A Reason To Rejoice in Our Trials

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Have you ever felt irritated by the idea of being joyful in the midst of trials? How can certain Scripture passages such as James 1:2-4 advocate that we actually be happy in our most difficult circumstances? Scripture doesn’t advocate that we suppress our pain or not acknowledge our hardship. In fact, James 1:2-4 doesn’t tell us that bad circumstances in and of themselves are joyful; rather, the verse instead tells us that to view our trials with joy because of what they produce in us. Find out more about what our trials produce and how we can be encouraged in our hardest times by listening in to the podcast episode.

Related Resources:

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. Editor’s note: accompanying article will be uploaded shortly.

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.”

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.

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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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3 Lessons From Paul About Walking in Our God-Given Calling

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We hear the word “calling” thrown around in both the church and the secular community, but what exactly does it mean to walk in our calling?

According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, calling is defined as “a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action when accompanied by conviction of divine influence.” I find it so interesting that “conviction of divine influence” is included in their definition. Truly, not every dictionary includes acknowledgement that calling has to do with the divine. “Calling” in the Oxford English Dictionary is “a strong urge towards a particular way of life or career; a vocation.”

While a secular dictionary may have a variance of definitions of the word — some with reference to God and some not — calling in biblical terms is a divinely initiated invitation to live out God’s purposes for our lives. According to Holman Bible Dictionary, calling is an “invitation, summons, commission, or naming.” As this definition suggests, calling means not only to be called to an area of service, but it is also an invitation and a naming. When we are called by God, we are told a piece of our identity and purpose in Him.

To further understand the word “calling” in terms of Christian service, it is also helpful to look at how the word “apostle” is used in the Bible. Paul speaks on numerous occasions of his calling to be an apostle to the Gentiles. His use of the word “apostle” is key in helping even those of us not necessarily called to plant churches or travel as missionaries understand our own callings. “Apostle” means “sent” or “one who is sent out.” Just as Paul was chosen by God to preach to the Gentiles, we, as Christians have also been “sent” and commissioned by God to a particular area of service by God — and He is the One that reveals that to us (Ephesians 2:10).

In Galatians, Paul essentially gives us the blueprint of what calling in biblical terms looks like. Though he is writing with the purpose of defending his apostleship against the accusations of false teachers and seeking to correct the church and uphold the Gospel, we can gain so much from looking at his words about what it means to live out our God-given callings and retain the right focus in the process.

3 Things We Can Learn From Paul About Calling:

1. Our calling comes from God.

In Galatians 1:1, Paul starts his letter to the Galatians by identifying himself as “Paul, an apostle — sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.”

Paul’s words may seem arrogant, but he says what he does not to put himself on a pedestal but defend his apostleship against attacks from others who claimed he wasn’t a real apostle and establish to his readers the greater power behind his calling.

As we see here by Paul’s words, our calling by God is that which is initiated by God and gives us the foundation to do what we are doing. Not only is our calling that which gives us the authority to do what we are doing, it also helps us continue along the right course when the going gets tough. How so? When we look further into the word “apostle,” not only does it mean “sent,” a further shade of meaning exists. As Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary suggests, “apostle” is one given a task to fulfill, but the emphasis is on the one who sends, not one sent.

When we are starting out, bogged down in the middle, or trying to make a good finish in our calling, we may feel like we don’t have what it takes. Though we are called by God and are given authority to do what He has called us to do, our ability to do what He has called us to is not based on who we are but on who He is. Paul says this later in Galatians 6:14 when he says he boasts of nothing but the cross.

Calling is that which always starts with God and is meaningful because it is done in His power and authority. So, in places where we question our ability or have others questioning us, we can always draw on the fact that we are doing what we are doing because God calls us — and the emphasis isn’t on us so much on us as the “sent” as it is on Him who sends us.

2. Our message comes from God.

Not only does Paul emphasize that his calling comes from God, he also emphasizes that his message is from God as well. Note what he says in Galatians 1:11: “I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it: rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.”

