Marriage and parenting are not easy. They are beautiful gospel realities and blessings. And yet, they are both very hard. While they will not always make us happy, they shouldn’t steal our joy. Christian joy is not determined by circumstances. We can’t produce it inside ourselves on our own. Joy is a gift from God. It’s the eternal reality that we belong to God. Joy is the result of us knowing what has been done for us through Jesus Christ, our Savior.
When you and I became believers, we enlisted in a war—soldiers in the cosmic spiritual warfare. The devil prowls and searches the world for someone to devour. But he also creeps inside the rooms of our homes. Our home may be our inner rest and sanctuary, but it is also one of the war’s battlefields. Someone said, “Every source of blessing is a point of attack”. The devil has already been sizing up your marriage and parenting. And though the devil cannot separate us from God, he can sure press us on our way to heaven.
Here are 4 things that can steal our joy in marriage and parenting.
We often hear that “comparison is the thief of joy.” When we compare marriages, husbands, children, and even ourselves—our joy is drained by all the score keeping involved to either win or lose in stature, looks, assets, achievements, character. Our competitive spirit is cheered on by pompoms of scoring superiority (being better), or harping on our perceived inferiority (poor me, I’m terrible).
God has surrounded us, women, with other moms and wives who have gifts we can learn from. God blesses families around us not to spite us or point out our failures. Have you considered that someone else’s gift and blessing may actually be tools in your own life? What for? For the purpose of you growing in loving and glorifying God better. Their gifts can be your growing mercies! As we busy ourselves to learn from them, the gospel frees us to grow in our Savior’s image. What can you learn from the women around you?
The trap in comparison is making too much of others and too little of our Savior who has placed us where we are. God wants to use you in your family, not you against other families. A joyful woman is a woman who rests in what Jesus has already done. She stops measuring and comparing because Jesus has been measured up fully And completely on the cross on her behalf. Instead of being threatened by other’s wisdom, a wise woman keeps getting wiser by feeding on godly wisdom from others. She embraces her lot. She also trusts that whatever God withholds from her family is not useful for now, and that everything He gives her is profitable and useful in her season.
Will you choose to embrace your lot by giving thanks to God for what you have and what you don’t have?
Corrie ten Boom shares about the time when together with her sister Betsie were locked up in a concentration camp. They discovered, one day, that their barracks were infested with fleas. Here is a quote from her book, “The Hiding Place”: ‘Fleas!’ I cried. ’Betsie, the place is swarming with them!’ […] ‘Here! And here another one!’ I wailed. ‘Betsie, how can we live in such a place?’ Corrie complained over and over. Betsie reminded her of the verse “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.” Even for flees, was Betsie’s point. It turns out the fleas kept these women from being abused and tortured by the German soldiers! Fleas kept harm at the door. Often the thing we complain about because we see no use for it, God has purposed for a glorious plan!
For us today, it may not be the fleas. But we often find ourselves in stages of life we don’t see their purpose because we long for the next stage in life. The single person who feels like life won’t begin until she’s married; the newlywed wife who thinks having children will fulfill her; the mom whose kids are small but can’t wait until they are out of the home; the stay-at-home mom who is tired of being home; the working mom who complains about working away from home, and so on. There is nothing wrong with praying through and struggling in our season, longing to grow in thankfulness. But living in sheer discontentment blinds us to all that God plans to give us in each stage of our life.
A joyful woman builds her home even when the circumstances are not that ideal, or are painful for the season. She makes an effort to look up to heaven and pray. She realizes she can complain about it, or she can praise God through it. Through Christ, she chooses to worship with each circumstance not because it doesn’t hurt, but because “this is God’s will for us in Jesus.” A will that, through Christ, strengthens her next step in obedience. And the next one. And so on.
Do you spend more time counting your blessings, or counting your problems?
Our words matter. In fact, the Bible assigns them life or death power. But it is not really our organ (tongue) that speaks: it is our heart in our mouth. “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him” (Matthew 12:35-37). Our words reveal the nature of our heart.
