Conquering Fear to Do the Will of God

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As believers, we’re called to serve God and offer ourselves as “living sacrifices” for His glory (Romans 12:1). However, real obstacles threaten us in being faithful in living out His will for us. One of the major obstacles Christians face is fear.

As I explained in a previous post, Matthew 14:28-32 gives us a good illustration of what it looks like to falter in our walk of faith. In the passage we see that Peter goes on a faith walk towards Jesus but then begins to sink when he looks at the obstacles around him — the wind and the waves — and becomes afraid. Jesus pulls him up and chastises him for his lack of faith, but Jesus does not leave him in his failure. He tells him why he is sinking, and the two are able to climb back in the boat together and get to their destination.

However, Peter has to get past his unbelief and fear he feels in the moment, and Jesus addresses it. Similarly, we may desire to obey God, but we are dealing with crushing fear or another obstacle. How do we get past our fear when we are attempting to follow the will of God?

Not too long ago, I asked God this very question as I had been dealing with my own fear. Sometimes God answers me right away, and other times He waits for a season to respond. This time His answer came just a day or so after I had posed the query. I was looking for a calendar in a desk drawer, and a sheet of notes I had taken on Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life caught my eye. I’ve read this book from cover to cover on a few different occasions, but I have no recollection of taking these notes and can’t remember why I wrote down these ideas.

However, when I glanced over the scribbled words, God gave me an answer. Yet, as He often does, God didn’t respond in the way I thought He would. He gave me an entirely different response that I want to share with you.

Lessons from Rick Warren that we can apply to overcome our fear:

1. We have to understand what it means to rely on God and operate in His power.

While we may think of relying on God as a passive endeavor — one where we do absolutely nothing and He does everything — that is not the case. As Warren stresses, reliance on God doesn’t mean we don’t do anything. Trust in God means that we are co-workers with God. A few of the ideas I jotted down from Warren’s book:

  • Christ-likeness is not produced by imitation, but by inhabitation. We allow Christ to live through us.
  • We choose to do the right thing and trust God’s Spirit to give us His power, love, faith, and wisdom to do that.
  • The Holy Spirit releases His power the moment we take a step of faith.
  • Obedience unlocks God’s power.
  • God wants us to act first. We don’t wait to feel powerful or confident. We move ahead in our weakeness, doing the right thing in spite of our fears. That’s how we cooperate with the Holy Spirit.
  • Effort has nothing to do with our salvation, but it has much to do with our spiritual growth. At least eight times in the New Testament we are told to “make every effort” in our growth toward becoming like Jesus.

We need to pause for just a minute and let these wise words sink in. When we follow in God’s way, we won’t necessarily feel an absence of fear. However, God’s power meets us when we act in obedience. Psalm 63:8 says, “I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.” The King James 2000 Bible version says, “My soul follows hard after you: your right hand upholds me.” Some of us are waiting to not feel fear before we act or waiting for our feelings to line up with what God would have us to do. However, it is in taking the steps ordained for us by God that we are met by the Holy Spirit’s power.

Similarly, another place in Scripture where this concept of walking in trust and God’s power is illustrated is John 6:28, 29. In this passage, a crowd asks Jesus what they should do to do the work of God. Jesus responds by saying, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (v. 29). The word “believe” that is used can be translated in the Greek as “pisteuó,” which means to “believe, entrust.” According to Helps Word-Studies, this means “not only to be persuaded of something, but means to be persuaded by the Lord: it is belief that leads to/proceeds from God’s inbirthing of faith.”

The word “pisteuó” is a verb. So, not only does it mean what we believe in our thoughts — it refers to a giving up of oneself to God. This kind of entrusting leads to action in our lives as we follow His lead. According to the Encyclopedia of the Bible, faith is “that which responds to and is sustained by God’s faithfulness.”

A few years ago, I went through a hard season where God had me go back to make apologies. He was walking me through healing from an addiction to others’ approval, and one of the hard tasks He had me do in walking out of my people-pleasing behavior was do the thing I fear the most: face people and reveal the ways that I had fallen short.

As a younger woman, I had compensated for my low self-worth by my achievements and appearance. I was flirtatious and cultivated friendships with males as a way to feel good about myself. Even as a high school teacher, I cultivated the worship of my students and had a male fan club in every class. Though my actions in the school were not those that constituted an inappropriate relationship or illegal activity, I knew that I had not been a Christian role model for my students. God nudged me to make some hard contacts with some people from my past, as well as my former classes and administration, and apologize for not being a Godly role model and state that I was making a turn in my Christian walk.

This was difficult for me in many ways. You might think that I had great courage that enabled me to do this, but that isn’t the case. I knew I had no choice. I was terribly afraid, and it was not an easy task. I knew that that was the way God was pointing and for me to continue to walk with Him, I was going to have to obey Him. I did those actions in fear — but God enabled me in the process as I did what He asked, and He gave me grace as I was speaking to people.

2. Spiritual transformation is a process.

Saying spiritual growth doesn’t happen instantly is not a cop-out. Certainly, it says nowhere in the Bible that we should sin because it really does not matter. In fact, the Bible tells us the opposite. It tells us that if we know the right thing to do and don’t do it, for us it is sin (James 4:17). However, we need to know that spiritual maturity is a process that does take time. God gives us opportunities to learn and grow and become more like Him.

Warren emphasizes that God uses His Word, people, and circumstances to shape us. Therefore, our transformation away from fearfulness to courage — the kind Christ had — is not automatic. It will be gradual. In fact, God puts us in particular situations so that we can practice Christlikeness.

If we are having an issue with fear, He is going to put us in circumstances where we can practice breaking through this barrier to do His will. We may literally be shaking as we type up the email to send, tell our testimony to someone, or step away from a safe comfort zone (perhaps a stable job or living situation) to answer God’s call on our life. However, as we encounter more and more situations like this, we will become less fearful and more like Christ.

Living out our salvation is worked out with the help of the Holy Spirit. In other words, God is always working in us to know and do His will (Philippians 2:12, 13). Warren explains a few things about this:

  • There are two parts to spiritual growth: work out and work in.
  • “Work out” is our responsibility. We don’t work for our salvation because we can’t add anything to Jesus’ work. We work out to develop the body, not get the body. We should make every effort to grow spiritually.
  • “Work in” is God’s role — as we make efforts to grow spiritually, God makes us more like His Son.

Again, we have here the idea, just as we discussed in the previous point, that overcoming our fear is a collaborative effort with God. It doesn’t happen right away. Whatever obstacles are hindering us from answering His call are those that we can overcome with His help when we believe that His power is enough. But He gives us lots of opportunities to work on making gains against whatever is holding us back.

Conclusion:

Fear will often prevent us from doing what we know to do in the moment of following God. However, we are not left alone in our fear. God promises us in His Word that when we step out in obedience into what feels like thin air, we will feel a solid rock under our feet. He will uphold those who put their trust in Him and follow Him when it feels hard, it feels scary, and we don’t know what to do.

The more we adopt this philosophy of believing that God will meet us in our weakness and stepping out even when our own strength is small, the more victory we will have in breaking past the obstacles that prevent us from being obedient and following Him. This isn’t a willpower thing — this is “I can do all things through Christ” kind of thing (Philippians 4:13).

Let’s pray: Dear God, help us in those times when we want to follow you but are afraid. Help us believe in your promises in the Bible and trust in Your power that You have made available to us as Christ followers. Forgive us for the times we have fallen short of Your perfect will. Help us be more bold in the future as we follow You. Amen.

What about you? Do you struggle with fear? Share with us in the comments!

*Updated June 8, 2019. Original post published September 1, 2017.

Related Resources:

Have you ever felt irritated by the idea of being joyful in the midst of trials? How can certain Scripture passages advocate that we actually be happy in our most difficult circumstances? Check out our series on “Rejoicing in Trials,” including Part 1: “A Reason to Rejoice in Our Trials,” Part 2: “Serving God in the Midst of Our Trials,” and Part 3: “The Best Thing to Do When We Face Trials.”

This week concludes Season 2 of the podcast. We will take a break from recording for summer and will announce on the blog when the new season will begin. However, you can continue to look up past episodes and get caught up on those by stopping by the podcast archive.

For more on trials, check out the following resources: “When God Uses Our Trials to Teach Us: Part 1″ and “When God Uses Our Trials to Teach Us: Part 2.”

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

More Posts

The Best Thing to Do When We Face Trials

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“Don’t turn away.”

The pastor spoke these words while I stood at the altar. Though there were a few other people standing there with me, I knew these words were for me.

I had been a Christian for as long as I could remember and had never questioned the existence of God or wanted to follow another religion, but my circumstances had been so harsh and so confusing that I wanted to walk away. I knew that there was no other place for me to go, but I wanted to escape the pain of the situation I was in. And God hadn’t provided an escape for me. I felt abandoned and angry.

Yet, I knew that God was speaking to me through the pastor’s words. I knew that God was urging me to stay. I didn’t understand what God was doing in my situation, and wouldn’t understand until some time further down the road, but I had the assurance and hope on that day when God spoke through my pastor that I needed to persevere in my season and submit to what God had for me.

When I stuck to the place God had me in that difficult time, even though I wanted to run, God revealed to me why He allowed the hardships He did. In addition, He delivered me from the situation after I learned all that I needed to learn. Though I would not want to walk through that season again, I gained valuable lessons that still influence how I walk with God today.

If We Lack Wisdom, We Can Ask God

James 1:5 (AMP) says: “If any of you lacks wisdom [to guide him through a decision or circumstance], he is to ask of [our benevolent] God, who gives to everyone generously and without rebuke or blame, and it will be given to him.” Scholars don’t agree if this verse is separate from James 1:2-4, which precedes it and discusses being joyful in the midst of trials. However, I believe that James 1:5 can both stand alone as a verse urging us to ask God for wisdom in a variety of situations or ask God, more specifically, for guidance in the midst of our trials.

James 1:2-4 says this: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” As I shared in the first two articles of this series, this verse urges us to be joyful in the midst of our trials not because our trials are good, but because of what our trials are producing in us. They produce in us perseverance and this perseverance is working in us to bring us to spiritual maturity.

With that in mind, if we look at James 1:5 as connected with the previous section on trials, we can see that the verse urges us to seek God in our trials and ask for wisdom about how to approach our circumstance. When we find ourselves in a situation that God allowed or even orchestrated, it makes sense to call on Him as He is the only One who can tell us what we need to know about the place we’re in. And yet, instead of pressing God about why we are in the circumstance we are in, we often simply try to get out of the trial without discovering why we’re going through it or what God wants us to learn from it. However, if we want perseverance to “finish its work,” it is in asking Him that we will be given the wisdom to get through — and even learn from — our trial.

