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 for those who desire to have children but haven’t been able to or have 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. 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 September 21, 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 in these passages 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.

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, this training also has benefits for us as parents. The proverb tells us that when our children are old, they will not “depart” from our teaching. Similarly, Proverbs 29:17 echoes this same idea, saying, “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 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 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). Parents discipline in a loving way with an end goal of instilling in their children 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 September 21, 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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Finding Healing From Same-Sex Relationships

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In the novel The Color Purple, the main character Celie develops an intimate relationship with another woman, Shug Avery. Though she is a married woman, her husband abuses her, so she seeks respite in the arms of a kind friend who pays attention to her.

Though we might think this is the kind of scenario reserved for the pages of fiction, I believe this kind of situation is not uncommon. Though the details might not unfold in exactly the same way in every story, we may find ourselves more susceptible to finding love in a place we never thought we would in the wake of a rejection of some kind, abandonment, or other serious attack to our worth.

Certainly, same-sex relationships can happen because individuals have feelings for or an attraction to the same sex, but as The Color Purple illustrates, individuals who never struggled with a same-sex attraction can drift into same-sex relationships for emotional fulfillment and security, especially if those individuals are in a place of feeling unloved and insecure.

I would know — because this happened to me.

My Story of Same-Sex Relationships

When I was in high school, I had friendships with other girls that started off as regular friendships and then grew physical. This wasn’t a pre-meditated decision. I wasn’t struggling with same-sex attraction or unaware of what the Bible said about homosexuality. I grew up in a Christian home and knew the Bible’s stance on same-sex relationships.

But I was afraid of the opposite sex. I went through an awkward stage in middle school and early high school and was teased by a handful of my male peers. Sensitive and insecure, I internalized the criticism and determined something was wrong with me. I bought into the lie that no guy could ever like me. Even as I had interest from some males and friendships with males that developed into dating relationships, I secretly believed that they could not really care about me.

I needed an out for the pain I experienced when others rejected me and a place to boost my sagging sense of worth. I didn’t know how to place my identity in Christ or find in Him the love and acceptance I was missing. Therefore, these physical relationships evolved. I denied what was really happening and even thought that I was saving myself for marriage.

Even though this experimentation with the same sex ended before I graduated from high school, I carried a deep sense of shame for what I had participated in. I resolved that I would never tell anyone what I had done. I would keep my past sins a secret.

However, I didn’t know that stuffing down your sin doesn’t heal or liberate you. It places you in bondage. To get free, we have to do as the Bible says and choose to walk in the light (1 John 1:7-9). The Bible says that we are to confess our sins to others and bring out in the open what we are hiding (James 5:16). Although individual confession in our own prayer time is needed, we also find healing by sharing our sin struggles with others and asking others to pray for us.

Certainly, open confession isn’t advisable in every circumstance, and we shouldn’t run around and confess every thought and action. In addition, we should be wise about whom we confide in, as there are some who can’t handle the details of our story. However, we find a great release of guilt and shame when we choose to be transparent with others.

This could look different depending on our circumstance, but this might mean confessing to a fellow believer, pastor/church leader, or Christian counselor. This may mean telling others our testimony, as I am doing here. Whatever the case, God will lead us in the right way to go when we open ourselves to Him and choose to surrender over the dark parts of our life that need redemption.

Walking in the Light of God’s Freedom

Some time ago, I watched a documentary where siblings, abandoned by their mother, went on a search to find out their mother’s identity and the reasons for their abandonment. With the help of an agency, the agency found a relative in their mother’s family and set up a meeting to meet with her. The aunt, as she identified herself, gave details about their mother. Yet, after the initial meeting, when the agency pressed for further meetings and details, a truth immerged that no one expected: the “aunt” was actually the biological mother of the children. She was afraid to tell the truth because she didn’t want to inflict more pain on her adult children and identify herself as the one who had abandoned them. Yet, when the agency suspected the truth based on the details she gave, she finally caved.

Before her confession, her secrets were weighing on her so heavily she had been having heart problems, but when she chose to be honest about her shortcomings, the burden of guilt and shame she had carried lifted — and her heart problem began to improve.

I tell this story because confession is not easy. Those of us raised in the church may have the hardest time confessing sin because we know better, and it’s all too easy to play the perfect game by dressing up each Sunday and warning a pew, but no healing can come until we get honest with God and sometimes others, depending on the situation. Only then can healing come.

God Heals Us When We Turn to Him

If you are someone who has had same-sex experiences in your past, you don’t have to live in shame and condemnation. Maybe you have always felt different and have been attracted to the same sex. Or maybe, like me, you found yourself involved in a relationship with the same sex at a time in your life when you felt unloved or unworthy. Or maybe you are someone is attracted to both genders and consider yourself bisexual.

Whatever the case, when we veer outside of God’s plan for sex and relationships, our actions cause burdens of shame and guilt that we cannot remove on our own. God promises not to turn anyone away who comes to Him — and grants healing to those who call on Him and desire to walk in His ways.

