My neighbor and I stood in our cul-de-sac, watching our kids ride bikes and try to fly kites without a breeze. “My son is having a hard time making friends at his new school,” she told me. “When I went to pick him up the other day he was standing all by himself. It was so hard to see him be left out.” Her mother’s heart was breaking for her child.
Few things hurt like watching your child get rejected. I’ve been surprised at the strong emotions that well up inside me at those times. I hurt when my kids hurt and often I hurt even more than they do.
With all those strong, mama-bear emotions we can lose sight of a biblical perspective. We forget to view the situation through the lens of God’s Word. But if we are going to help our child navigate these moments, we must think about them biblically, and we must help them to think that way too.
When your child gets left out, it is an opportunity for God’s grace to come in.
This relatively small trial brings with it big gospel opportunities for parenting our children. In fact, you could argue that there are more blessings than pain to be had, when we view being left out in light of biblical truth.
(Disclaimer: Although some of what I say may apply, this post is not about bullying or deliberate unkindness which requires appropriate parental action and protection for our children.)
1.An opportunity to develop character.
Often, being slighted or rejected is one of the first trials that our children experience, and as much as we hate to watch them hurt we need to maintain a biblical perspective. “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character,” it says in Romans 5:3-4. Suffering, even in small ways, helps to strip away the sin that “clings so closely” (Heb. 12:1), and it forges godly character you can’t get any other way. So while we will feel sad that our children must know pain, we can also rejoice in the good that pain will produce. Before he joined our family, my son, Jude, experienced the harsh realities of poverty as a very small boy. I often wish I could reach back and rescue him from those difficult experiences. But I also see how those early trials made him into the remarkably mature young man he is today. I’m not happy he had to go through those difficulties, but I delight in the thoughtful, strong, wise, and responsible boy that suffering has produced. In age-appropriate ways, we as parents can begin to help our children see some of the purposes of God in suffering: to produce endurance, which produces character, which produces hope in God. And hope in God does not (like people so often do) disappoint (Rom. 5:3-5).
2.An opportunity to become others-focused.
It may be the first time your child has been left out, but it almost certainly won’t be the last. We all, at one time or another, know what it is like to be rejected, uninvited, or lonely. These are unpleasant experiences in an unkind world. But they are also blessings in disguise. As parents we can turn these experiences into valuable teaching opportunities to help our children peel their eyes off themselves and live to serve God and others. Let’s help our children use the experience of being left out to look out for others instead. Feeling rejected can, with help from Dad and Mom, make them more sensitive to others who are lonely. They can learn how to reach out to the loner and show compassion to the outcast. The question is not, “will I be included today?” but “who can I include for God’s glory today?” Being left out is an opportunity to experience the blessings of serving others (Is. 58:10, Pr. 11:25).
3.An opportunity to escape the fool.
Every Christian parent wants his or her child to grow up to be a godly young man or woman. But sometimes we secretly (or not so secretly) want them to be popular too. If we learn anything from Scripture and experience, however, it is that popularity and godliness don’t often mix too well. Few adults can handle the headiness of popularity and fame, much less so children. It is a test of prosperity few can pass with flying colors. Nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to raise popular children or commended for wanting to do so. Instead, we are told to raise wise children who stay far away from the fool (Prov. 14:7). If the companion of fools comes to harm, then being rejected or left out by said fools spares your child (and you) all kinds of grief and consequences (Prov. 13:20). If our children are left out, we have to ask ourselves: do we really want them to fit in with that group in the first place? Far better that our children have no friends at all than have foolish friends. In other words, rebellion is worse than rejection. Of course we aren’t trying to raise loners. Godly friendship is a gift and we want to cultivate and encourage wise and helpful friendships for our children. But it is our job as parents to guide them toward friends who will point them to Christ. Any distance we can put between our children and the fool is a blessing from God.
4.An opportunity to draw closer to God and family.