In addition, as the passage tells us, we can ask confidently for wisdom, knowing that God will give us what we ask. We don’t have to fear that our failings or past mistakes will prevent us from hearing from God. As believers, we are justified because of Jesus’s work on the cross — and James tells us that God gives “generously” and “without rebuke or blame” to those who ask. If we look at the passage, as it emphasizes in The Biblical Illustrator commentary, it is “the lacking man” that is encouraged to ask! Not only does God promise wisdom for those who lack — this wisdom is for “any one” who seeks Him.

What we can conclude, then, is that God knows that we are lacking and won’t withhold from those who seek Him or be disappointed or angry with us if we don’t know what to do in our circumstance. He invites people who are desperate and in great need to call on Him! However, to receive an answer from Him, we have to want to know and be willing to ask Him for the answer (Matthew 7:7; Jeremiah 29:13).

God Gives Wisdom Because of His Grace

A pastor of mine used to say, “You don’t have to clean yourselves up to come to God.” So often, we think that we need to figure out a solution or get our situation in better order or even somehow make up for a mistake we have made or a failing we have in our spiritual life before coming to God. However, we can come to God in whatever state we are in, and He is the One who will help us to sort out the tangled pieces of our situation and make sense of the confusing events we find ourselves in.

In addition, if we have made a mistake or keep failing in an area when we are attempting to follow God, we don’t have to hide or stand back from God out of fear that He won’t answer us when we pray to Him. The verse assures us that we can approach God and ask God — and He will answer and not chide us for asking.

In the circumstance I described with the pastor where I was encouraged not to turn away, I was attempting to follow God in that situation. Part of my confusion with my circumstances is that I had obeyed Him and followed God’s direction, but it was leading to hardship and difficulty. “Why is this happening, God?” I wanted to know.

As it turns out, though I was following God, I had skipped some important steps He had directed me towards, and I was reaping in that season from the bad choices I had sown in another season. And yet, God graciously led me to understand what He was doing in me during that time and also what I needed to be doing to get out of that hard situation. I started making some phone calls and getting right some areas where I had failed.

All of these actions that God directed led me to understand some important truths about myself. I don’t really know why God had me go through such a painful route to learn these truths, but the season ended up being a gift. In fact, I even had a dream during that time where my sister was a postmaster and delivered a package to a cantankerous lady who refused to receive the gift delivered because it wasn’t delivered to her in the way she wanted it to be delivered.

God told me that I was the lady in the dream. I wanted His gifts, but I didn’t like the package it arrived in. Yet, that was the way God chose to teach me — and I would not have received the lessons I learned from that time if I had resisted God’s methods.

Perhaps you, at this time, find yourself in a baffling and difficult situation. You might feel that God is punishing you or perhaps you’ve been too angry to approach God about what is going on. However, while God will discipline us out of His love for us to bring us to wholeness and usefulness in His kingdom, He does not punish us for our wrongdoing. Our punishment has been taken away by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Certainly, if we know of a sin area in our life that we haven’t confessed, we can do that, knowing God is faithful to forgive us (John 1:9).

However, a lot of times, we aren’t even aware of our sin and need God to help to see our situation clearly, or may be in a situation that is not even caused by our own choices. In any case, God is waiting to answer when we call. I love the story of Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, told in Mark 10:46-52. When he heard Jesus was passing by, he called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47). Others rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but Jesus, upon hearing him, stopped and called the man to Him and restored his sight.

Jesus healed the man — and I marvel at that miracle in the story, but I also marvel that Jesus stopped for this man and paused on His way simply because the man called for Him. It is the same with us. As James 1:6 concludes, we will receive the answer we seek as long as we believe and do not doubt that God will indeed answer — because He promises to give wisdom to those who ask. Not because we somehow deserve it, but because He is gracious and longs to show us mercy.

Related Resources:

Have you ever felt irritated by the idea of being joyful in the midst of trials? How can certain Scripture passages advocate that we actually be happy in our most difficult circumstances? This is the second episode in a brand new series on trials and the reason we can rejoice in the midst of hard circumstances. Check out Part 1: “A Reason to Rejoice in Our Trials” and Part 2: “Serving God in the Midst of Our Trials.”

Next week, we’ll conclude Season 2 of the podcast and we’ll take a break from new episodes over the summer. However, you can continue to look up past episodes and get caught up on those by stopping by the podcast archive.

For more on trials, check out the following resources: “When God Uses Our Trials to Teach Us: Part 1″ and “When God Uses Our Trials to Teach Us: Part 2.”

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

More Posts

Serving God in the Midst of Our Trials

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Have you ever said, “Not today, Lord. I am too stressed, tired, or worried to do anything for you today?”

There have been days or seasons when I felt too pressured or sorrowful to want to serve God. Certainly, there are seasons where we need to grieve, and I am not advocating we ignore our feelings or not take needed rest at times. But what I am saying is that serving God includes serving Him on days when we feel weighed down by circumstances or fatigued or troubled.

Our Perseverance in Trials Grows Us Spiritually

James 1:2-4 says this: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at the idea of viewing our trials as joyful not because the trials in and of themselves cause us joy; we view them as joyful because of the perseverance they produce in us. However, this perseverance is not the end goal of our trials. In fact, as verse 4 tells us, this perseverance is that which must be allowed to “finish its work.” As this wording suggests, there is a step beyond perseverance that is being worked out as we endure through our trials: we grow spiritually and become “mature and complete, lacking nothing.”

This idea of “mature and complete” here means whole in every part, that is that there is nothing lacking to complete our character. As theologian Albert Barnes explains in regards to the passage, we may have elements of good character, but in order for us to be complete, we have to allow what God is developing in us to be fully carried out. Therefore, spiritual wholeness is becoming what God intends for us to be and living in that reality and all that goes along with that — being conformed to the image of Christ.

So, how do we allow perseverance to “finish its work” and accomplish in us what is needed for us to be spiritually mature? By staying the course and not allowing our trials to take us off course. However, this passage doesn’t just refer to staying the course by a mere endurance of trials — hunkering down and waiting until the trials pass. The perseverance or patience mentioned refers also to action in the midst of trial. We continue in active obedience to God in the midst of our suffering and do not allow the character being developed within us to be, as Barnes explains, “hindered” by rebellion or opposition to the will of God.

Paul says in Acts 20:24 (NKJV), “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” He certainly had every reason to get tired, discouraged, or depressed when encountering persecution, imprisonment, and shipwrecks. Instead, he entrusted Himself to God so fully that he counted his adverse circumstances as those that would further help to advance the Gospel (Philippians 1:12). Similarly, in Matthew 24:13, Jesus warns His disciples about the trials that believers will experience in the end times, but urges them to persevere to the end. Likewise, Luke 21:19 says: “Stand firm, and you will win life.”

We may say, “Lord, how can you expect me to serve you right now? I have these problems going on with family members and this issues with my boss at the moment and these projects to finish and this ongoing health scare.” And yet, even in our most pressing times, God wants to use us — and sharing with others in our pain can help us to get through our own pain. So, how is it that we can help others when our own hearts are breaking?

1. We comfort others with the comfort we ourselves have received.

The only reason we are able to minister to others is because we are received from Him — and it is that same comfort that we give to others (2 Corinthians 1:4). My 3-year-old cares for her dolls and stuffed animals with such love. I never told her how to rock them or wrap them in blankets or feed them with a spoon. How did she know to do all these things? She simply gives them what she has been receiving from us as parents. She knows what to do because it has already been modeled and given to her. In the same way, we have something to give others because of what we have received from God.

2. We are renewed when we help others.

God isn’t a cruel taskmaster desiring to sap our strength and make us work ourselves down to the bone. We need rest. We need moments to process emotions. We need moments to grieve. Yet, when we work to do His will and listen to His Spirit, we ourselves are renewed (Proverbs 11:25). Therefore, when we feel discouraged and worn out and don’t feel like telling our story or sharing Christ with someone else, we can know that when we step out to do what He asks, He gives us strength to meet the task and renews us in the process. He fills us with more strength the moment we step out to do His will.

There is a difference between striving — generating our own work to do in our own strength — and the work we do when we abide and rest in Him. The work that will give us continued rest in our souls is that which we do in obedience to Him (Matthew 11:28-30).

3. We trust that God will take care of our kingdom when we take care of His.

For many of us, we want to serve, but we are overwhelmed by the demands of our children, work, spouses, friends, family, etc. We worry about normal “life stuff”: fixing what breaks around the house, making appointments, picking up the kids from school, helping the kids with homework, figuring out what to make for dinner, and responding to emails. And yet, the Bible says when we make Him and the work He gives us a priority, He will help us take care of our kingdom (Matthew 6:33). We will have the time, strength, and resources to finish the tasks we need to in relation to our families, jobs, and homes.

So often, we only look at the negative things that trials bring: pain, inconvenience, and stress. And yet, trials can usher good things in as well. A person who has suffered much is the kind of person that can sympathize with another suffering person. If someone who has never had something bad happen to him or ever experienced pain attempts to give me advice or point to a course while I am in a trial, I am probably not even going to take anything this person says seriously or be all that comforted. However, I am going to listen to someone who has gone through much suffering and can sympathize with me in the midst of my own suffering.

If we don’t resist the suffering God allows or try to run — and thus become hardened by our trials – our trials will make us kinder, more compassionate, and better equipped to minister. Jesus ministered to others even though He was a “man or sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3). He was misunderstood by His family and community, laughed at by religious officials, and betrayed by His closest friends (John 7:5; Matthew 8:34; Mark 6:3; Luke 4:29; John 1:11), but He did not allow His pain to prevent Him from doing His Father’s will.

Our Sorrows Make Us Better Fit to Serve

An older woman in our church suffered the loss of her son and daughter — both in tragic ways. Her son died alone in his apartment of health complications — and no one even knew or found him until several days later. It is possible that he could have lived had he gotten immediate medical treatment. Her daughter was murdered by an enraged boyfriend when she told him that she was leaving. On top of that, this woman suffers from chronic health problems that make each day difficult to endure.

She could easily say, “Lord, what can I do for you? I am a broken-hearted mom with so much pain in my body. What can I do for you?” Yet this woman works as a volunteer in hospitality at our church. Once the pain in her body became so bad that she could no longer stand and greet visitors at the door, she took a different job and now calls newcomers after they visit to follow up with them and thank them for coming. She also actively searches for people to share her story with when she is out in the community and has given talks to domestic violence victims. Clearly, she hasn’t allowed her pain to prevent her from doing the work of God. Rather, she serves Him in the midst of her pain.