We may not realize, but our words are like a sharp sword. There are two kinds of words Christians use as ammunition in their families: worldly, foolish words, or gospel, fighting words. Foolish words mimic the sounds and image of the devil: lies, slander, gossip, criticism, flattery. They tear down. They burn holes in our hearts. They stint the growth of our husbands and children. Fighting words, on the other hand, are the words of the gospel. That holy ammunition we have in gospel words. The Word of God is our sword in the fight against the devil and his worldly principalities. Gospel words seek to build up our homes through their truth and holiness. They carry the good news of the cross to the hearts and minds of our husbands and children. How are you using your sword in your home?
God’s Word is our holy sword in the spiritual warfare. Too often, as wives and mothers, we trade the sword (the Bible) for a smart phone (distractions), and abdicate our roles of protecting and building up our family. We stop carrying God’s Word in our hands, and allow our eyes to feast on daily distractions instead. Uncle Screwtape, a demon, from C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters,” said: “It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.” Distractions keep godly things out of our mind. Distraction from the gospel allows foolishness to grow through our heart, straight in our mouth, and out into the inner-hood of the ones we love. Is your phone distracting you from the people and children in your home? Is it a source of dripping complaints in your life?
A joyful woman arms herself with the gospel, fighting words. She wises up in the fight from the source of all wisdom: the Bible. A wise woman who concerns herself with building up her husband and children, doesn’t have time to preoccupy herself with tearing down her own, or another’s. She keeps her lips under God’s lock as she prayerfully asks: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!”(Psalm 141:3)
Are there any changes you need to make this very day in your speech towards your husband and children? Are your words building your family up, or tearing them down?
Being married and having children is not the ultimate goal of Christians. As much as marriage and parenting are glorious God-given realities, the Bible is not a book about marriage or parenting: it is a book about God first. It is a book about how the infinite, holy, merciful God loved us so, that He sent His Son to die on a cross so we can live with God forever. It is the true story of a relational God who pursues us faithfully and shares Himself with us. He blesses us with earthly relationships in order to enjoy Him better and fuller.
Our husbands and children are not ours to keep for our own identity: they are gifts to love with the gospel. God blesses us with marriage and children not to provide in them our security and worth, but to live out His gospel in these intimate settings, also. To make an idol from our husband and children is to abuse and pervert God’s gifts to us.
Inside each one of us, there are burning longings God places in order to lead us to more of Him. Elyse Fitzpatrick reminds us “that our strongest desires, the things that we are most passionate about, are what ultimately define our worship.” While the rest of the world is still wondering who they are, for us, Christian women, God has already answered: “Through Jesus, we are adopted daughters of God, the Father!” We belong to Christ. Who we are and what we need have already been met and provided in Christ. That’s why a joyful woman lives out her role as a wife and mother under the seal of her identity in Jesus. She faces her dailiness with hopeful assurance that Christ gives her all that she needs for the day through Him. Because her identity is set and kept in Jesus, she lives within her family with eternal mind and wisdom.
Do you thank God more for your family than you thank Him for the cross?
Ephesians 6 calls all Christians to armor up. The battle is spiritual, cosmic, and real. The Ephesians passage is not just for men. It is for women, too. For wives and moms who understand that the devil will seek to steal and devour from her lot, even if through a flimsy complaint, an unsubmissive thought, a foolish gesture, or a destructive word. Like it or not, our homes are warfare zones.
But a wise woman knows that the devil loves nothing more than to twist, steal, and destroy her husband and children’s eternity with Jesus. Proverbs 14:1 states that there are two types of women in this world, wise women and foolish women. “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.” A foolish woman destroys her households whenever her joy is being muted or replaced by worldly vices. A wise woman builds like her heavenly Father: she looks at her home and relationships and with an eternal mind. Adoniram Judson said, “No mind, no wisdom—temporary mind, temporary wisdom—eternal mind, eternal wisdom.” A wise woman is governed by God’s Word –with roots on Golgotha and horizons in Eternity.
Which woman do you choose to be in your home?
[A version of my blogpost first appeared on Prince on Preaching blog]