief, guilt, regret, hurt, anxiety, confusion, and even the loss of faith?
Before we do anything else, we must bring our grief to God. The answer is right here in Psalm 55. The Psalmist cries out in unbearable pain over this broken relationship, and then he turns to God.
“But I call to God,
and the Lord will save me” (v. 16).
We must not allow our disillusionment over another Christian’s actions lead us away from God. Rather, in our pain, we must turn to Christ.
For it was never other Christians in whom we were called to put our faith. It is not other Christians who save us. It is God who has rescued us from the power of sin and hell and only he can save us from the pain of these broken relationships.
We must call to God. We must pour out our heart to him. We must ask for his mercy on this relationship. We must pray for forgiveness for our own sin and a spirit of forgiveness toward others. We must bring our questions, our confusion, our hurt, our pain, our guilt, and our indecision over what to do next to the God who saves.
Who after all, knows more intimately the pain of false friends than our Savior, Jesus Christ? Who knows the rejection of sinful humanity whom he has created and blessed? In the moment when we feel rejection and pain, we must remember that we first rejected him. But he has reconciled us to himself. He is the great reconciler.
He is also the great comforter. And you are not the first saint he has comforted in this situation. Let these words from Charles Spurgeon encourage your soul:
Has it fallen to thy lot, my brother, to be forsaken of friends?... [H]as it come to this now, that you are forgotten as a dead man out of mind? In your greatest trials do you find your fewest friends? Have those who once loved and respected you, fallen asleep in Jesus? And have others turned out to be hypocritical and untrue?
What are you to do now? You are to remember this case of the apostle; it is put here for your comfort. He had to pass through as deep waters as any that you are called to ford, and yet remember, he says, “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me.”
So now, when man deserts you, God will be your friend. This God is our God for ever and ever—not in sunshiny weather only, but for ever and ever. This God is our God in dark nights as well as in bright days. Go to him, spread your complaint before him. Murmur not.
If Paul had to suffer desertion, you must not expect better usage. Let not your faith fail you, as though some new thing had happened to you. This is common to the saints. David had his Ahithophel, Christ his Judas, Paul his Demas, and can you expect to fare better than they?
Be of good courage, and wait on the Lord, for he shall strengthen thy heart. “Wait, I say, on the Lord.”
“When man deserts you, God will be your friend.” And there is no greater, no truer friend we could ask for. Therefore, in the pain of broken relationships, call to God.
One time, after I finished speaking to a group of women on true beauty, a woman approached me and said: “That’s all fine and good, God’s perspective on beauty. And I believe it is true. But the reality is, that’s not the message my husband receives from our culture about beauty.” She was worried: as she was getting older, her physical beauty was fading. It troubled her that her husband, like every other man in our society, was constantly bombarded with images idealizing youth and physical beauty.
Not to mention that her husband wasn’t at the women’s meeting to hear a message on biblical beauty. It’s not that he had given her a specific reason to worry; she just appraised the situation and thought it sufficient cause for concern.
Ours is a culture that unfairly holds women to an ideal standard of physical beauty. Since it is a kind of beauty most of us will never attain, and will certainly never be able to maintain, we may worry about how we are going to hold onto our husbands’ affection and attraction.
This is a recurring concern I hear as I interact with women about beauty. They wonder if they are still as beautiful to their husbands as their bodies change after childbirth and as they grow older.
“It Drives My Husband Crazy”
Even if their husbands attempt to reassure them, some women continue to worry:
“I have a problem with accepting that my husband finds me as beautiful as he says he does,” admits Stephanie.
This fear, along with our refusal to believe our husbands when they tell us we are beautiful, can cause tension in a marriage.
“I struggle with the fear I’m getting fat all the time. It drives my husband crazy writes Briana.
Jen says the same: “I don’t understand why I cannot trust my husband when he tells me how beautiful I am! It’s so annoying to him when I say, ‘You have to say that.’”
Friends, if there is one thing that frustrates a man, it is a wife who won’t believe him on this point. Men don’t like to feel as if they can never say or do enough to convince us that they appreciate our beauty. We do our marriages a disservice when we judge our husbands by failing to take them at their word.
But how do we deal with this fear that plagues so many of us?
The Cure for All Our Fears
We must trust God for our husbands.
God brings a man and woman together in marriage. He put affection in our husbands’ hearts for us, and he has a good plan for our marriages. This is not to say that we won’t face challenges, even severely painful ones. But no matter what trials we meet in our marriages, God will work them for our good and his glory (Rom. 8:28).