Trials can break us or help to mold us into the likeness of Jesus. We can simply bear up under our problems, or we can, like Jesus, continue on our course — steady and fixed — allowing our sorrows to make us better fit to serve in His kingdom.

Editor’s Note: The hardships referred to that we need to endure do not refer to emotional or physical abuse. Please seek out the help of a pastor or Christian counselor if you are in an abusive relationship.

Related Resources:

Have you ever felt irritated by the idea of being joyful in the midst of trials? How can certain Scripture passages advocate that we actually be happy in our most difficult circumstances? This is the second episode in a brand new series on trials and the reason we can rejoice in the midst of hard circumstances. Check out Part 1: “A Reason to Rejoice in Our Trials.”

Podcast Notes and Corrections:

1. This was not included in the article, but the following quote from Albert Barnes’ commentary on James 1:2-4 was given in the podcast:

Let it [perseverance] be fairly developed; let it produce its appropriate effects without being hindered. Let it not be obstructed in its fair influence on the soul by murmerings, complaining, or rebellion. Patience under trials is fitted to produce important effects on the soul, and we are not to hinder them in any manner by a perverse spirit, or by opposition to the will of God. Every one who is afflicted should desire that the fair effects of affliction should be produced on his mind, or that the fair effects of affliction should be produced in his soul precisely the results which his trials are adapted to accomplish.

There may be elements of good character; there may be sound principles, but those principles may not be fully carried out so as to show what they are. Afflictions, perhaps more than anything else, will do this, and we should therefore allow them to do all that they are adapted to do in developing what is good in us. The idea here is that it is desirable not only to have the elements or principles of piety in our soul, but to have them fairly carried out, so as to show what is their real tendency and value.

2. The “we comfort others with the comfort we ourselves have received” verse is 2 Corinthians 1:4, rather than the reference given in the podcast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

More Posts

A Reason To Rejoice in Our Trials

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“They are not going to be able to deliver it until next week,” my husband said to me as he hung up the phone.

Hearing my husband’s words, I sighed in frustration. The store had called him and left a message letting him know that our dishwasher delivery had been pushed back to the following week. The past few weeks, our dishwasher had been stopping in the middle of the cycle, only working sporadically. As a result, I had been hand-washing and drying our dishes, and I looked forward to the installation of a new dishwasher to help ease the burden of handwashing and drying piles of dishes.

At the same time that our dishwasher started dying, our washing machine went out. The week of Easter, a hose broke off the bottom, filling the basin and laundry room with water. This water then leaked into the dining room. We had to clean up the water mess and go without washing clothes for a week until a new washer arrived. Though the water had dried up and the problem resolved, we were still going to have to patch up and paint the dining room ceiling.

That wasn’t the extent of our repair woes. The previous week our AC unit had frozen up and our van had to go in the shop for costly repairs. These inconveniences came on the heels of all three of our kids getting sick at the same time — our youngest with strep throat.

While I knew that these problems were relatively small and part of normal life, I felt like I was just hanging on by a thread. I don’t know how much more of this I can take! I told God. Each day, something new went wrong. We weren’t dealing with one small problem; we were dealing with a host of them in the middle of a season that was already stretching me for different reasons. I couldn’t run my household efficiently without working appliances, and I wondered at what point the money to cover these repairs would run out.

James 1:2-4 says: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

This verse may almost come across as offensive to a person going through hardships because it recommends that we “Consider it pure joy” when we face trials, but I believe that if we examine the verse closely, we will see that this verse isn’t really offensive at all. The difficulty with this verse, I believe, lies within the misconceptions we can have with it. James gives us practical wisdom that can actually encourage us in our toughest times. So what is this passage telling us, exactly?

How We Should View Our Trials

1. Our trials provide a reason to rejoice.

In admonishing us to “Consider it pure joy” when we face difficult times, James does not tell us that the hard circumstances we go through are joyful; rather, he tells us that we are to look upon or view the circumstances as a reason to rejoice because the trials sent our way have purpose: they produce in us something of value.

This is a relief to me because I have felt like I should be happier in going through tough circumstances and will myself to feel a certain way about the hardships I go through. The passage isn’t telling us to ignore our pain or suppress our emotions that come about as a result of our hardships.

I love what commentator E.M. Zerr says on this point: “Count it all joy cannot mean to pretend that [believers] get enjoyment out of that which is disagreeable, for that would be an act of insincerity. The idea is that they should regard it as something that would result in a benefit.” In other words, Zerr emphasizes that the verse is not telling us to fake feelings that aren’t there or refuse to acknowledge our difficulties. Instead, we can consider these trials in a positive light because of what they are producing in us.

In addition, we should note that these trials that the passage speaks of are those that do not come into our lives because of poor choices on our part. These are trials that we fall unexpectedly into — that literally surround us — as we are walking in our faith. These could include trials like I described with appliances breaking down or unexpected bills. They could include a health scare or the stress of an ongoing illness. They could include the problems that come because of a strained relationship or persecution from others. Whatever the case, they are those God has allowed in our life — or even orchestrated — but they are those that will be for our good if we let them.

2. Our trials produce perseverance.

What good could possibly come out of our trials? The passage tells us that these very trials that we would rather not have to endure provide a “testing of our faith and produce in us perseverance” (v. 3), or the ability to continue on following and obeying God in the midst of the difficulties of life.

As the wording of the passage suggests, while this “testing” refers to what we normally think of when we think of testing — a test to see what is already there — this testing of our faith (i.e. the trials we go through) also creates or “produces” in us what we don’t have yet, but God desires to put within us.

In fact, part of the reason I’ve never fully understood this verse is because I assumed that “the testing of our faith” referred to in the passage only meant that God tests us and stands back to see if we can pass the test. If we desire to develop a certain virtue that God wants us to have or overcome a sin pattern or habit that God has pointed out to us, this idea of God putting us to the test can frustrate us because we may just view each opportunity He puts our way not as a chance to grow, but as a failure if we don’t meet the opportunity as we should.

However, if we view the opportunity as one God sends our way to help us grow, suddenly the trial takes on a different appearance to us. And we see the God of love behind every detail of our lives. He isn’t orchestrating or allowing hard situations to watch us fail, but rather, to help us grow what is needed, as the verse explains in its conclusion, so that we can be whole or spiritually mature (v. 4).

How Our Trials Develop Perseverance in Us

So, how exactly do our trials develop perseverance in us? Attempting to understand this difficult concept, I asked God to help me “get” this verse. That same day, just an hour or two later, while chatting with my daughter on the playground, I had a God-given epiphany. My 10-year-old daughter “just happened” to tell me about a physical fitness test at her school where she outran another boy in her class. She asked me if I thought she could run faster than this particular boy because of her healthy diet. I had explained to my kids the day before that I attempted to feed them healthy foods because healthy foods would help keep their bodies strong.

My daughter had remembered that conversation and attributed her fast running in P.E. to her diet. I explained to her that while her diet mattered and was part of the equation, she also was a fast runner because she was active and involved in dance and lacrosse. Her constant physical exertion week in and week out helped her build the endurance necessary to compete in physical exercises with ease.

As I explained to her what it meant to build up bodily strength through physical exercise, I realized that I had my answer to the question I had asked God earlier in the day. Trials build our spiritual muscles much like exercise builds up our physical bodies. Just as we are able to get through challenging fitness drills or exercises more efficiently when we have been consistently exercising and building up our endurance, we can also tackle God’s assignments with better efficiency and ease when he grows us to be able to handle the assignments that come our way.

Therefore, James telling us to rejoice isn’t some crazy stuff-down-your-emotions directive where we plaster on a fake smile and pretend it’s all OK. No, James’ instruction tells us that we can rejoice through the hard times knowing that those hard situations we walk through produce in us that which can only be produced through trial — and not in the calm, peaceful times.

Why Our Trials Will Be Worth It

My brother and sister-in-law fell into some unfortunate circumstances this past winter. They woke up to a flood in their house: a pipe busted in the kitchen and filled up their downstairs with several inches of water. To make a long story short, after a company cleaned up the water and assessed the damage, they determined their entire kitchen and downstairs floor had to be replaced.

For several months, while renovations were taking place, they lived in a kitchen with a makeshift sink and stand-alone stove and refrigerator — and it was not fun. However, they were able to install a brand new beautiful kitchen with custom cabinets, new granite, and hard wood flooring.

Now, in looking at their kitchen, I am sure they remember the hardship of the water leak, but now, they have the satisfaction of a sparkling top-of-the-line kitchen that is so much better than what existed before. Might they say that the months of trial were worth it? I think so. But would they have said the same thing in the middle of their ordeal? Probably not.

Philippians 1:6 says this: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in your will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” When we’re in the middle, it feels like we’ll be here forever and that all the hard work we are doing won’t be worth it. But it certainly will!

Someday, we’ll be able to stand back and say of our trials, “Wow, that is why I went through that.” Some trials may never make sense to us, but other times, we can look back at a later time and see the result of our hardship and the hard season God allowed in our lives. Whether we can see what God is doing or have to blindly trust Him in our trial, in order to get the benefit out of our hardships, we simply have to submit to the process and allow the perseverance to “finish its work” (v. 4).

For more on perseverance finishing its work, tune into the next podcast episode where I talk more about how perseverance is not our end goal — but works to make us spiritually mature.

Related Resources:

Have you ever felt irritated by the idea of being joyful in the midst of trials? How can certain Scripture passages advocate that we actually be happy in our most difficult circumstances? This is the first episode in a brand new series on trials and the reason we can rejoice in the midst of hard circumstances. Check back in the following weeks for more on getting through our trials.

Ever feel unappreciated, worthless, or overwhelmed as a mom? Check out our “Motherhood: The Joys, Challenges, and Trials” series. Part 1: “Why Your Work as a Stay-at-Home Mom Matters,” Part 2: “Your High and Holy Calling as a Mom,” Part 3: “What It Means to Train Our Children,” and Part 4: “The Knowledge That Will Make You a Better Mom.”

*Updated and article uploaded May 22, 2019.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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The Knowledge That Will Make You a Better Mom

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When my youngest daughter was born, we were relieved to discover she was such an easy, compliant child. We marveled over her sweet temperament. She played quietly with toys by herself. She gave sweet hugs to her brother and older sister when they were upset or cried. She went to bed without much fuss. Generally, she didn’t demand much from us — but acted content on most occasions to “go with the flow.”

And then she turned two.

The year started off the same as the year before, but as the year progressed, we began to see a different side of her that we hadn’t seen before. And now, as we near her third birthday, we’ve seen “the terrible twos” rear its head more often than not.