So often, God uses loss in our lives to draw us to himself. The same is true for our children. When our children are well liked and comfortable and have all their hearts’ desire, they don’t often have a hunger for God’s Word or his presence. It is when those things are taken away that they often (by the Spirit of God) are drawn to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (Ps. 119:67). As parents, we must point the way. We must tell our children that God is using this trial to call them to himself and encourage them to seek his face. Also, seize the opportunity to strengthen family relationships. I’m so grateful for the way my parents insisted that my siblings and I always look out for each other. “Friends will come and go” they said, “but you will always have your family.” You may not have that relationship with your own parents or siblings but you have an opportunity, by the grace of God, to create a family where that is the case. Fill the empty social calendar with more family time. Eat meals together and make memories and have fun together. Teach your children to rally around and support each other. This doesn’t make all the pain go away, but it does make your home a haven from the pain.
5.An opportunity to learn courage.
More and more each day we realize that we are parenting our children through great cultural changes. The world they are growing up in is far different than it was ten or twenty years ago, and we must prepare our children to engage a hostile world with the gospel in a way that is loving and winsome but also bold and wise. Our goal is to raise, as John Ensor once put it, “non-conformists”: children who do not conform to this world but who are transformed by the renewal of their minds (Rom. 12:2). Being left out teaches our children how to stand alone. It teaches them what it means to live without the affirmation of others but solely on the truth of God’s Word. We have a tremendous gospel opportunity when our kids get left out. In fact, we should want them to get left out if the ticket to “fit in” is disobedience to God’s Word.
To seize these gospel opportunities we must be sympathetic and understanding toward our children. We must enter into our children’s pain before we can lead them to see the gracious opportunities it provides. “Those kids may have meant evil against you,” we can tell them, “but God meant it for good” (Gen 50:20).
2014 at 8:33 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
The other night, my girls and I met with a group of women for an informal question and answer time. One of the women asked about marriage: “How do you keep falling in love with your husband through the years?”
We talked about the eighty/twenty rule, and about looking for ways to show love to our husbands that are meaningful to them. Last week here on the blog we considered the importance of not being so busy serving them that we don’t cultivate affectionate love.
But one of the biggest love-killers in a marriage is sinful comparison.
We’ve all done it. You spend an evening with another couple and notice how sensitive or understanding the husband is toward his wife. You then consider how your husband is doing in the communication department and find him wanting.
Or you chat with your girlfriend and hear about ways her husband is leading in the home. My husband isn’t the leader I want him to be, you think.
Maybe you bump into that woman at church whose husband is successful in his career. If only your husband worked that hard and made that much money, then you’d be happier.
It doesn’t take much. A comment or a glance is all we need to decide that, in comparison with her husband, my husband has let me down. Sinful comparison curdles into dissatisfaction. And dissatisfaction sours our love and respect for our husbands. We no longer find joy in our marriage relationship.
Which is why we must resist it at the first. We must absolutely refuse to go down the road of sinful comparison, no matter how tempting it may be. Because one thing is sure: sinful comparison never leads anywhere good.
By avoiding sinful comparison, we aren’t saying that our husbands don’t have room to grow. And it doesn’t mean we don’t ever share concerns. But if our “concerns” sprout from sinful comparison, they are suspect. We cannot see our husbands strengths and weaknesses clearly when our own sinful comparison is in the way.
Instead of comparing our husbands to other men, let’s compare our hearts with God’s Word. Let’s take seriously the command to respect our husbands (Eph. 5:33). Taking the measure of our own hearts instead of comparing our husbands to others will cultivate humility and graciousness in the place of intolerance and discontent.
What’s more, we need to focus on what we appreciate about our husbands. Sure, he may not be as great a leader as that guy, or as good of a communicator as the next, but he is your husband, and he has strengths and qualities none of those other men possess. Focus on evidences of grace, and you will fall in love with your husband over and over again through the years.
2014 at 10:09 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
As wives, we frequently face situations where we are tempted to think harsh and critical thoughts about our husbands. Sometimes we are more inclined to concentrate on what our husbands are doing wrong than what they are doing right. We are more aware of their deficiencies than areas where they excel. But if we submit to these temptations, they will only lead to the demise of warm affections. In her book Love Has a Price Tag, Elisabeth Elliot includes some very good counsel from her husband for wives:
“A wife, if she is very generous, may allow that her husband lives up to perhaps eighty percent of her expectations. There is always the other twenty percent that she would like to change, and she may chip away at it for the whole of their married life without reducing it by very much. She may, on the other hand, simply decide to enjoy the eighty percent, and both of them will be happy.”