Again, we must remember that Paul says what he does here to defend himself against attacks against him. In addition, we should note that we are in a different position than Paul in that the Bible has been written in its entirety at this point in history and given to us for our instruction. Paul, on the other hand, was in a unique position in that he received revelation from Jesus to write a good portion of the New Testament. However, what we can take away from Paul’s words is that we, too, carry to others the Gospel which is not a mere work of men, but the divine words of God.

Just as our call is not our own or given by men — neither can our message be man-made. While we may be tempted after our call to go and do our own thing with our God-given talents and abilities, we must always remember that we do what we do in God’s power. We have a responsibility to stay attached to God (as it is only through His power that we do what we do) and ensure our message is that which is in line with the Gospel.

Certainly, there are false prophets that minister in God’s name that declare a gospel that departs from the Gospel given to us in the Bible, but as the IVP Commentary points out, we are only valid apostles (or those sent out by God) as long as our message and mission align with the Gospel. The IVP Commentary says the following about Paul: “His apostolic power is not arbitrary; it is only valid as long as he adheres to the true gospel.”

3. We are accountable to God.

As I’ve alluded to in my previous two points, it might make our heads swell a bit if we focus too much on the “called by Christ with a message from God” theme only when it comes to walking in our calling and leave out the important idea that though we have been called to serve others using our spiritual gifts and share the Gospel of Christ, when we do so, not only do we need to align ourselves with the Gospel — we are always under the authority of Christ.

According to 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (check out 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 for a more complete idea of the different types of gifts), it says this:

There are different kinds of gifts but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

If we notice in this verse, there are different kinds of service and working — but the same Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us the gifts that we are to use, but although different, they are all used in service to God, under His authority.

As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. We aren’t given a great mantle of authority and sent out to be Christ’s representatives without the heavy responsibility that comes with such a directive of staying aligned with God and His Word with how we use our gifts and live out our call.

This also means we don’t just preach the message of the Gospel and know it to tell others. We have to live it out. In Galatians 1:12-24, Paul points to his own conversion story to show his 180 degree turn from his former life. He urges other Christians to consider how he has lived out the Christian life. I love what the IVP Commentary says on this point:

He [Paul] does not call on his readers [the church members of Galatia] to do anything he has not done himself. He does not simply point to the way; he has lived out the way of faithfulness to the Gospel of Christ. We might well learn from Paul that the best way to challenge others to live for Christ is by our own example.

Conclusion: Our Calling Always Points Back to God

As I mentioned previously, some dictionaries do not reference God when it comes to the definition of calling, simply stating that calling is more about our own impulse toward a certain direction. The difference in a secular definition of calling and a biblical definition challenges us because the definition of pursuing a course of action without divine influence is how many live out their lives.

As Christians, even as we know that calling comes from God, there is always going to be the temptation to define our own calling and use our gifts the way we see fit, as the world does. Yet, as we see with Paul’s discussion of calling and apostleship, which can very much be applied to our lives as Christians as well, walking in our calling is that which is not only initiated and sustained by God — it is that which points back to God.

Acts 17:28 tells us, “For in him we live and move and have our being.” Similarly, we are told in John 15:5 that it is by remaining in Him that we accomplish what we were designed to accomplish. Apart from Him we can do nothing.

In Hebrews 3:1 Christ is referred to as an apostle because He was “sent” by the Father to complete a specific mission. As Baker’s observes, just as Christ was sent, He sent out disciples — “thus, all apostleship finds its meaning in Jesus the Apostle, sent by God to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14).” Even if we don’t know what that our specific calling is yet, we continue to walk in God’s will and use our gifts to serve others and allow God to show us our purposes in Him.

If we do know our calling, we may be excited by the great assignment God has given us, but with that assignment comes the task of remembering we have been called because of God’s grace and not our own ability. Our message is not our own and must adhere to the Gospel, and lastly, we must preach this Gospel message not just with our words but with our lives.

Though we have been given the awesome task of acting as those “sent” and chosen by God to fulfill whatever task He has called us to fulfill, we are never outside of the boundaries of the Gospel or God’s hand — and this keeps us humble in the process of carrying out our call.

Related Resources:

This is the second episode in our series “Staying True to Your Calling.” Check out Part 1: Being Bold in Our God-Given Calling last week where we explored what it means to boldly declare your identity in Christ and what He is doing in your life and not hide who you are to please others or fit in.