Our once docile child runs away toward the street when we go outside; arches her back so we can’t strap her in her car seat; kicks at me and claws my face when I tell her no; tries to help herself to snacks in the pantry, rather than eat the healthy meal I have prepared; takes off her clothes after I have dressed her; and locks herself in bedrooms for fun.

I know that this phase will pass. I struggled with her older brother and sister at this same age. (In fact, our refrigerator stopped working and had to be repaired because her brother, at age 3, liked to open the refrigerator so much and help himself to whatever was inside. The repairman told me that the cooling had given out because the refrigerator wasn’t designed to have the door open for such extended periods of time. I solved the problem by not only calling a repairman, but putting a plastic child lock on the handles so that my son could no longer open the door.)

However, even though I’ve been through the toddler phase twice before with my older two, when dealing with my younger daughter’s antics all day long, in addition to dealing with the demands and needs of her older brother and sister, I can easily feel discouraged, worn out, and not my best as a mom. As much as I love my children, I am finding it too easy in my current season to focus on the challenges of motherhood and the negative qualities of my children, instead of focusing each day on the blessing of being a mom.

What the Word of God Says About Children

So, how can I change my perspective and find joy once again in the mothering of my children and view my children the way I should? Psalm 127:3 tells us this: “Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.”

The psalm tells that children are both a “heritage” and a “reward” from God. As John Calvin says, a “reward” can be understood as whatever “benefits God bestows on men.” This idea of children being a blessing can be a difficult one to come to terms with if you are someone who desires to have children but haven’t been able to or you are someone who struggled with infertility before becoming a parent. However, I like how gotquestions.org resolves this idea, saying about the passage: “This does not mean that those without children are not blessed or that children are the only blessing of God. It simply means children are to be looked upon as a blessing, not as a curse or inconvenience.”

Certainly, in the Old Testament, we have this idea that children are a sign of God’s favor — but this wasn’t always universally true. Within the pages of Scripture, we see godly couples that struggled to have children. In addition, we see ungodly couples have children. If you are still waiting on God’s timing or are not sure if God would like you to possibly pursue adoption, etc., you can seek Him about how to approach your situation. This passage is speaking in a general sense and is not meant to alienate certain individuals or make them feel “less than” if they have not been able to conceive.

However, according to Calvin, the passage does correct views that many people hold that children are born by “chance” or merely because of an “instinct of nature.” Many believe that once God put the universe in motion, He stepped back and let His creation take its course; however, as Calvin points out, and we see in other places of Scripture, this psalm tells us that God has a direct hand in creating children. Each one has been fashioned by God and has a purpose to live out on this earth (Psalm 139:13-16).

Therefore, just as it was God’s choice to send us the child that He did — and we can’t take credit for the child He created — God also has a plan for each child, and we have a responsibility to steward and lead this child to accomplish what God intends for this child.

As Calvin emphasizes, when we know that our children are a gift and we have been given the honor of parenting them, we are encouraged not to be “careless and reluctant” when providing for them. In addition, as he says, “This knowledge contributes to a very eminent degree to encourage [parents] in bringing up their offspring.” In other words, knowledge of our kids’ value makes us better parents!

In reading Calvin’s words, might we say that reminding ourselves of God’s gift to us will help us to treat our children as human beings of great value (as we should) in all areas and give us renewed energy and motivation as moms, not just in providing for their physical needs, but in providing for their emotional and spiritual needs as well?

God’s Word Sustains Us When We’re Tired or Beyond Hope

I read a devotional by Alicia Bruxvoort just this week about how she, as a tired mom trying to console her fourth child late one night, found comfort in the following verse: “For the word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective] … “ (Hebrews 4:12, AMP). I had never read this verse in the Amplified, and with other versions I had read, I skipped past the first part to the rest of the verse which talks about the Word “penetrating” the soul and spirit like a sword.

For instance, in the NIV the complete verse reads: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” In attaching my focus to the last part of the verse, however, I had only viewed this verse as a “stern” verse about how the Word of God will pierce us when we’re going the wrong way. And it does indeed assert that idea.

However, I realized, in reading just the first part of the verse, that the verse could be read not just as a verse about the penetrating work of the Word to convict us and get us on the right track. This verse also speaks of how this Word also works within us in another way in that it energizes, affects, and exerts influence over us. Wow! So, the verse in fact also says that the Word acts in different ways depending on our situation — and it can be that which empowers us when we’re weary and worn out to act how we should.

When we start to feel irritated by our children’s bad behavior or worn out as a parent, we can be energized, affected, and influenced by the truth of God’s Word in Psalm 127 that says our children are a “heritage and a reward” and shift our thinking. As Bruxvoort acknowledged in her post, her situation didn’t change, but her perspective did. That night, when she felt fatigued as a mom, Hebrews 4:12 lifted her up and helped to keep her going.

Though she was energized by a different passage of Scripture than the one we are discussing, we can apply this same idea in regards to our current discussion and remind ourselves of the truth of God’s Word in regard to the value of our children. We can look ahead to the goal of raising disciplined, godly children and push ahead through one more day of tantrums, clawing fits, or door locking incidents — knowing that, as Psalm 127 asserts, our children have been gifted to us by God.

And whatever season we find ourselves in as moms, we can, as Bruxvoort points out, find sustenance in the Word of God to get us through.

Related Resources:

Ever feel unappreciated, worthless, or overwhelmed as a mom? This is Part 4 in the series “Motherhood: Joys, Challenges, and Trials.” Check out Part 1: “Why Your Work as a Stay-at-Home Mom Matters,” Part 2: “Your High and Holy Calling as a Mom,” and Part 3: What It Means to Train Our Children.

Don’t have much time to read, but would like to hear articles in podcast form? Check out our podcast archive for a complete listing of podcast episodes.

Talking about children as blessings can bring up complicated questions regarding how certain children were conceived. Are children still a blessing if given to a mom that conceives outside of the marital union or conceives against her will because of a rape? Check out the following resource on gotquestions.org for a discussion of this topic: Are Children Always a Blessing From God?

*Updated May 16, 2019.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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What It Means to Train Our Children

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“Put your shoes on,” I instructed my 2-year-old, as I watched her rip off her shoes and toss them on the ground. I had taken my two youngest children to the playground to play while their sister was at her dance class, and my toddler had decided upon arrival that she didn’t need her shoes. In my haste to get the kids out the door, I had not put socks on her, and she expressed her distaste at having to run around in shoes with no socks.

However sweaty her feet might have been, I wanted her to keep her shoes on because I did not want her to step on a rock or stub a toe or get her feet dirty. Therefore, I patiently put her in my lap, velcroed her shoes on, and sent her down the slide another time. However, just a few moments later, she took her shoes off and again ran away from with me a laugh. I repeated my instruction to her and put her shoes on for the third time.

After I had placed her shoes on her feet yet again, she scampered off and played for a few moments, and I talked to another mom at the playground. Not even two minutes later, I noticed her shoes discarded once more by the fence and my daughter running around barefoot. As I was in the middle of a conversation and I didn’t feel like battling with my daughter at the moment, I chose not to address her disobedience. My toddler ran around in her bare feet, delighted that she had been able to get her own way.

Later, I reflected on the fact that I should have held the line with her on her shoes. Would it have been a big deal for her to run around barefoot outside? Probably not. However, what was a big deal is that I had asked to keep them on and she had deliberately defied me. If I was going to make a request of her, I needed to follow up if she disobeyed me and ensure that she listen to my instructions.

Training Our Children

Throughout the day, we will frequently have moments, such as the one I described with my youngest daughter, where we need to enforce a boundary, address a habit or pattern of behavior, and instruct our child in a particular situation about the correct way to behave. However, we may not immediately engage in discipline of our child because we may be distracted by other tasks, overwhelmed by the behavior to the point that we have no idea how to address it, afraid of the reaction we might receive from the child, or indifferent to the child’s bad behavior. However, the Bible tells us that we need to view such moments as teachable opportunities and use those to train and mold our child.

Proverbs 22:6 (ESV) says: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The word “train” here means in the Hebrew not only “to train,” but also “to dedicate.” Essentially, what it means to effectively parent our children is to dedicate or consecrate a child to God and teach a child to know God and walk in His ways.

In addition, as the Pulpit Commentary explains, “train” in Hebrew also means to “put something into the mouth,” “to give to be tasted.” In other words, the type of training or “dedicating” the passage speaks of is to introduce or initiate the child to a particular way of living in regards to Christian values. By introducing them to this “taste,” just as a child grows accustomed to a particular food and desires that food because it is familiar to them, he will also grow accustomed to the ways of God if he is shown this way when he is young.

We should also observe that the proverb says we are to train up a child “in the way he should go.” The actual wording in Hebrew is “in his way.” As theologian Albert Barnes notes, this is “according to the tenor of his way, i. e., the path especially belonging to, especially fitted for, the individual’s character.” Therefore, while this certainly means the way that he should go in terms of Christian values, this isn’t a way that is rigidly determined without carefully studying and getting to know the child. This means that we are to take into account the unique temperament and gifts of the child and also consider this child’s future possibilities, directing a child in the best way for him to go after observing these qualities in the child and continually praying about how to best direct him.

What Happens When We Don’t Train Our Children?

Such training of our children, as the proverb speaks of, seems obvious enough: youths need training and parents should provide it. However, as our society seeks to erase God and Christian values, we see an increasing contempt for authority and boundaries, including parental authority within the home.

Instead of receiving training from their parents, children in many homes today are encouraged to do as they please and follow their own whims and fancies. However, the passage is clear that young people need to be shown the correct way — and the idea is implied that without this instruction, they will go down the wrong path.

Elsewhere in Proverbs, we see this same idea of the dangers of not instructing our children. Proverbs 29:15 tells us, “A rod and reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother.” Some translations read that a child “left to himself” or “left alone” disgraces his mother. The NAS says “a child who gets his own way” is one that “brings shame” or disgraces his mother. What stands out to me in each of these translations is that a child who brings disgrace to his mother is one who is simply left to do what he wants and go his own way.

Similarly, Proverbs 19:18 says, “Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death.” The NLT translation says that a lack of discipline of our children with “ruin their lives,” or, as the GNT says, “[help] them destroy themselves.”

The wording is incredibly strong here and essentially tells us that we are signing a “death sentence” for our children when we don’t discipline them. Children that are not taught the ways of God will ruin their own lives with their choices — and they may not even discover their own error until it is too late. Or, even if they are able to turn to the right way as adults, they may have the consequences of years of bad choices that they have to still live with that could have been avoided. Likewise, Proverbs 13:24, says, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”

While our society increasingly advocates that young people simply go the way that they want to in appearance, attitude, sexuality, gender — you name it, the Word of God is clear on the point that young people should not be left to govern themselves, but rather, be brought up in the instruction and training of the Lord.