If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can do that now and ask Him to help you walk a new way. And, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you can approach Him with confidence as a beloved child of God. In either scenario, He is waiting with open arms.

Related Resources:

This is part of a 2-part series on same-sex relationships. Check out my first article in the series about what our approach should be as Christians to the topic. If you’d like to hear more details about my personal testimony, check out my podcast episode at the top of this post.

Feel a little confused about what it means to confess our sins to others and what the Bible says about confession? Check out this free resource detailing a few guidelines about confession (when to share and when not to) that I’ve learned on my journey.

Want to learn more about breaking free of sexual sin? Check out these following articles on severing unwanted soul ties: “Breaking Negative Soul Ties; Getting Rid of Emotional and Romantic Baggage” and “Breaking Unhealthy Soul Ties: How to Get Over Past Romantic Relationships.”

*Updated September 15, 2018.

 

 

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

As Christians, How We Should View Homosexuality

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A few years ago, after the Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage as constitutional, I frequently saw the phrase “Love Wins” on social media and other media outlets.

The meaning behind the words is that love between two individuals is the highest good that will always win out in the end. Such an ideology sounds good at the outset and one that a loving God would support, but what would the Bible say about the phrase?

A Biblical View of God’s Love

If we look at Scripture, we see a God who passionately loves His creation and was willing to send His Son Jesus in human form to die for us. Such an act made it possible for those who place their faith and trust in Jesus to live in eternal relationship with Him. We also see throughout the Bible a God who gives us desires and helps us to fulfill them.

However, while God loves us and is concerned with our personal desires and wants, He doesn’t always give us what we want. Instead, He gives us what is best for us, according to His will. This God who loves us and knows what is best for us set guidelines in place about how to do life and gave them to us in His Word — and this includes a plan for marriage and sexuality.

God’s Plan for Marriage and Sexuality

God designed both men and women with different biological anatomy to complement each other within the marriage relationship. God gave the gift of sex to be enjoyed within the marital union and the ability for man and woman to pro-create (Genesis 1:26-28; Genesis 2:24). Christian marriage displays God’s love and glory to the world — as husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loves the church, and wives are called to respect and submit to their husbands as the church is called to submit to Christ (Ephesians 5:22-33).

As both a wife and husband have different, unique attributes that each brings to a marriage relationship, children benefit from being raised in homes with both a mother and a father. Understandably, in our fallen world, not every child has a mother and a father within a home. If you are a single mother or father reading this, don’t lose heart! God can work within your situation and bring about the right role models of the opposite sex that your child needs.

However, I say what I do concerning children needing a mother and father in a home to make the point that society is impacted when we ignore God’s plan for family and sexuality outlined in Scripture. (For more on this, check out this series of articles on homosexuality from Focus on the Family.)

Certainly, as the Bible states, not everyone is called to marriage. However, individuals who never marry are called to lives of celibacy. This may sound like an incredibly oppressive and outdated plan for sexuality, but when we understand that God put boundaries in place in regards to our sexuality to protect us and live lives with the most fulfillment and purpose (Jeremiah 29:11; Psalm 16:6), we understand why it benefits us not only in terms of community, but individually, when we live according to what it says even when the way doesn’t feel easy or comfortable or desirable.

In 1 Corinthians 6:12, Paul answers some in the church who thought that it was acceptable to engage in sexual immorality: “ ‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say — but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’ — but I will not be mastered by anything.” In other words, he says they may have the cultural or legal right to participate in sexual immorality. However, because they belong to Christ, they need to recognize that not everything that they are free to do is beneficial to them. And we can very much take away the same principle in regards to our culture.

The wisdom of the world tells us that what we desire will bring us freedom from bondage and will make us happy. However, allowing our desires, in the area of sexuality or any other area, to dictate our course leads to bondage and destruction (Matthew 7:13). Proverbs 14:12 (ESV) tells us, “There is way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Similarly, Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I read a piece just the other day written by a woman who grew up in the church but was attracted to the same sex, even as a child. As a 17-year-old, she announced she was a lesbian, immersed herself in the lifestyle, and left the church. But as an adult, she felt God speaking very clearly to her that she was on a course of destruction. She made the painful decision to break up with her girlfriend and pursue God and now is a Christian song-writer, speaker, and author.

As this young woman learned and the Bible tells us, submitting ourselves, even in the area of our sexuality, to His plan for relationships and marriage, is that which brings freedom. When we live according to our own whims only, we will find ourselves in chains, but when we living according to God’s way, we find freedom and life.

Matthew 11:28-30 tells us, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Though initially harder, taking Jesus’ yoke upon us and learning to walk life His way is that which brings blessing and peace into our lives — and this includes all areas of our lives, not just the area of our sexuality.

A Christian Approach to Homosexuality

This wasn’t an easy piece to write. It was, in fact, a little intimidating because I know so many of us in the church have approached this topic — myself included — in the wrong way.