Not yet a follower of Jesus Christ? Check out our Know God page to learn more about what it means to accept salvation or send us an email through the Contact page. We would love to hear from you!

Podcast Notes and Corrections:

1. The use of word “apostle” in the Bible that denoted a person authorized to fulfill certain function that emphasized one who sends, not one sent — taken from Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary (as cited above in the article).

2. Correction: The Galatians 6:15 reference in the podcast (when Paul says he only boasts in the cross) can actually be found in Galatians 6:14.

*Updated March 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

Being Bold in Our God-Given Calling

being-bold-in-our-God-given-calling

“I don’t think she likes me,” I thought to myself as I surveyed the expression of a woman in my Bible study. Whether this dislike from the other woman was real or imagined, I found myself feeling conflicted about sharing during our discussion that day.

I had a specific story that popped in my mind as we discussed the lesson, but I wrestled with the following thought: Would this story be one that would further this person’s negative (in my estimation) view of me or one that would gain me more friends in the group? I wanted to stay silent, but I knew I wasn’t going to grow if I didn’t attempt to share my struggles and be vulnerable with the women in my group. I wasn’t going to add anything to the class by being a mute.

So, I launched into my story. But all the way home I thought about if I should have said some comments differently or remained silent.

Sometimes my insecurity and fear that others will reject me causes me to clam up. I can remember times when I was laughed at or failed in some embarrassing way, and I still struggle to be present and show up and be myself in relationships when it feels easier and safer to hide. Can you relate?

You hide parts of yourself or your story that might be rejected or even hide that you are a Christian around those who might reject you. It feels too hard sometimes to be who we really are, say what we really think, share what we are really going through, and/or openly declare to the world that we are Christians.

Of course, we need to use wisdom in our speech. We should think about what words are exiting our mouths and edit or delete some of our thoughts before they ever make their way into our speech. We should also use wisdom and discernment in our actions around others. There were times that Jesus chose not to minister openly in public because He did not want to catch the attention of authorities who wanted to kill Him. Yet, in certain situations, we shouldn’t delete ourselves or edit who God has called us to be to present ourselves as a more socially acceptable package to others.

Jesus Boldly Walked in His Calling

In John 8:12, we see how Jesus boldly lived out His identity. In this passage He says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

At first glance, these words may not seem profound in terms of revealing who Jesus was. As modern-day Christians, we are quite familiar with the idea that Jesus is the light of the world. However, to Jesus’ audience of the day, these words were bold indeed. Jesus spoke these words either during or right after the Festival of Tabernacles, which commemorated God’s deliverance and provision when Israel was in the wilderness

During the festival, a lamp-lighting ceremony took place every night in which large lamps in the Court of Women were lit. These lights would remind the Israelites of God providing a pillar of fire to follow in the desert. With His statement, Jesus points to Himself as the true light of the world, or “pillar of fire” that should be followed — possibly one evening while these lamps were lit, or shortly after the festival, when these images would be fresh in his listeners’ minds.

Earlier, Jesus identifies Himself as living water (John 7:37). With these words, just as with His description of Himself as the “light of the world,” Jesus uses an image from the festival. At the festival, priests dipped pitchers into a pool of water and poured the water on the altar to celebrate God’s provision of water to Israel in the desert. By saying He is the Source of water, Jesus claims to be God because it was God who gave the Jews water in the wilderness. With both His claims to be living water and the light of the world, Jesus essentially reveals He is the Messiah. Obviously, there were going to be those present in the crowd who had a problem with Jesus’ claims, and they were not shy about speaking up.

Immediately after claiming to be the light of the world, the Pharisees challenge the validity of his claim. Jesus maintains His stance with the Pharisees, replying: “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I come from and where I am going … I stand with the Father, who sent me” (John 8:14, 16). Later, before He slips away, He brings His statements about who He is to a climax by saying, “Very truly I till you, before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58).

What can we learn from Jesus’ bold proclamation of identity?