The apostle Paul understood the influence of people’s thoughts and feelings on their behavior. He exhorted the Philippians in this way: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worth of praise, think about these things” (Phil 4:8).
If we make it our aim to think these kinds of thoughts about our husbands, we will experience tender feelings for them. As Shirley Rice writes:
“Are you in love with your husband? Not, Do you love him? I know you do. He has been around a long time, and you’re used to him. He is the father of your children. But are you in love with him? How long has it been since your heart really squeezed when you looked at him?...Why is it you have forgotten the things that attracted you to him at first?...Your husband needs to be told that you love him, that he is attractive to you. By the grace of God, I want you to start changing your thought pattern. Tomorrow morning, get your eyes off the toaster or the baby bottles long enough to LOOK at him. Don’t you see the way his coat fits his shoulders? Look at his hands. Do you remember when just to look at his strong hands made your heart lift? Well, LOOK at him and remember. Then loose your tongue and tell him you love him. Will you ask the Lord to give you a sentimental, romantic, physical, in-love kind of love for your husband? He will do this.”
Let’s heed Shirley’s advice: If we have forgotten the things that first attracted us to our husbands, let’s change our thought pattern and start to remember them.
Now I am not just promoting the helpful counsel of a wise woman here. But isn’t her recommendation to wives in keeping with the counsel of holy Scripture: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”? I dare say it is.
Let’s humbly ask our heavenly Father to help us change our thought patterns and then watch what He will do. As we begin to replace sinful thoughts with biblical thinking, the Lord will help us grow in affectionate, loving feelings for our husbands once again.
2014 at 2:27 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
Wives are called to love their husbands (Titus 2:3-5). Sad to say, I often become so preoccupied with the duties and responsibilities of marriage, home, and family, that I fail to nurture tenderness and passion in my relationship with my husband. I get so busy serving him that I overlook enjoying him.
I remember one day…
By the time my family stirred from their beds that morning, I had already been awake for several hours. Guests were arriving from out of town for the day, and I was busy cleaning the house. Absorbed in my preparations, I gave C.J. a brief but distracted kiss as he left for work.
When he called several hours later to inquire how I was doing, I kept my answers short. Many tasks still needed my attention, and I certainly didn’t have time to ask how his day was going.
After our guests arrived I took them to lunch. In between driving them around town, I managed to drop C.J.’s pants off at the cleaners, make a deposit at the bank, and fill up the car with gas. I did stop by C.J.’s office, but only to rush in to inform him of my schedule for the remainder of the afternoon. I left so quickly that he barely had time to give me a hug. I finally returned home from taking our guests to the airport around eight o’clock that evening and shortly after I went to bed.
It was some time later before I realized that I had once again failed to love my husband with a tender and passionate love. I had been remiss in expressing physical affection. I had ignored opportunities to communicate care and encouragement. I certainly was not enjoying my husband; I was too busy serving him.
I wish I could say this only happened once or twice. But there have, to my shame, been many other days when I have been more caught up with my to do list than my husband. That’s why I must continually remind myself: Scripture’s mandate to love our husbands involves far more than merely doing household chores. We are required to love them with nothing less than a passionate, tender, affectionate kind of love.
This kind of love commends the gospel. First John 4:19 says that we can love our husbands because God first loved us. As we submit to God’s command, He will show us how to love, and He will make it possible.
Last week we talked about helping husbands and happy marriages. But what if a husband doesn’t help, even when you ask? What if you try to make your husband happy but your marriage is miserable?
A difficult marriage is a severe trial for many women, with pain that is ever present and deeply personal. We know that a single blog post cannot reach into the heart of a hurting marriage and untangle all of the unresolved conflicts or hurtful comments.