Training Has Benefits for Not Only Children, But Parents

When we give our children a “taste” of the right path early on, this training not only has benefits in keeping our children from going down the wrong path and harming themselves, the proverb tells us that this training also has benefits for us as parents: when he is old, he will not “depart from it.” Similarly, Proverbs 29:17 says, “Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire.”

When we take the time to discipline our children, we don’t have to worry about our kids growing up and getting into trouble as adults or making us look bad or turning away from the right path because they are still walking in the training they learned in their youth. In contrast to the “disgrace” that will fall on us if we leave our children to train themselves, parents of disciplined children will be able to enjoy the fruits of their hard work when their children are older.

However, the discipline described is not a harsh discipline where parents go on a power trip or misuse parental authority (Ephesians 6:4). We do so in a loving way with an end goal of instilling in them the right habits and qualities. In addition, the proverb does not guarantee that training of a child will produce a child who sticks to the right way. Children will grow up and have to make their own choices as to how they live, and some will turn away from what is right. However, a child who does turn from the right way will find it hard to do so, as they have been introduced to what is right.

Conclusion:

When I was doing some study on Proverbs 22:6 to write this article, I ran across a statement that stopped me in my tracks: If we don’t teach our kids, someone else will. If we aren’t taking the time to teach our children intentionally about the ways of God and how to live life, they will learn how to live from TV shows, from neighbors, from teachers — and the habits and values they pick up may not necessarily be Christian values. In fact, they probably won’t. Note what the Sermon Commentary says on this point:

Children are not only capable of training, but they will be trained in spite of us. And if we do not take them in hand, and with a very definite end in view, which we pursue with inflexible purpose and unflagging constancy — an end not lower than heaven, not narrower than eternity, and not meaner than their salvation — another process will assuredly be going on which ere long fills us with dismay. We must know that children are always at school, even when they seem to be away from it.

As a teacher, I got to observe first-hand the impact of young people left to train themselves or simply learn from others around them. The link between poor home lives and poor performance at school was undeniable. Generally speaking, my most out-of-control students had little parental involvement, chaos in their homes — and no one who was looking out for their well-being and/or guiding them.

Of course, I had cases of young people from good homes that got into trouble as well, but the difference between how these cases were handled and how the cases of the students with poor home lives were handled was quite different. If a young person was from a stable home environment, I would usually be able to get in touch with the parent and receive a reply right away. Although each case was unique, generally speaking, the parent would express concern, implement strategies within the home to remedy the problem, and work with me to correct the problem.

On the flip side, if a parent was from a home with uninvolved parents, I would oftentimes have difficulty reaching the parent. The parent would appear unconcerned or too busy to deal with the problem. If the parent was concerned, often no follow-up action would happen to correct the behavior and the behavior would continue. In some cases, the parent would get angry that I had bothered him or express displeasure with me or the school for interrupting his day — as if the school was somehow the problem!

The Word of God does not lie. It has been given to us for our instruction (1 Timothy 3:16; Proverbs 1:1-5). As parents, we can be wise and take the opportunities now to mold and train our children, or we can take the route of least resistance and not correct our children — but the Word of God warns how this route will turn out. Although it might be initially easier and less painful not to engage in the hard work of training and guiding our children, such a path will lead to pain and heartache for us later down the road.

We won’t be perfect parents. If we haven’t done what we should on our parenting journey, we can turn around and start now. In addition, God doesn’t leave us to parent our children alone. He is with us every step of the way to help, strengthen, and encourage us — when we get tired and worn out and feel like we can’t go another step (Psalm 18:32; Psalm 27:14; Isaiah 40:29-31).

However, the proverb emphasizes that when we choose to shape and direct our children in the right way — we do the will of God and will enjoy our kids and family life as we grow older because we will be able to look and see the positive results that come out of the investment of our hard work and time into the lives of our children.

Related Resources:

Ever feel unappreciated or worthless as a mom? This is Part 3 in the series “Motherhood: Joys, Challenges, and Trials.” Check out Part 1: “Why Your Work as a Stay-at-Home Mom Matters” and Part 2: “Your High and Holy Calling as a Mom.”

Don’t have much time to read, but would like to hear articles in podcast form? Check out our podcast archive for a complete listing of podcast episodes.

*Updated May 16, 2019.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

More Posts

Your High and Holy Calling as a Mom

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When I was growing up, my family took a two-week camping trip along the Oregon coast, and we visited many scenic parks and landmarks — including several beautiful lighthouses.

While these lighthouses were no longer functioning lighthouses, but had been turned into tourist destinations, I was enchanted by the idea of a lighthouse warning ships away from the rocks, helping captains pilot their crafts into safe waters.

The Job of Lighthouse Keepers

Due to electricity, most lighthouses are now automated, but back in the day, a lighthouse keeper had to light the lamps punctually at dusk each night and keep them lit throughout the night. Just to get to the top of a lighthouse, a keeper had to ascend a flight of steep steps. Some of the tall lighthouses may have had as many as 200 steps! Note what I discovered about this process of lighting the lamps in reading about a particular lighthouse called Sea Girt Lighthouse* in New Jersey:

Preparations for lighting the beacon began well before dusk. The keeper first inspected the Fresnel lens and its many prisms, which were cleaned that morning. The lamp that produced the light was checked and the supply of fuel refilled. The wick was trimmed and lighted. The weights, which dropped down the tower shaft driving gears that caused the lens to revolve, were unlocked, hand cranked up to the top and a new descent started.

To ensure lamps did not go out, keepers had to check the lights at intervals during the night. On stormy nights, they had to continuously ensure the light was beaming.

Keepers lived at the lighthouse and worked seven days a week. They were not only responsible for lighting the lamps, cleaning the lamps, and maintaining the lighthouse, they also had to take weather readings and document these, as well as maintain the house and grounds of the light stations. Keepers had to work through blizzards, hurricanes, and other storms — putting their own lives in danger for others. They also had to be prepared to respond to emergency situations such as fires (which were a constant threat) and shipwrecks.

Mothers Are Keepers of the Home

In looking at the job of a lighthouse keeper, we can gain a better understanding of the role of a godly wife and mom described by Paul in Titus 2. Titus 2:2-5 tells us this:

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one can malign the Word of God.

How, you might ask, is a lighthouse keeper like a mom? In praying about this topic and feeling overwhelmed by the task of writing on it, I asked God to give me some help (as I often do), and I was struck by a particular word that popped out at me when reading the verse. Although you do not see this word in the NIV (which I have listed above), you will find the word “keeper” in other translations, such as the KJV. In many translations, instead of saying that a woman should be “busy at home,” it says that a woman should be “keepers at home” (v. 5). In fact, in the Greek, the word is actually “oikourgos” and means “keeper-at-home” or “house keeper.”

What exactly does a “keeper-at-home” do? To understand this term, it is helpful to look at the definition of “keeper,” as given here by Dictionary.com:

a person who guards or watches, as at a prison or gate

a person who assumes responsibility for another’s behavior

a person who owns or operates a business

a person who is charged with the maintenance of something

a person charged with responsibility for the preservation and conservation of something valuable, as a curator or game warden

and a person who conforms to or abides by a requirement.

Wow! In relation to the task of mother, are you seeing how many of these characteristics are those that a mom does every single day?

As a “keeper-at-home,” a mother lives on the job, is on call 24/7, must keep up with maintenance of home and care of children, and sacrifices herself on a daily basis to ensure her family is protected and cared for. She, essentially, is the guardian of her children and her constant work and effort keeps the household running, or “lantern beaming,” so to speak.

I do think it is important to clarify that being a “keeper of the home” doesn’t necessarily mean women can’t work outside the home. We understand from reading elsewhere in Scripture that the roles of women were varied, and we need to seek God for His will for our life. However, as women, we have been given the role of running our houses and taking care of our husbands and children; therefore, we have been given abilities unique to our gender that help us in that role — whether as stay-at-home moms or working moms.

So, continuing on with this metaphor of a lighthouse keeper to describe what we do every day as moms, we can also draw a few other ideas related to this idea of being a “keeper-at-home”:

 1. We don’t all have to mother the same.

One of the ideas that stood out to me as I was doing some research on the job of a lighthouse keeper is that each lighthouse station was slightly different. Each lighthouse station had its own signature blinks to help mariners identify the light and was made unique from the other lighthouse stations to further help sailors determine where they were. Similarly, we, as moms, don’t have to all mother the same. As a mom, I often get caught up in comparing myself to another mom and feeling superior or inferior to another mom based on how I do things in comparison to how she does things.

However, we should draw a firm line on the principles that the Gospel outlines for godly wives and mothers, but we can execute tasks with our own unique style and flair. One mom may be really active and connect with her kids through outings and trips to the park and museum. Another mom may prefer to connect with her kids through quieter activities like playing board games and reading books together.

One mom may cook home-cooked meals every night and another may have the pizza place on speed-dial. As moms, we often make up lists and create expectations for ourselves that the Bible doesn’t mention specifically. Instead of comparing ourselves to other moms, we can feel the freedom to mother our kids in our own unique style, consulting God about the ins and outs of our decisions, knowing that as long as we are adhering to the principles of the Gospel and looking to Him to lead us — that we don’t all have to mother exactly the same.

2. We have to follow the manual.

While the keepers had varied responsibilities depending on their station and each light station was slightly different, they still all followed the same manual given to them by the U.S. Lighthouse Service. As moms, we, too, though we don’t all have the same personalities or style as moms, as I mentioned, have to live by the manual.

Quite interestingly, in Titus, when the apostle Paul instructs the older women to “teach the younger women,” he uses the Greek word “sóphronizó” which means “to recall to one’s senses, admonish.” Paul urged the older women to essentially call back some of the women who were just drifting along and living the way the world did, not considering what it meant to be a Christian woman. In addition, he was correcting some of their attitudes toward religion. They preferred to follow certain myths and rituals, rather than actually live out the guidelines of the Gospel.

We can be challenged by this in that we, too, as moms often will adhere to what we knew growing up, we emulate by seeing someone else, or we learn from the culture — but being an effective mom is, in fact, looking to see that we are doing what the Bible says in regards to motherhood and not simply drifting along with societal expectations and norms. Paul exhorted Titus to teach the elderly women (that they might teach the young women) what it meant to be a Christian woman in behavior and dress — that they might best represent the Gospel.