1. We should never hide the person God has called us to be.

God has chosen us for different callings, but the ways He uses us can often be unusual, and we may try to dilute our purpose and the giftings He has given us around those who may stare at us and call us strange. However, Jesus never compromised who He was to fit in. He was secure enough in His identity that He didn’t need to have the approval of others to feel good about Himself and knew that in order to do His Father’s will, He needed to walk in His identity and purpose — and we must do the same. I love what Ann Voskamp shares on this point in a recent blog post:

You are not too much. You do not have to disappear. This can change all the things beating loud in your heart. To feel the truth of this … Don’t take it down a few notches. Take risks — and take all of you to the table. It can feel terrifying — but it is far more terrifying to live anything less than being fully seen — so his work can be fully seen in you.

2. We must be prepared for opposition.

Jesus didn’t run away from opposition, He was prepared for it and met it head-on . Similarly, we needn’t hide our identity but be prepared to answer those who challenge us, knowing that our answers may sway their opinion and even cause some to come to Christ (1 Peter 3:15, 16). While the Pharisees weren’t swayed by Jesus, there were those in the crowd listening to their exchange that came to believe (John 7:31).

Recently, I went to lunch with some individuals that had different religious beliefs than my own. I went into the lunch confident of my biblical knowledge, but was stunned to find them very well-versed in certain Bible verses and slinging out verses that I had not previously studied. While we won’t always know in advance what people will say and know how to respond to every accusation or point that our opposers raise, we can and should prepare ourselves for opposition by knowing God’s Word and different belief systems we may encounter. Jesus calmly answered back with truth. He wasn’t flustered by the Pharisees’ comments. He didn’t run. He took the time to explain and answer their questions so they could understand, but He wasn’t taken aback or unprepared when the opposition came.

3. We need to rely on God’s view of us.

It’s easy to look at a passage of Scripture such as this where Jesus announces who He is and then gets attacked for it and not get the full weight of what Jesus experienced, but if we place ourselves in His shoes, we can imagine just how stressful constant opposition must have been. Jesus was accused of being demon-possessed, working in Satan’s power, you name it. Yet, Jesus never forgot the One who had sent Him or His purpose.

We, too, friend, must always rest on this foundation or else we will easily get discouraged, rattled, or doubtful about our own calling when we are constantly surrounded by those who disagree with the Gospel message, question our calling, or tell us that we don’t have what it takes. We have to constantly remind ourselves of the truth of how the Father sees us or we will collapse in the face of crushing opposition.

To clarify, though, being ourselves isn’t a justification to act in sinful ways and do whatever we want. In today’s society, you’ll hear people defend bad behavior or sinful choices with, “This is just who I am,” or “I am just being me.” Unfortunately, these individuals use this defense for behavior that is harmful to themselves and others. A calling in biblical terms is that which is given by God and sustained by God, and thus, does not go against the principles in God’s Word.

The Reason Some Will Oppose Us

The truth is that when some oppose us, it won’t have anything to do with us. Jesus told the Pharisees later in the chapter that they could not recognize Him as Messiah because they did not belong to God, but rather, their Father the devil (John 8:42-47). Ouch! Many times when we are walking in our God-given calling, we will receive resistance, even from Christians.

Remember, the Pharisees weren’t heathens that didn’t believe in God. They were religious leaders that everyone looked up to and tried to emulate! Is it possible, then, that if we are walking with God and acting in His will that when some who claim to be believers oppose us, that these individuals are not walking in the light, but rather, walking in darkness? I have had conversations with individuals who claim to be Christians that believe errant doctrines about salvation and God, but these individuals have never accepted Jesus as their Savior and believe there is nothing wrong with adding to or deleting certain truths of Scripture.

Often, when we receive resistance from others, it will boil down to two things regarding these individuals: 1) They don’t know God or aren’t truly walking with Him in a relationship, and so, can’t accept truths from the Gospel. 2) They are walking with God, but haven’t yet encountered certain truths in Scripture. The Bible gives us guidelines for those scenarios where we disagree with fellow believers, telling us to be patient and understanding with new believers and make every attempt to live in unity with believers we don’t agree with (Romans 14:1; 1 Peter 3:8). However, in our attempt for unity, we shouldn’t cover over the truths of the Gospel. Jesus didn’t water down the truth, but instead, He offered the path to salvation to whomever was interested (even His enemies).