God is not distant from our marriages. He did not set them in motion only to leave them to run on their own. He is “a very present help” in marriage trouble (Ps. 46:1): present to care, strengthen, and comfort us, no matter our difficulties, big or small.
Confidence in God’s personal involvement and tender care frees us from fear. Our hope is not in our husbands or in our beauty, but in the character of God, the constancy of his affections, and the surety of his purposes.
How To Become More Beautiful
Here’s where it gets amazing: The more we trust God, the more attractive we become. A gentle and quiet spirit adorns the whole woman, making her beautiful from the inside out. Her lack of anxiety, restlessness, and neediness, her carefree confidence in God’s goodness makes her more lovely as the years go by.
This beauty is so profound, it can even attract unbelieving husbands to the gospel; they can be “won without a word” by the beauty of a wife’s godly character (1 Pet. 3:1-2).
~Adapted from True Beauty by Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre
Here at girltalk and fam we are at various stages of recovering from the nasty flu virus that’s been going around. so new content will have to wait a few days. Here’s a reminder of what we were talking about last year at this time. Be back with you soon! Nicole for the girltalkers
I only remember two things about Margie. She had long brown hair and she was smarter than me. Maybe she recited her multiplication tables faster or got better grades or turned in tests sooner than me and the other dozen or so kids in the third grade—I don’t remember, exactly. But I do remember crying to my mom, feeling sorry for myself that she was so much better than me.
And the reason that I remember Margie at all is because of what my mom said next: “You’ll always have a Margie in your life, Nicole. There is always going to be someone who is better than you. No matter where you are, who you know, how much you excel, God is always going to put people close to you who are better than you.”
Boy, was she was right. I don’t think Margie returned to my school the following year, but she’s been with me ever since. Sometimes she is a mother who is a more consistent and creative mom than me. Other times she’s a writer who can write circles around me. She’s the woman who is much prettier than I am. She has more friends than me. She has more money and a nicer house. She’s more artistic than me.
Everywhere I turn, every time I try my hand at something, every time I think, even for a split second, that maybe, just maybe, I’ve finally earned a blue ribbon, she shows up, just in time, to grab the grand prize.
What would I do without her?
I would be puffed up and self-satisfied. Apathetic. Unmotivated. Hard-hearted. Unhappy. That’s why I thank God for all the Margies in my life. Not always right at first, but sooner than I used to; because I have come to see each one—not as a threat to my happiness and success—but as a gift from God: a token of his particular, adopting, sanctifying love for me.
God uses Margie to expose my heart. She shows me what the wise old preacher once said: “What hurts ain’t dead yet.”
God uses Margie to challenge me to grow. She shows me that I really haven’t “arrived” in the Christian life but that I can, and I should, make progress.
God uses Margie to purify my heart for service. She eclipses my glory, and so, with the silt of my ambition strained out, I’m more apt to serve for God’s glory.
No doubt you have a Margie or two in your life. She’s probably the woman you’re thinking of right now. If so, thank God. He loves you, and he is not done with you yet.
(For more on the temptation to compare, watch this video message from Mom.)
My ten-year-old daughter told me she feels like she has heard about God all her life but he feels far away from her. I am trying not to panic as a mom. I know I have felt that way too before. But I am not sure how to guide her without lecturing her. Would you require her to do a quiet time or just let her do if she wants to?
The feelings of panic (and I know them well!) often arise in these moments when we feel helpless to change our child’s heart. We feel that way because it is true! Salvation belongs to the Lord (Ps. 3:8). We cannot open the eyes of our children’s hearts or give them a heart of flesh for a heart of stone, but we must turn our panic into prayer that God would do what only he can do.
But there is a lot that we can—and should—do to parent our children in the ways of the Lord, and the God who gave us this mothering job in the first place has also given us wisdom in his Word for how to do it.
First of all, as I often remind my girls, we must parent in faith. We must parent with confidence in the steadfast love and faithfulness of the Lord, his power and desire to save (he saved us, after all!), the wisdom of His Word to guide us, and the ever-present help of the Holy Spirit.
You may already be doing this, but I would encourage you to keep talking to your daughter about how she feels. Tell her you have felt this way too. Encourage her that God often makes us aware of a lack of his presence so that we might seek his presence. God is at work! You can pray with her and ask that God would grant her salvation and assurance. Stories from you or your husband or grandparents, friends, etc. can be a real comfort so she does not feel strange or alone.
Then I would encourage you to help her develop a habit of reading the Bible and praying every day. There is an unhealthy skittishness parents often feel about making their children do what they don’t want to do. We worry: if we push the Bible on them, will we push them away? Maybe we had a bad experience growing up, or this just smells like legalism to us. Isn’t it better to pray, encourage, and wait for God to do his work?