Similarly, for us, being the best mom we can means looking to the Word of God for our cues on how to raise our children — and not the world. Titus 2 tells us that a godly wife and mother looks like the following: loving our husbands and children, being self-controlled and pure, being busy at home, kind, and subject to our husbands. This is certainly not easy to read because it goes against the ideas of what it means to be a mom and wife taught by our society.

However, as commentator Paul Kretzmann advocates, these ideas that Paul was passing on weren’t merely his own ideas, but actually, the will of the eternal God communicated in this letter. And so, even though these truths aren’t necessarily those that are easy to live out or always fun to embrace, we see that they are those that are given to us as the guidelines by which to operate our “light stations.”

3. We have a duty higher than ourselves.

A keeper performed his tasks not just because he loved them, but because his job required it — and lives were saved when he performed his job well. As mothers, we, too, have a higher reason to do our job in that God calls us to love our husbands and children (v. 4). The lives of our children, as well as those looking on, will not only be enhanced, but possibly saved, when we take seriously our calling as mother and hold fast to this task. The Bible says to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27). The conduct described in Titus 2 is not only to produce a certain desirable result in ourselves and our families, but to display Christ to others and bring others to Christ (v. 5).

This isn’t a “let’s put on a fake show” admonition here, but a real awareness that we may turn others off to the Gospel when we act in ways around our children that are not in keeping with its principles. While the verse isn’t saying that we have to generate perfect behavior from our kids to give others a good impression of the Gospel or act perfectly ourselves (we are going to fail at times, and there is grace for that), what it is saying is that our good treatment and training of them and their subsequent response to our love and guidance will show the world what can and will happen when we have Christ within us and put the principles of the Gospel to work.

In telling us that the older women were to “urge,” or as some translations say, “teach,” the younger women to love their husbands and children, we understand that the wives didn’t just feel a natural affection for their families all the time. This was a love that they had to learn. While loving our children will come naturally to us on some days, there will be other days when they frustrate, anger, annoy, and overwhelm us. Even on those days, we are to love them — and this love isn’t merely an affection, but a training in the right direction and desire to see them grow not only physically, but spiritually and emotionally. Proverbs 13:24 tells us, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” When we love our children, we do more than simply display affection towards them — we guide them in the right way to go.

Conclusion:

I love what a high-profile football coach said at a press conference on what he considered his greatest success in life: bringing his own three boys to salvation. What a perspective! Not his number of wins as a coach. Not his impressive salary. He considered his greatest accomplishment to be the investment of his life into his boys’ lives so that they could come to know Jesus Christ.

Obviously, he’s not a mom, but his words challenge us as moms: As mothers and keepers of our homes, what are we allowing our kids to watch, to hear, to talk about? What environment are we creating? What are we leading them towards?

Titus 2 admonishes us to love our families and watch over our homes — not only for their benefit, but so that our conduct is in keeping with the Gospel. Similarly, Deuteronomy 11:19 tells us we are to teach our children about God and His Word when we sit down, walk along the road, lie down, and get up. In this series on motherhood, I have been so challenged as I’ve evaluated my own attitudes toward motherhood and my apathy, at times, in regards to the job I have of helping to cultivate the souls of my children to know God and know the truths of God.

The mother of Charles Spurgeon prayed for her son and deeply impressed him with her own advocacy for him when he was a strong-willed youth of 14 and 15 who hadn’t yet decided to devote his life to Christ. In particular, he remembered her pleading for the souls of her children in prayer and saying, “Now, Lord, if my children go on in their sins, it will not be from ignorance that they perish, and my soul must bear swift witness against them at the day of judgment if they lay not hold of Christ.” He later reflected, “How can I ever forget her tearful eye when she warned me to escape from the wrath to come?”

Spurgeon was moved by his mother’s pleading for his soul, but did not accept Christ until one Sunday morning, drawn to a small Methodist chapel, he heard the simple words of a pastor declare that he could be saved by looking unto Jesus Christ. And, in that moment, Spurgeon put his faith in Jesus Christ. The words of the pastor inspired him, but his mother’s intercession for him lay the groundwork for his decision to accept Christ.

When we are tempted to doubt our own effectiveness as moms or neglect to pray for and guide our own children, how greatly they miss out. Just as a lighthouse keeper is essential to his lighthouse station, we are essential to our children and homes and have an important role to play in molding our kids and teaching them the truths of the Gospel. I can recall the many times, in my own childhood, how my own Christian mother would check up on me, ask me probing questions about my whereabouts, and share morsels of wisdom to guide me in my current season. While I didn’t always like her questions or care of me at the time, I can look back now and see that she loved me and was looking out for me. In addition, I can recall the many times I walked in on her when she had her Bible open or her eyes were closed in prayer. My mother’s faith helped to keep me on the straight and narrow when my rebellious heart drifted and sought to go elsewhere.

In the wear and tear that comes with daily life and the care of children, we may forget the high and holy calling we have been given to love and guide our children — but Scripture reminds us of the important role of mom and “keeper at home.”

May we ever remember the deep impact a godly mother has on her children — and strive to be the best mother, or “keeper,” that we can.

Related Resources:

This is Part 2 in the series “Motherhood: Joys, Challenges, and Trials.” Check out Part 1: “Why Your Work as a Stay-at-Home Mom Matters,” which explores how to view what you do as valuable when you are bogged down with the monotony of unending laundry, dirty dishes, and kids’ squabbling.

Know that you are called to more than motherhood, but not sure what that calling is? Take a look at last month’s series on calling, starting with Part 1: “Being Bold in Our God-Given Calling.” Other articles in the series define calling in biblical terms, explore common fears we can have in answering our calling, and detail how to grow in our calling.

*All information about lighthouse duties adapted from Sea Girt Lighthouse webpage.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Why Your Work as a Stay-at-Home Mom Matters

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When I left my teaching career to become a stay-at-home mom, I thought that I would stay at home for a short time and then jump back into working outside the home. I planned to find a part-time teaching or editing job and pursue the new direction in music God had called me to follow, but I never imagined that the new direction would include stepping away from work outside the home for eight years — and counting.

This was just one of many surprises I encountered when I left my full-time career. The other major surprise I didn’t expect was how difficult it was for me to embrace my new role. Whereas I felt a sense of purpose when I showed up for work each day to teach and help mold the lives of students, I struggled to find my purpose in the monotony and grind of housework and care of my small children. I began to dread the “So, what do you do?” question at get-togethers and wished I still had a badge and professional accomplishments to show others.

Sacrifices in My Role as Stay-at-Home Mom

I fought hard to keep the old me intact, but I felt her slipping away with each day. A few months after I left, I remember the day I stood in my bathroom and tried in vain to get through my normal pre-stay-at-home-mom morning routine of shower, hair, makeup, and outfit selection.

What had been so effortless when I was working and had only one, as my husband took my daughter to daycare in the morning to leave me an hour to get ready, now loomed in front of me like an impossible Mt. Everest. My 2-year-old hopped around my feet asking me to play with her. My newborn fussed in his bouncer and wanted to be picked up. As the weeks before had taught me, inevitably, if and when I could get through the shower, hair-straightening, and mascara application, my then infant son would spit up on the fresh shirt I had selected or pull out my earrings or try to eat my hair.

Suddenly, on this particular day, I realized that I could no longer keep up with my normal routine. I was going to have to adopt a new one. While I once looked down on frumpy moms at Target who wore rumpled sweats and oversized shirts, I now understood that these women hadn’t necessarily just “let themselves go” because they didn’t care or try. They didn’t have a second in their day where a baby didn’t need to be fed or a diaper changed or a meal prepared or a load of laundry put in the washer or a mess cleaned off the floor.

T-shirts and sweats didn’t seem like such a bad “work uniform” — and I followed suit. No, I didn’t just “let myself go” and give up on myself. But I stopped fighting so hard to get dolled up and set a different standard for myself: Sweats and T-shirts for the morning when I was at home with my two little ones. A shower and makeup in the afternoon during the kids’ naptime. And, if I chose an outfit for the evening, I picked extremely casual and hardy clothes. I reserved my “real clothes” for days when I left to go somewhere like church or the grocery store. I may have taken my new approach a little too far because my daughter, after she started kindergarten, did ask me in pleading tones if I could please wear “real clothes” (a.k.a., not my husband’s sweats) to the bus stop.

Letting go of my “real clothes” and morning routine weren’t the only concessions I made after becoming a stay-at-home mom. My husband’s modest teacher salary meant I had to make adjustments to my spending habits. I let go of the expensive hair salon haircuts and colorings and opted for $15 haircuts at Great Clips and do-it-yourself-color-out-of-a-box from Wal-mart. My twice-a-month pedicures dropped down to once a month (or not at all if money was tight in a month) and my clothes budget disappeared completely. I bought clothes in spurts when I literally had run out of all options and kept my clothes looking presentable by choosing, as I mentioned, not to wear any of my nice ones at home. I also became familiar with consignment sales to keep my kids clothed and made other adjustments that included shopping at a discount grocery store and eating out only occasionally, rather than weekly.

Though each of these sacrifices hurt, what hurt the most was the feeling that maybe all of the sacrifices I had made in leaving my job and adopting a more frugal lifestyle were for nothing — and what I did on a daily basis had no value. Though I knew in my head the importance of looking after the house and molding and training my children, I felt in darker moments that my stay-at-home-mom role took me away from other important things.

Do Stay-at-Home Moms Get to Have a Life?

Right now, in my current season, my older two kids are now school-age, and I have just one home with me (and she is nearing three). And yet, even though my older kids can help quite a bit now and I can take a shower in the morning if I need to, I am practically a single mom as my coach-husband is smack in the middle of lacrosse season and is also completing another degree. His nights and weekends are filled with practices, games, and schoolwork. Though we have an end in sight as lacrosse season is almost over and he will complete this degree in just a few months, each day, when my alarm goes off in the morning, I face what sometimes feels like a suffocating day a day of toddler tantrums, housework, and sibling conflict management (with my older two). Recently, after a particularly trying day of children’s antics and late work nights for my husband, I texted him these dramatic words: I feel like I am in prison.

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely adore my children. Even when I say I want a minute to myself, when I do get that wish and get a few moments alone in the house, I miss my kids and can’t wait for them to get back. But sometimes all of their needs and wants and demands are so overwhelming that I feel locked in a “prison” where I exist to serve everyone else, and I have all but disappeared. As much as I understand the importance of supporting my husband and raising my children to pursue their God-given callings, I sometimes think, “But what about me? Because I am a mom, does that mean I no longer get to have a life at all?”