Conclusion:

In all scenarios, whether with unbelievers or fellow believers, we need to boldly live out who we are and declare what God is doing in our lives — confident that we are following the example of Jesus, who never tried to change or cover up who He was in order to fit in. Jesus always did the Father’s will, even if it meant inciting the fury or hatred of others. As Christ-followers, we must do the same.

Let’s pray: Lord, following you is tough. It will lead us to dicey situations where we want to cover up who we are and appear more likeable or “normal” to those around us. But You’ve called us to be different. You’ve called us to be a light to others and do what You’ve called us to even when we might be met with opposition or persecution. Help us follow Your example. You never took the easy road in order to save Yourself or fit in. You always did the hard but better thing in being truthful about Your identity. Help us do the same. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Related Resources:

This is the first post in a brand new series on calling. Check out the articles throughout the month for more on being true to your God-given calling. Leave a comment below on your God-given calling and where you currently are on the journey. We’d love to hear from you!

For a better understanding of the ideas in this article, read John 7 and 8 in its entirety.

 

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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A God Who Loves Us

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God doesn’t love me. If He loved me, He wouldn’t let me go through this.

How many times have we muttered a similar phrase or pulled back from God when our circumstances were disappointing, heartbreaking, or just plain hard?

Rather than step aside and let us alone until we’re up to the task of spiritual warfare, Satan seizes on those times when we are at our weakest and inserts subtle thoughts of doubt hoping to get us into agreement with lies and out of relationship with God.

In the Garden of Eden, Satan tempted Adam and Eve into believing that God was holding out of them, telling them that the only reason God didn’t want them to eat fruit from a particular tree was because they would be “like God,” or, as the KJV says, “as gods” (Genesis 3:4, 5).

If Adam and Eve fell for this temptation even though God had given them a perfect environment and had met every one of their needs, how much more are we susceptible to the lie that God is holding out on us or doesn’t love us when we encounter frustrating situations in our fallen world that disappoint us?

The reality is that God forbade Adam and Eve from eating from the tree to protect them. And yet, Satan got them to question God’s goodness, and he’s still spinning the same lie to those of us willing to listen.

However, when Satan attempts to get us to doubt God’s character, we can combat his lies with the truth of God’s love for us found in His Word.

Assurance of God’s Love

One such place where we can find an assurance of God’s love is Isaiah 49:14-16:

But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.’ ‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.’

The passage gives a conversation between Israel and God that is projected in the future. Israel voices a complaint to God, saying that He has forgotten her. In essence, Israel questions God’s love and care for her in these lines.

Although it isn’t entirely clear why Israel is unhappy with God, scholars say that Israel expresses this complaint because the Jews are in exile in Babylon. In looking at her current circumstances, it is easy to see why Israel feels forsaken. The Israelites have been taken to a foreign land and removed from the land that was given to them.

It is also possible that Israel could be saying this out of jealousy in terms of what the rest of the passage talks about in God extending salvation to the entire world, not just His chosen people. Whatever the case, the passage is applicable not just for Israel, but for Christians on our Christian journey.

We can learn much about God’s love for us based on His response to the complaint recorded here that many of us have also raised in His direction:

1. God’s love is steadfast.

First of all, we should note that God’s response to Israel is this: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (v. 15).

God uses a striking picture of a mother and an infant in His reply. If we think about the love of a mother, we know that a bond between a mother and infant is a strong bond — perhaps none stronger on earth. Though mothers do abandon their children in some cases, we are always shocked by these stories because they are not what we expect to hear about a mother.

A mother stays up late to wash her child’s favorite shirt so he can wear it to school the next day. A mother comes to her child’s games even when no one else is sitting in the stands. A mother listens attentively to the small happenings of her child’s day and rejoices over the happy moments and feels her child’s pain over moments of rejection.

And yet, an earthly mother is not perfect, and God stresses that His love goes beyond that of a mother. In addition, an earthly mother may fail or abandon her child. However, by using the picture that He does, the Lord emphasizes that He is not like an earthly mother in that He will never abandon His people.

2. We are engraved on God’s hands.

Secondly, after emphasizing that His love exceeds that of the best earthly mother, God says that Zion is “engraved on the palms of His hands” (v. 16). During this time, in Asian countries, it was common for people to have the pictures of friends inscribed on their hands. In other places, people would have the names or marks of their gods inscribed on them.