I would counter that leading a child to God’s Word is doing God’s work. It is what he commands us to do (Deut. 6:4-9) and it is the means He most often uses to bring a child to Himself. I am no exception. In many ways, it is the habits of my childhood, set in place by my parents, that most profoundly shape my life to this day. Growing up, my parents required us to go to church three times a week. Sunday morning. Sunday evening. Wednesday night. No exceptions. These were not, as my husband always refers to Sundays “my favorite days of the week.” I was bored silly at church. I couldn’t wait to get back to school on Monday morning and be with my friends. But my parents didn’t consult my feelings on the matter. I was going to church whether I wanted to be there or not. And it was in one of these church services that God first opened my eyes to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
One other example comes to mind. As a young girl I had to memorize 200 Bible verses to get into a summer camp I really wanted to attend. I didn’t care about the verses, but I cared about camp and so I completed the assignment. My motives may have been totally wrong, but these Scriptures embedded in my mind and heart have encouraged and comforted me throughout my Christian life.
All that to say, I would encourage you to help your daughter develop a habit of having quiet times. Even if she doesn’t want to. Even if she’s bored silly. By placing God’s Word in front of her every day, you are laying the kindling under which our gracious God may light the spark of his presence. Tell her you are doing this because you love her. We make our children brush their teeth and eat their peas, not because they like it, but because we know it is best for them. How much more the reading of God’s Word?
And do whatever you can to make it easy and exciting. Buy her a new journal where she can write down her questions and thoughts; use a solid Bible study book or program (several of my grandkids use these Bible reading notes from the Good Book Company and the ESV Seek and Find Bible is a great option for children); have a time each day at breakfast or dinner where the kids can ask Mom and Dad questions from their daily Bible reading (stump the parent!); give them a challenge to memorize or read for a reward.
Finally, don’t underestimate the effect of your genuine passion for the Lord on your daughter. As she sees you read your Bible every day, talk about Scripture, live out your faith (not flawlessly but faithfully), she will be indelibly impressed by the work of the Spirit that she sees in you.
I’ll leave you with these bracing words from JC Ryle. As you lead your daughter in faith toward God, may you see much fruit in her life.
“I know that you cannot convert your child. I know well that they who are born again are born, not of the will of man, but of God. But I know also that God says expressly, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go’ and that he never laid a command on man which he would not give man grace to perform. And I know, too, that our duty is not to stand still and dispute, but to go forward and obey. It is just in the going forward that God will meet us. The path of obedience is the way in which He gives the blessing. We only have to do as the servants were commanded at the marriage feast in Cana, to fill the water-pots with water, that we may safely leave it to the Lord to turn that water into wine.” ~Ryle
After church on Sunday I was chatting with a friend about friendships. Friends are a big issue for us as women. Our friends and family are often the center of our world. They consume a majority of our time and attention. And that’s a good thing. God made us to be relational creatures.
But often, we are more passive than purposeful in our relationships. People drift in and out of our lives. We don’t usually pause to consider why we pursue one friendship and neglect another. Our feelings (such as having an emotional connection) often guide our friendships more than God’s Word.
As we make new plans for the New Year, it’s a great time to consider our relationships in light of Scripture, to develop, as my dad likes to say, “a theologically informed” approach to friendship.
Do our relationships—the friends we choose and the time we spend with them—bring glory to God?
“The righteous should choose his friends carefully” (Prov. 12:26, NKJV). Here are a few kinds of friends Scripture tells us we should choose:
Friends Who Sharpen
How would you describe your ideal friend? Is she lots of fun? Easy to be with? Loyal? Does she buy the same blouse or laugh at the same movie lines or cook the same food? All plus points to be sure.
But Scripture says the best kind of friend is someone who sharpens us as “iron sharpens iron,” (Prov. 27:17, NKJV), who “[stirs us] up…to love and good works” (Heb. 10:24).
We need at least one and preferably many friends who inspire us to serve, provoke us to love, help us to grow in godliness, correct us, encourage us, strengthen our faith, and spur us on to passion for the Savior.
Do you have friends who sharpen and stir you up?
Maybe you need to take a current friendship in a new direction, inviting a Christian friend to encourage you in the gospel or hold you accountable in your walk with the Lord.
Or maybe you need to make some godly friends. This may require a step or two outside the old comfort zone. But even if it’s a little awkward at first, we all need friends who sharpen us.
Friends Who Mentor
Biblical friendship should be educational. According to Titus 2, the older women are to teach the younger women “what is good”—that is, a lifestyle of love and commitment to home and family and to godly upright character, all in accord with sound doctrine.