The Role of a Godly Wife and Mom

The Bible provides some perspective on the role of a godly wife and mom and helps me to reign in my runaway thoughts, saying in Titus 2 that women are to “love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God” (Titus 2: 4, 5) Elsewhere, we are told that a wife of noble character (other translations say “diligent” or “capable”) is of more value than rubies (Proverbs 31:10) and her works will “bring her praise” at the city gate (Proverbs 31:31). You know what those verses tell me? Being a mom, whether a stay-at-home one or not, does require sacrifice and hard work, but that work is that which is important and worthy, no matter how pointless or unimportant it feels at times.

Not every mom is called to stay home with her kids. Elsewhere in Scripture, we see a depiction of women who engage in business and other roles, so the Bible does not say that every woman has to be a stay-at-home mom. I know many moms who balance work outside the home and the demands of a family on top of that — and do it well. In addition, not every woman is called to marriage or child-bearing. The calling of the Lord to a woman is highly individual and we see a variance of roles among the women in Scripture. However, for those of us called to marriage and motherhood, Titus 2 is clear on the point that when we commit themselves to being capable and diligent wives, mothers, and home-keepers, we send a clear picture to the world of the Gospel lived out.

We give others a picture of what it means to be a Christian not just when we witness or serve at church or give money to those in need, although we need to all of those things. We also live out our Christian walk when we provide an inviting environment for our families to live in; when we serve our children and husband by washing clothes, making meals, and helping with homework; and we teach our children the principles of the Gospel.

In those times, then, when I am tempted to de-value what I do as a stay-at-home mom, I can look at these passages and see that loving my husband and children and committing myself to the care of my home — that is part of my high and holy calling at the moment. It doesn’t mean I can’t do anything else. As women, God calls us to serve in other capacities beyond that of mother and wife. However, if we are in a season where God has called us to stay at home with our children and this role is consuming much of our time and energy, we can take pride in our work and submit ourselves to the season God has us in.

Measuring My Value as a Stay-at-Home Mom

As a stay-at-home mom, I’ve had to make sacrifices. But perhaps what I have given up needed to go because the things that made me feel worthy and important weren’t necessarily things that one needs to be important or worthy at all.

In John 8, Jesus is challenged by Pharisees who attack his credibility and testimony. Jesus has an interesting take on their comments, saying, among other things, “You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me” (John 8:15, 16). Essentially, Jesus shakes off their comments and dismisses them because the measurement tool by which they measure him is faulty. They judge him using human perceptions and reason without trying to understand His statements or His identity as the Messiah.

While Jesus wasn’t distracted from His mission by these comments because He always used an accurate ruler by which to assess His own actions, I am susceptible to judging myself unfairly. Often, in moments when I feel the worst about my status as a stay-at-home mom, I feel the way I do because I am measuring myself by my own expectations or goals, others’ comments or achievements in comparison to mine, or the culture’s standards. The Word says we are to “renew” our minds (Romans 12:2). I can switch out that faulty ruler I am using to measure myself and instead evaluate myself by the truth of God’s Word.

At some point, I may go back to working outside the home, but for now, I am in a season where I know that where I am is where I need to be. When I get restless or feel imprisoned, I can remember the awesome role I have been entrusted with by God. Instead of asking “When can I get back to working outside the home, Lord?” I can say, “Am I being kind, loving to my children, chaste, submissive? Am I exhibiting the Gospel?”

And this place that sometimes feels a little restrictive can be the place I display the traits Christ is working out in me …

Related Resources:

This is the beginning of a brand new series entitled “Motherhood: The Joys, Challenges, and Trials.” It will include a few more posts this month on topics related to motherhood and helping you to navigate the challenging moments, as well as embrace your role as a mom more fully. Check out the next few weeks on the blog for related posts.

Podcast Notes and Corrections:

The podcast episode is meant to encourage those in the role of mother. The Bible does call some women to remain unmarried or not bear children. Each woman should seek out God’s will for her own life and search the Scriptures in her own journey to understand God’s will for her life.

 *Updated April 16, 2019.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Growing in Our God-Given Calling

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Years ago, the phrase “No pain, no gain” gained popularity in the fitness industry. The meaning was that if you wanted to make progress, you were going to have to go through some personal hardship and physical pain. In doing some quick research into this phrase, I discovered that the phrase became popular after Jane Fonda used the slogan in her exercise videos. She did not come up with the phrase herself, but simply used the words and others picked up on it.

Spiritually, the principle can also be applied. If we want to advance in our calling, we will experience some pain and discomfort in the process. While as humans we tend to be creatures of habit and like our comfort zones of familiarity and predictability, God will push us outside of those zones and challenge us to do new, bold tasks that won’t necessarily be tasks we would have chosen for ourselves. And yet, letting Him continually work on us is what we need to grow spiritually and become who God calls us to be.

In the process, however, we will struggle with the temptation to abandon what He has asked us to accomplish and go back to what we knew before He called us.

However, if we are going to stay committed to our calling, we have to allow the pain and the discomfort that following Him brings, knowing that no growth will happen without it. I love the illustration of this idea Lysa Terkeurst uses in a devotional aptly titled “When Comfort is My Enemy.”

Drawing from a passage in Jeremiah 48, she notes that winemakers in Old Testament times would pour wine from vessel to vessel so that the wine would not absorb the flavor of the vessel and to also rid the wine of impurities that would settle on the bottom. As she explains, just as this wine couldn’t be left on its dregs in order to have the purest taste, God continually challenging us and leading us to new places helps to purify us so that we don’t rely on ourselves and become so complacent that God can’t use us.

When God turns up the heat in our lives, what should we do rather than bail on our calling and/or flee to a place of security and complacency?

1. We have to trust the plan.

Proverbs 3:5, 6 tells us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit [acknowledge Him], and he will make your paths straight.” If we look closely at a few of the words in this verse, “trust” means to “have confidence in.” Trusting in God is having confidence in Him to the point that our security in decision-making that lines up with His will comes from our confidence in Him.

In contrast in this verse, we see that we are not to “lean” on our own understanding. In the Hebrew, the word “lean” means to “support oneself.” Rather than rely on our own instincts and feelings, we have to choose to rely on God and decide that God knows best even when His will leads to pain and hardship that is confusing and doesn’t make sense.

To illustrate this concept, we can look at how pilots fly a plane. When learning to fly, flight instructors teach their students to fly using the cockpit instruments. At times, in certain situations such as a storm, a pilot will experience “spatial disorientation,” where they will not be able to tell where they are in space in relation to the sky and the ground. At those times, they have to rely on their instruments to instruct them, rather than their own perceptions.

Similarly, in times of turbulence in walking out our own calling, we may be tempted to abandon our trust in God and instead rely on our own perceptions when what God is telling us doesn’t appear to be working or making sense. However, as Proverbs 3:5, 6 reminds us, acknowledgment of Him will keep us in the right way that we are to go, no matter how it feels in the moment.

2. We have to continually submit to God’s work in us.

When I was a teacher, I often heard other educators using the phrase “lifelong learner.” A lifelong learner is someone who always pushes him or herself to learn new things, evaluate practices, implement new ideas  — remaining teachable throughout his or her teaching career.

Good teachers are lifetime learners. They go to workshops or higher education classes to increase their own knowledge, evaluate their practices and mistakes, consider ways to constantly improve, and talk to other teachers to gain new ideas and feedback on their practices. In other words, they don’t get stagnant and retain the same lessons and practices for the duration of their career. They constantly change and grow, keeping what works and discarding what doesn’t.

Similarly, in order to keep ourselves moldable in the process of walking in our calling, we need to continually yield in our journey. We may start out on fire and resolve to do everything God asks, but then as the years go by and the trials add up, we may get tired and less responsive to doing the will of God. We may get through a few hard tasks and then want to coast, but that isn’t the reality of what happens as we answer our call. We have to continually submit to God’s plan and allow Him to work on us.

Staying Committed to Our Calling Means Choosing Discomfort

A family member recently had back surgery, and I was surprised when we went to go see him this past weekend that he was up and moving around so soon after surgery.

However, as he explained, the doctors had instructed him to walk around daily and not just lay in bed because movement would help by strengthening blood flow, muscle tone, and other systems of the body. In addition, walking would also help him heal faster. However, because of incisions in both his back and stomach, the walking was not done without some discomfort.

Yet, he pushed himself to get out of bed and walk around because he knew of the benefits his actions would bring. The same is true of us in our Christian walk. God is going to challenge us and push us and let us be uncomfortable as He works on us, and although our instinct may be to shut down or resist the work, we need to open ourselves up to Him knowing that the work is good for us and is forming us into what God intends for us to be.

This week, as I have been working through a study of Nehemiah, I ran into a similar concept. Nehemiah, in the process of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem with his fellow Jews faced much opposition. He was advised to run to the temple and hide from men attempting to kill him (Nehemiah 6:10). But here’s the thing: to do so would have been wrong according to God’s law. Only priests were permitted in certain parts of the temple (Numbers 18:22).

Obviously, we don’t have the same regulations as they did in the Old Testament regarding the temple and priests, but we, too, have the temptation, when difficulty comes, to choose a place of refuge that wouldn’t be right for us, but does look like it will provide us security: a relationship that veers outside God’s boundaries in His Word but fills a void in us. Bitter attitudes that consume us that are easier than forgiveness and letting go. An unhealthy attachment to social media or some other thing to numb our pain and get our mind off of our current situation. A career that has a steady paycheck, but is one God has called us away from.

All of these refuges “promise” the safety and comfort we long for, but won’t satisfy or save us in the end. I love Nehemiah’s response to the suggestion that he run: “Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” (Nehemiah 6:11). Nehemiah refuses to give up on the will of God to save his own life. He chooses to go through the hardship inherent in God’s will. Just a few short verses after Nehemiah’s resolve to stay committed to the task God had given him, we learn that the wall was finished and the work done with the help of God (Nehemiah 6:15).

We, too, rather than running can stay and build what God has called us to build, letting Him work on us in the process. But to do so means we will have to embrace the continual work God wants to do in us and allow suffering into our lives, knowing that we will not make gains without the pain.

Related Resources:

1. This is Part 4 in our series “Staying True to Your Calling.” Check out Part 1: “Being Bold in Our God-Given Calling,” Part 2: “3 Lessons From Paul About Walking in Our God-given Calling,” and Part 3: “3 Fears That Prevent Us From Persevering in Our God-Given Calling.”

2. Ever feel like you wish you could understand God’s ways just a little better? Check out the following: “When We Suffer for Doing Good” and “Making a Change to Receive God’s Promises.”