But there is hope and help for your marriage; and it is closer than you might think. As it says in Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
Remember that God sees and that he cares. As we wrote in our hopeful Valentine’s posts, God is with you and he is for you. He is near. You can have hope in God, even when your husband has utterly failed you. God is using this trial to draw you close to himself and to lead you to put your hope in him, where it can never be disappointed again. You will be able to say, with Charles Spurgeon: “I thank my God for every storm that has wrecked me on the Rock, Jesus Christ.”
Seek help from your local church. The church is the best hospital for a suffering marriage. It is where God has told us to go when we need spiritual and relational care. If you are in a gospel-preaching church, avail yourself of the biblical counsel of your pastor or godly saints, for yourself and also for your husband if he is willing. Be prepared: the church’s help may be slower than you want or the process messier than you expect. But if the counsel comes from Scripture, you can have hope that the Great Counselor is present and at work.
Read good books on suffering.In the intensity of marriage trials, you need consistent nourishment for your soul. Books by sufferers for sufferers are a vital means of perspective, encouragement, faith, and strength. Three of our favorites on suffering that we’ve read and re-read and handed out by the arm full are Beside Still Waters by Charles Spurgeon, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller (begin reading in section three), and A Sweet and Bitter Providence by John Piper. Read little bits at a time. Read whenever you can.
May God grant you sustaining grace and may you experience joy, even in the midst of pain, as you look to the Savior who daily bears you up (Ps. 68:19).
2014 at 10:05 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
“We [should not] make the mistake of thinking that marriage will provide the ultimate satisfaction for which we all hunger. To assume so would be to be guilty of blasphemy. Only God satisfies the hungry heart. Marriage is but one of the channels He uses to enable us to taste how deeply satisfying His thirst-quenching grace can be.” ~Sinclair B. Ferguson
My husband, Mike, is a gift that I don’t deserve. My kids have yet to fully grasp what an incredible dad they’ve been given. For one, they would never be clean if it wasn’t for him. True confessions: I really hate giving my kids baths. There, I said it. For some strange reason I prefer a clean bathroom and dirty children. But thankfully, the kids have Mike and whenever Dad is on duty, the kids get clean.
This is one of many ways that Mike and I are different. And when it comes to clean children, I appreciate those differences. Other times, not so much: particularly when those differences mean that Mike doesn’t help out in the way that I want him to with the kids.
For example, if Mike doesn’t seem to notice that I need help with the kids, or doesn’t help in the way I think he should, I can be tempted to judge his motives and assume he doesn’t care. I expect him to observe and understand the need that I have without my asking for help. But Mike doesn’t always realize that I need his help, or know what kind of help I’m expecting. This is not because he doesn’t want to be helpful, but because we are different.
Elisabeth Elliot diagnoses my problem:
“Strange how easy it seems to be for some women to expect their husbands to be women, to act like women, to do what is expected of women. Instead of that they are men, they act like men, they do what is expected of men and thus they do the unexpected….It’s another of those simple facts which are not always so simple to remember.”
When I remember this simple fact, I can resist the temptation to judge Mike, and graciously ask for his help instead. And you know what? Whenever I ask Mike for help, he says “yes!” He actually does care. A lot. He is always so eager to jump in and do whatever I need.
So, instead of expecting Mike to be like me, I can choose to appreciate the fact that he’s not like me (and that our children get regularly bathed!). And the next time he doesn’t help the way I think he should help, I can stop and thank the Lord that he’s different from me. Then I can open my mouth, ask for help, and be grateful for a husband who so willingly says “yes!”
2014 at 2:06 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
Recently I was watching a cooking show where the celebrity chef and her husband were celebrating a milestone anniversary. The cook shared her “recipe” (ha!) for a long-lasting, happy marriage: “I try to make him happy and he tries to make me happy and it works!”
As far as I know, this woman is not a Christian, but her advice reflects a biblical principle for marriage: husbands and wives are to love one another. They are to put each other’s interests above their own (Phil. 2:4). A husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church (Eph. 5:25). A wife is to love her husband with a tender, affectionate love (Titus 2:4).
In the chef’s words, I am to try to make him happy.