Even in society today, individuals will often have a religious symbol or the name of a loved one tattooed on their body. I have often thought as I looked at the tattoo of a boyfriend or girlfriend’s name, “Was that really such a good idea? I hope the relationship lasts!” Tattoos are a very permanent decision, and they are not easy to remove.

God says that Zion (representative of Israel and the church as a whole) is literally cut into His skin. We are cut into God’s hands! He can’t forget us. And we can’t miss how permanent an engraving is. It’s there to stay. With these words, God reminds the Israelites then and us now that though we may feel forgotten, God is constantly thinking of us and aware of our every situation.

I love how C. H. Spurgeon describes God’s love in this passage:

It has been the custom, in the olden days especially, when men wished to remember a thing, to tie a cord about the hand, or a thread about the finger, by which memory would be assisted; but then the cord might be snapped or taken away and the matter forgotten, but the hand and that which is printed into it must be constant and perpetual. Oh, Christian, by night and day God is always thinking of you.

3. God does more than just remember us.

Lastly, we can also observe that Zion isn’t simply engraved on God’s hands for Him to look down and remember her; Zion is engraved on the very part of Him that can act on her behalf. And we, too, are engraved on the very part of God that works on our behalf!

What we can conclude when reading these lines, then, is that God isn’t a God who merely thinks about us. He is One who works out things for our good. I love what Alexander MacLaren notes on this point: “The palm of the hand is the seat of strength, or work; and so, if Zion’s name is written there, that means not only remembrance, but remembrance which is at the helm, as it were, moulding and directing all the work that is done by the hand that bears the name inscribed upon it.”

When we feel like circumstances must be those beyond the help or knowledge of God, we must remember the God we serve — a God who doesn’t forget us and knows everything about us. He doesn’t stand idly by when His children are in a tight spot, but instead actively comforts, instructs, and rescues us (2 Corinthians 7:6; Psalm 25:12; Psalm 107:19).

4. God sees things are they can be, not as they are.

Lastly, God says here that the walls of Zion are “ever before [Him]” (v. 16). However, what is interesting is that when God says this, He is speaking to a people whose walls had been destroyed! Because King Zedekiah did not heed the words of the prophet Jeremiah when told to submit to the Babylonian king, Jerusalem was invaded and its temple burned. Why would God tell Israel her walls were ever before Him if Jerusalem’s walls had been reduced to rubble?

As MacLaren emphasizes, God saw a reality for His people that they could not see. While they saw the ruins of a city that they loved, He saw a glorious future in which His Son would come to earth and Israel would be restored. And the same is true of us. In our hardest places, we survey the wreckage and say, “God, everything is destroyed. This can’t be fixed. Nothing can change here.” However, God looks at the ruins and sees what can be and isn’t discouraged by failure as we are. All things can be made purposeful and be restored in His plans for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11; 1 Peter 5:10; Romans 8:28).

Conclusion:

Here, with these words in Isaiah, God knows His people need reassurance and He speaks these words to the Jewish captives to let them know He hasn’t forgotten them. He did lead them home, sent a Savior as promised, restored Israel back to a nation out of the hands of foreigners — and will save a remnant in the future (Romans 11:26, 27). God hasn’t forgotten His people and He hasn’t forgotten us.

The next time we feel forsaken we can remember that our name is etched on His hands, and He can’t stop loving us. It’s against His nature to do so. God doesn’t ever forget any one of us. We aren’t lost in the crowd, and He is aware of everything that happens to us. Best of all — He isn’t just familiar with us in a detached sense. He moves on behalf of those who have put their faith and trust in Him.

 Related Resources:

This article concludes our series “Finding Hope in the Midst of Disappointing Circumstances.” Check out articles from previous weeks: Part 1: “Work That Truly Matters,” Part 2: “How God Comforts and Nourishes Our Souls, and Part 3: “How God Helps Us Overcome Our Obstacles.”

The series covers Isaiah 49. To better get a feel for the passage and understand the context of each verse we have been looking at, check out the link for the entire passage.

*Updated February 25, 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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