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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3 Fears That Prevent Us From Persevering in Our God-Given Calling

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Each morning, I read from my First 5 app from Proverbs 31 Ministries. Daily, I am given a suggested passage of reading from the Bible and an analysis that goes with it. Currently, the study is on the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

As I read my passage of Scripture the other day before diving into the analysis provided in the app, I noticed a description in the Bible I was reading that caught my eye. I have a few Bibles scattered around the house and use whichever one I can find for that day. The one I had in my hands was a NIV Youth Devotional Bible that my husband had received in high school. Both Ezra and Nehemiah are books that talk about the rebuilding process of Jerusalem after the Jews return from exile. Nehemiah, as cupbearer of the Persian king, asks permission of the king to go to Jerusalem and help his fellow Jews finish the rebuilding process — but this one line stood out to me: “Because of stiff opposition, the people must work with weapons in one hand, tools in the other.”

To put these words in context, Nehemiah and his fellow Jews, in the rebuilding process, not only had to focus on the work of rebuilding at hand, but also had to fight against attacks and defend themselves in the process. Talk about exhausting! And yet, this is the reality of what we will experience when we answer God’s call for our lives — we will have work in front of us to complete, but it won’t be without opposition from others and attacks from the enemy to get us to give up on whatever God has asked us to accomplish. And often these attacks will be in the form of fear and doubt to get us to abandon the work God gives us (or never even begin in the first place).

And yet, just as the Jews rebuilt the temple and the walls in the midst of opposition, we, too, when we stay connected to God, will complete what He has asked us to complete (Philippians 1:6). Yet, in the process, we need to fight against doubts that will get us discouraged and continually remind ourselves of truth in order to keep ourselves committed to the calling He has given us.

To help in that endeavor, I want to look at some common fears that may derail us and a model of faithfulness in service that we can emulate. In Luke 2:36-38, we encounter Anna, a prophetess, who served as a witness of Christ as the Messiah. One day in the temple, she saw Jesus as a child with his parents, spoke to them, and then went and shared with the community about what she had seen. This is her account:

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them [Jesus and his parents] at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

These few lines tell us so much about a woman who lived an effective life of Christian service. Although Anna didn’t struggle with fears from what we are told, her example is one that can remind us of the truth of what God can accomplish through us if we don’t let fear get the best of us.

A few fears that we will combat when walking in our calling (and how to combat those with truths from Anna’s story):

1. Fear #1: God can’t use me.

One major fear that we will have to combat when first answering God’s call and continuing on in our service to God is that God can’t really use us. I remember going through a Bible study years ago and hearing the idea that God delights in using broken things and can restore anything and make it useful. The author of the study used an illustration to make her point and it was of a gardener who was planting a garden and asked a hardware store if he could have their discarded plants. They had a pile of plants that had been thought to be unusable — and this gardener took what others had deemed unusable and coaxed these plants back to life. Others commented on the beauty of his gardens and would not have known, if he had not told them, that his beautiful blooms had been rescued from the trash dump.

Some of us feel as unusable as a plant on the trash heap. Maybe others have made us feel like we can’t be used or maybe we have a dark spot in our past that we keep coming back to, but the truth is that God uses broken, imperfect people. And, quite interestingly, it’s the broken places we want to hide that can often be the places God can use to minister to others. Personally, when I answered God’s call to leave teaching, I thought it was to answer His call to use me in music ministry. I had no idea that He was going to call me to start a ministry that I have now. I wanted to stand on a stage and look good and never tell anyone about my past or the mistakes I had made. But it was those very places that God used to be the platform for what I talk about in my ministry, but He had to break me down to the place where I was even willing to talk about those places to begin with.

What we see with Anna in the story is that service to God is more about making ourselves available than it is about our impressive skills or qualifications. Although Anna didn’t have a questionable past or insecurities about her ability to be used, she had little status in her society. A woman in her time was not considered as reliable as a man to be a witness in a courtroom, and yet, God entrusted her with the task of serving as a witness to the Messiah to her community. Anna could have easily said, “God, I am a nobody. I don’t have anything to offer. I am a widow and don’t think you can use me.” Instead, she offered what she had to Jesus and gave her life in service to Him, doing what she could with what she had.

Clearly, we can see that God is not limited by what we think He is. Although He certainly works through our gifts, He is not limited by our individual or society-based perceptions of what we can or can’t offer. As the One who made us, He knows just what we were made for — and we can serve Him best when we totally rely on Him for His version of us.

2. Fear #2: I don’t know how to make this happen.

Not only do some of us worry that we’re not amazing enough for God to use, we also may have doubts about how we will accomplish what God has asked of us. When God calls us, He doesn’t give us a complete blueprint of what He plans to do in and through us. He unveils His plan step-by-step. When He calls us, we may still be seeped in whatever habits He wants to deliver us from and we may not know how we are going to get from being our old self to becoming the new self that He is calling us to be. However, not only can we be assured that calling is more about God’s ability than our own, God fills in the details and transforms us as we follow Him.

What we can see through Anna’s example is that just as she gave her life to God and didn’t argue with God about the ways He wanted to use her, she understood that God would come up with the plan. She did what she knew to do with quiet, faithful work — and it was in that seemingly insignificant place that she looked up and saw Jesus in bodily form with His parents one day in the temple! And she must have known in that moment what God wanted to accomplish through her.

We don’t have to generate the plan or the results. We just have to be faithful where God has placed us — in the thing that might feel so small and unimportant to us. If He has placed us there, and we do not have the green light to move on or see no other open door, we can be content that He has a purpose for us even if it feels to us like we are in the background or no one notices us. We may look back at a later date and see how that place that felt pointless was the place God used us to bless others, to grow the traits in us that we needed, and to connect us with the individuals He desired us to learn from.

3. Fear #3: What if I don’t have any results?

Another fear we may have when we step out and answer God’s calling is that we won’t have any results or that it will be up to us to generate a specific outcome. But what we need to notice in the passage is that it tells us that that Anna went around to those who were “awaiting the redemption of Israel” (v. 38). Did you catch that the people were already “awaiting” the message she brought? The WORD® Translation puts it like this: “She spoke about Jesus to all who were waiting for Jerusalem to be set free.” Just as Anna was waiting for the arrival of the Messiah before He showed up, there were others needing the same freedom and healing He would bring.

God was working in their hearts before Anna showed up, and they were prepared for what she was going to say to them because God had prepared them. Therefore, while Anna spent a lot of time going around and talking to people, she didn’t spend her energy trying to force others to listen or react in a particular way.

In our zeal to answer God’s call, we might feel responsible for how people respond or expect a certain outcome, but we’re simply responsible for the part God gives us to do and God does the rest. He sends us because He already knows what is going on with the people that we will encounter. Just as God orchestrates our calling and gives us our plan of action, He will also direct us to the specific people He wants us to reach out to — and He does a work in them as they hear our message. If we lose sight of this, we may strive or wear ourselves out in the attempt to achieve a particular result or persuade a person in a certain direction, but just as God calls us and designs our mission and message, it is God who will work in others as we walk in the way He has pointed to us.

I can’t tell you how many times I have walked into a service at church and been shocked as the pastor begins to speak on the very topic I needed to hear, sometimes even using within his talk the exact questions or struggles that had been running through my mind that week. How did that pastor know what to say or how to address the problems I was having with a spiritual solution from God’s Word? Only God could orchestrate that. The pastor, in being obedient and seeking from God the right message to speak and approach to take, was able to minister to me — a person he may never know personally or talk to face-to-face. And God will work through us in similar ways when we let Him have access to us.

God Does His Part When We Do Ours

In answering God’s call, we can be plagued with many insecurities and doubts about our ability to be used. We might worry about which way to go, what we will say, the people we will speak to, and how we will accomplish what He has asked of us. However, we can lay these worries down. He will direct us in all these areas. He knew these things before He even called us to the particular area of service we’re in (or going to serve in)!

While we may believe that we need certain qualifications, contacts, skill sets (and I am not diminishing the importance of any of those things), the thing we need the most in any ministry venture is God. And the thing He requires of us won’t be all the impressive talent(s) we can offer but our surrender to let Him use us as He will.

While it may feel when we follow God that we’re going nowhere or aren’t getting to our desired destination as quickly as we would like, if we trust Him and keep following Him, we will be able to look back one day and see that there was a plan and there was a way God was leading us all along. As pastor and author Charles Stanley notes in The Blessings of Brokenness:

God says the same thing to us anytime he calls us to supernatural ministry. He says, ‘I am the one who will do it. I will accomplish the task. You do what I tell you to do, and I will cause it to come to pass.’

Therefore, to best know the way, we need to put ourselves in a position of surrender. Like Anna, when we give ourselves over to a life of diligent devotion to Him, doing what we know to do now, we can trust that God will reveal His purpose for us when we put ourselves in a place of total trust and reliance on Him.

As Stanley notes, it is when we do “our part” that God does “the part that only God can do!”

“Here I Am” by Downhere:

Sometimes Your calling, comes in dreams

Sometimes it comes in the Spirit’s breeze, yeah

You reach for the deepest hope in me

And call out for the things of eternity

 

But I’m a man, of dust and stains

You move in me, so I can say

 

Here I am, Lord send me

All of my life, I make an offering

Here I am, Lord send me

Somehow my story is a part of your plan

Here I am

 

Setbacks and failures, and upset plans

Test my faith and leave me with empty hands

Are You not the closest, when it’s hardest to stand?

I know that You will finish what You began

 

These broken parts, You redeem

Become the song, that I can sing

 

Here I am, Lord send me

All of my life, I make an offering

Here I am, Lord send me

Somehow my story is a part of your plan

Here I am

 

Overwhelmed by the thought of my weakness

And the fear that I’ll fail You, in the end

Oh, in this mess, I’m just one of the pieces

I can’t put this together, but You can

 

Here I am, Lord send me

all my life as an offering

Here I am, Lord send me

Somehow my story, is part of Your plan

So here I am

 

Here I am, all my life an offering to You, To You

Somehow my story is a part of your plan

Here I am

Related Resources:

This is Part 3 in our series “Staying True to Your Calling.” Check out Part 1: “Being Bold in Our God-Given Calling” and Part 2: “3 Lessons From Paul About Walking in Our God-given Calling.”

Want to read more about my journey into my calling? Check out the path of healing from low self-worth I embarked on with God in “3 Keys to Emotional Healing” and how failure along the way helped me to learn to trust God in “Why God Lets Us Fail.” In addition, check out the original version of this article that explains my process of answering God’s call to start this ministry: “The One Thing I Have Needed the Most in Ministry.”

Podcast Notes and Corrections:

1. When it refers to Nehemiah returning home, it should be noted that he was born in captivity, but as a Jew, he identified with Israel as his homeland.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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