So often, in marriage, we get it the wrong way around, don’t we? We think more about all the ways our husbands can make us happy, or we dwell on how unhappy we are with our husbands.
“If only he would be more like ______________ I would be happy.”
“If only he would stop doing ______________I would be happy”
“If only he would notice ______________I would be happy”
“If only he would ask ______________ I would be happy”
“If only he would do ______________ I would be happy”
Our egalitarian culture gives us a sympathetic pat on the back. After all, the modern recipe for a happy marriage calls for self-interest as a main ingredient. But this is not the biblical way. Nor does it turn out very well. The more we try to put our own happiness first in our marriages, the more unhappy we become.
Or, to put it another way: If we really want our own happiness, and if we really want a happy marriage, we will put our husbands’ happiness first. John Piper:
“Husbands and wives, recognize that in marriage you have become one flesh. If you live for your private pleasure at the expense of your spouse, you are living against yourself and destroying your joy. But if you devote yourself with all your heart to the holy joy of your spouse, you will also be living for your joy and making a marriage after the image of Christ and His church.”
My husband is a wonderful example of putting my happiness first. He calls it “studying his wife” and he has spent our entire marriage seeking to discover what makes me happy. He often encourages husbands not to assume that their wives will like what every other wife likes, but to study their own wives and learn what makes them happy.
I don’t have to think back far for an example of my husband trying to make me happy. While we were on a getaway two weekends ago, my husband noticed a sign for an afternoon tea. Now, I’m not even sure CJ has ever had a cup of tea in his life, much less attended an afternoon tea. But he knows afternoon tea is a favorite of mine, a long-standing tradition with my daughters, and now my granddaughters.
And so, because he wants to make me happy, he made a reservation. I wish you could have seen my husband, in a room of mostly women, trying to make a tea selection and handle a teacup. We ended up laughing our way through the afternoon. But he was happy because I was happy.
Are you unhappy in your marriage? Are you dissatisfied or disappointed with your husband? Instead of focusing on your unhappiness, or trying to make yourself happy first, try to make your husband happy. A happy husband makes for a happy wife, and a happy marriage brings glory to God. The chef, and more importantly, God’s Word is right: this recipe for a happy marriage works.
Q: I’d love to hear how your parents counseled you all about engagement and marriage. What did they tell you to look for in a husband?
A: There is so much to say on this topic, but here are a few “starter” questions Dad and Mom gave us when we were considering marriage, These are taken from our book, Girl Talk, in a chapter written by Mom:
C.J. and I sought to provide our daughters with a “list” from Scripture of essential qualities that should characterize any man desirous of pursuing them. These qualities included: 1. Genuine passion for God. The greatest commandment is to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ (Matt. 22:37). A mere profession of faith is insufficient. A godly man will consistently display love, obedience, and increasing passion for the Savior. 2. Humility. ‘This is the one to whom I will look,’ says the Lord, ‘he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word’ (Isa. 66:2). Your daughter will marry a sinner—that is certain. But if he is a humble and teachable sinner who is quick to repent, then he will be sure to grow in godliness. This humility will also be evident in his love for and submission to God’s Word. 3. Love for the local church. At the center of God’s plan on earth is His church. A young man must be pursuing fellowship and serving faithfully in a local church if he is to make a good candidate for a husband. 4. Biblical convictions about manhood and womanhood. A successful marriage is due in large part to a couple’s grasp of their respective roles and responsibilities. A potential husband must be committed to complementary roles found in Scripture. He must be ready to embrace his responsibility to love and lead his wife. (Eph. 5:22-25). In addition to comparing the young man to this list of essentials, we also helped our daughters evaluate God’s commands to wives. From Scripture we asked our daughters the following questions regarding the young man each was considering: -Do you fully respect this man the way a wife is called to respect her husband? -Can you eagerly submit to him as the church submits to Christ? -Do you have faith to follow this man no matter where he may lead? -Can you love this man with a tender, affectionate love? (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22, 33; Col. 3:8; Titus 2:4-5) Again, this list of qualities and questions is hardly exhaustive. However, it provided clear, objective, and biblical criteria to assist our daughters in discerning God’s will.