Those of us who are younger should be studying and learning. We ought to doggedly pursue other women to teach us how to grow in godliness. And if we possess the teaching credentials of an older woman—proven character and a fruitful life—we should be teaching “what is good” to our younger friends.
So ask yourself: In my friendships am I learning and teaching “what is good”?
Friends Who Need Friends
It’s so easy to get comfortable with our close friends. But choosing our friends carefully means we must guard against selfishness and laziness. While life-long friends are a blessing from the Lord, we are also called to reach out to the new person, the lonely, the foreigner. “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers” (Heb 13:1-2).
Have you ever been “the new girl”? Remembering that uncomfortable feeling can motivate you to reach out to the new woman in your church. How can you show sisterly love to a woman who needs a friend? It can be as simple as introducing yourself to a visitor at church, inviting a quiet woman out for coffee, or inviting someone to come along with you and your friends. Let’s help new girls not feel new for very long.
Friends Who Need the Gospel
“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders,” Paul tells us, “making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:5-6).
Often we get so comfortable with our Christian relationships that we neglect the priority of evangelism. But Scripture expects us to be having gospel-sowing conversations with non-Christians. We need to walk around campus, through our office cubicles, or to the mailbox on the lookout for friends who need the gospel. They are not that hard to find.
Biblical friendship isn’t all duty and no fun. The pleasures of friendship, among them companionship, comfort, and laughter, are all good gifts from God and flow from his character (Acts 14:17, 1 Tim. 6:17, James 1:17). God wants us to enjoy our friends! And when we choose friends carefully we will receive these blessings and many more.
Last week, the girltalkers met at Janelle’s house. We brought Chick-fil-a, sent the kids to play with Christmas toys, and set our laptops, notepads, and colored pens on the kitchen table. It was time to plan.
Mom started planning with us when we were teenagers. Twice a year she would help us evaluate our life and priorities and consider ways we could grow. After we got married, we asked her to come back and help us, and so the tradition has continued to this day.
I got to thinking about what I find most helpful about Mom’s approach to planning for the New Year and here are my top three. Even though you can’t join us for Chick-fil-a, I hope these ideas inspire your planning, too.
1.Principle leads to practice. In a recent sermon (which you really should listen to, by the way), my Dad shared a line from JI Packer about the Puritans:
“Their knowledge was no mere theoretical orthodoxy. They sought to ‘reduce to practice’ (their own phrase) all that God had taught them.”
When we plan, Mom helps us to “reduce to practice” all that God has taught us. Here is where our theology gets worked out in methodology. It is where our goals for godliness get translated into detailed steps. Here is where we come up with specific, concrete, plans for living out biblical truth in every day life.
For this reason our relationship with God is always the first thing we talk about. Then we consider how we can be better wives and mothers. We discuss ways we can be more skilled homemakers. We ask: How are we to be serving in our local church? Who has God called us to share the gospel with?
What an awesome privilege we as Christians have, to be taught by God. By his grace, we must seek to put into practice all we have learned from his Holy Word.
2. Change is in the really small details.
What really keeps me coming back to these planning times is the immediate and dramatic difference they make in my life. Mom helps us make our big picture goals a reality by targeting small areas for change.
This year, it came down to a new oatmeal recipe.
Lately my mornings have been very hectic, cutting short my writing time. Breakfast was the culprit. It was a big production with four kinds of toast and five versions of cereal or oatmeal (with lots of toppings). Mom googled “slow cooker oatmeal recipes” and suggested I prepare the toppings ahead of time. These small changes have transformed my morning routine. I am not running around my small kitchen like a crazy woman, and I’m able to finish writing before the kids need my full attention.
A new oatmeal recipe might not seem like a big New Year’s plan, but it is the little things that make the big goals possible.
3. Planning helps me focus.
Janelle has been wanting to learn to crochet for a while now. It’s a good skill to have, and she has good reasons for wanting to learn. But as we talked through her priorities, starting with the most important, she realized that she doesn’t have time to take a crocheting class right now. It would mean giving up other, more important goals.
In an age of unlimited opportunities and countless distractions, planning helps me to focus. Otherwise I would run here and there doing a lot of good things but neglecting the best things. Realistically, we can only give ourselves to a few things this year. Let’s make sure those few things are the most important ones.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” ~Ephesians 5:15-16
Whether 2015 holds suffering or celebration, we don’t yet know. It probably has some of both in store. But this New Year’s resolution from James 5:13 is of the greatest importance no matter what awaits us in the New Year. Listen to yesterday’s sermon from Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville to learn about a resolution every Christian should make this year.