2013 at 10:18 am | by Nicole Whitacre
“In a few moments, everything will change,” he told the bride and groom. “When you walk back up that aisle, you will never be the same again. You will be husband and wife.”
It was a gorgeous Saturday evening as we celebrated the marriage ceremony of the happy couple under a splendid summer sky.
“From this moment on, you will face the changes of life together, as one flesh,” said my father, who was officiating the wedding, “And so, let me remind you of the Changeless One.”
“The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” Psalm 121:7-8
Going out and coming in. Together. He will keep you.
In change, kept by the Changeless One.
From the back, where I am keeping watch over my two bouncy flower girls, I contemplate the wedding witnesses who nod knowingly of the life-changes of which he speaks. They understand just how much these two will need to lean on the Changeless One.
Twenty-six years ago, when I was not much older than my daughters, I watched my dad marry the groom’s parents. Since then, I have watched the parents of both the bride and the groom trust God through many goings out and comings in. They have walked steadily, in faithfulness to God and each other, lighting a path through change for their children to follow.
He will keep you.
After what seems like an eternity, the moment of change finally arrives for the happy couple. With their parents behind them, man and wife walk back up the aisle, into a changing future held by the Changeless One.
We sang, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” under the vast Kentucky sky, the bride, the groom, and us.
“Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not.”
“And now my dear, I come to you, I have not included you in my list because you, my dear, stand in a totally different position from all others. You are not one of God’s agents to make me what I am, rather you are myself. You are my thirteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Without this chapter no human being is truly human. Without you I would have accepted love…But without you, my dear, I would not have ‘had’ love. I should not think of saying that I love you; that would be quite false. Rather you are the one part of me, which would be lacking if I was alone…It is only in our union—you and I—that we form a complete human being…And that is why, my dear, I am quite certain that you will never lose me on this earth—no, not for a moment. And this fact it was given us to symbolize finally through our common participation in the Holy Communion, that celebration which was my last.”
Helmuth von Moltke was hanged in prison on January 23, 1945.
Dr. Haykin writes:
“This letter to Freya, one of sixteen hundred that Moltke wrote to her during the course of their love and marriage, presents a strong picture of the oneness of Christian marriage and how, in the words of the Song of Solomon, ‘many waters cannot quench love’ for it is stronger than death (Song 8:7, ESV).”
A while ago I told my husband that whenever I went to a particular online parenting forum, I came away feeling anxious about our children. He simply (and wisely) told me not to read it.
But sometimes the simplest advice is the hardest to take.
A few weeks ago, another update from this group appeared in my inbox and the headline caught my attention. I’m OK now, I can handle it, I thought. And besides, It’s important for me to be informed on this issue. So I clicked.
The post, by a woman I have never met, was about a crisis in her family. And my mind began racing, a mile a minute, wondering if we were on the verge of a similar disaster. Am I missing the warning signs? What if this happens to us?
My husband shook his head and smiled, as if to say “You could have avoided all this anxiety, if only you had taken my advice!” to which I offered no argument.He then explained why he did not think we were on the verge of a family crisis, and patiently led me back to the relevant truths from God’s Word.
The Internet age has conditioned us to think that because we can read everything, we should read everything. In fact, we think we have a kind of obligation to be “informed.” We must have “all the facts.”
But we must reexamine this “obligation to be informed” or this “right to know” from a biblical perspective. When the Corinthians tried to insist “All things are lawful for me” Paul rejoined “but not all things are helpful…I will not be dominated by anything” (1 Cor. 6:12).
So let’s hold this straight edge up against our online browsing habits:
It is “lawful” to read an online news source, but is it helpful for you?
It is “lawful” to visit online forums or chat rooms but does it build you up in the gospel? Does it build others up in the gospel?
It is “lawful” to follow certain Twitter or Facebook feeds, but is it always helpful?
In God’s kingdom, the prize doesn’t go to the “well-informed”, the one who knows everything about everything and everyone, but rather to the one who knows the God who knows everything: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom…but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me…declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24 ESV)
With that in mind, less time on the Internet and more time in God’s Word seems, in what must be a massive understatement, helpful.