But Scripture gives us the key to how we should approach this issue: As my pastor emphasized recently, Jesus lived a life of both grace and truth (John 1:14). He never compromised God’s standards, but He was also loving and compassionate.

I believe that is why we have such a difficult time with this topic: We either err on the side of truth and pound it into our loved ones and those we encounter in an attempt to live out and uphold the standards in the Bible or we err on the side of grace where we are so loving and accepting that we don’t speak the truth to those embracing a homosexual lifestyle.

Jesus lived out both truth and grace, perfectly. We will never be perfect this side of heaven, but with His help, we should attempt to emulate His approach. Ephesians 4:15 tells us that we are to speak the truth in love. I believe that many in the LGBT community are so turned off by Christians, they run when we come near because we speak the truth with no grace — but it is in choosing to engage with truth and grace that we can truly be the Christian influence we’re meant to be.

My Story of Experimentation With Same-Sex Relationships

In wrapping up, I want to tell you while this was uncomfortable for me to write about because I wanted to strike the right tone, I am not someone who is coming at this issue as a stranger to the topic. I am talking about this issue because, as a teenager, in order to cope with my feelings of low self-worth I experimented sexually and allowed some of my friendships with other girls to become physical. I carried the shame from my choices into adulthood and God healed me of the shame and guilt associated with the choices I had made as a teenager. (More on this in episode 2 of this series.)

But here’s the thing: In order for me to be free, I had to open myself to God’s truth. I knew as an adult that my conduct had been wrong and even knew while I was doing it. But I didn’t face the reasons for my choices until God prompted me. So, for me, facing the truth wasn’t just agreeing it was wrong because I already knew that. Facing the truth was allowing God to show me the root of my problems and allow Him to work on my tendency of turning to others for my sense of worth.

You may have a similar story as me or know someone else who does. Whatever the case, part of God loving us is that He reveals to us the truth about ourselves and this truth sets us free (John 8:32). While my behavior was tied to a desire for love and approval, other individuals may struggle for other reasons as I shared in the story of the young woman who announced she was a lesbian — and only God can reveal those.

It’s offensive to many that Christians would suggest that we need a way out of a homosexual lifestyle — but when we see that God tells us the truth about ourselves and our behavior so that we can be free, we begin to see that the solution to helping ourselves and others in a homosexual lifestyle or struggling with same-sex attraction is to open ourselves up to God’s healing and truth and help others do the same.

A God Who Loves Us Won’t Leave Us in Our Sin

It’s never easy to face certain truths about our lives, but Proverbs 27:6 tells us that “Wounds from a friend can be trusted.” In other words, sometimes people who love us have to tell us things that hurt in order to help us. And that is what God does. While our closest friends can see things we can’t, God is more than our close friend. He is our ultimate friend. He tells us the truth to rescue us. John 3:17 tells us that Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world, but rather, to save. God can show us the way out of homosexuality or any other harmful behavior we are involved in — if we let Him.

Friend, perhaps you are in a same-sex relationship or perhaps know someone who is. Whatever drew you to read this article today, you are not too far gone for God to save. All of us have sin in our lives. All of us have fallen short of the glory of God in more ways than one, but God’s desire is that we come and let Him make right what we cannot make right on our own and help us live in a way that benefits us and glorifies Him.

Related Resources:

For more on God’s design for sex and choosing to not allow our hearts to deceive us, check out the following resources from family counselor Amy Owen: “3 Scriptural Truths That Reveal God’s Plan for Sex” and “When the Heart Leads Us Astray.”

Are you currently in a same-sex relationship or struggling with a same-sex attraction and looking for a way out? Check out this further resource by Sue Bohlin, member of the Board of Directors for Living Hope Ministries, that details some helpful steps for recovery from same-sex attractions. Also, check out our next podcast episode about finding healing from same-sex relationships.

 

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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Helping Others in the Midst of Your Pain

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An ultrasound when you’re not pregnant has to be just about the saddest thing ever.

That was my thought as I walked into my doctor’s office a week after a devastating miscarriage. I was scheduled for a follow-up ultrasound to check on me after a surgery at the hospital the week before.

I could visualize it now: my empty uterus blown up on the screen, its rounded walls encircling life no longer. No comforting blinking blip of a baby’s heartbeat — just a yawning expanse of gray fuzz where a fetus had been just a few weeks earlier.

To make matters worse, I was not feeling great. I had a racing heartbeat and low iron levels. Walking from the car up to the office was an effort for me. I felt sorry for myself, and I was prepared for others to feel sorry for me too. I figured God had arranged a motherly ultrasound tech to do the ultrasound, perhaps a kind nurse to minister to me in my time of brokenness.

But God had other plans.

Telling Our Story Helps Others Find Healing

The ultrasound tech who found me in the waiting room was not the maternal tech I was hoping for. She was younger than me, thin. There was a vulnerability about her. Although she gave me instructions in a most professional way about what clothes to remove and where to position myself on the table, I felt a sensitivity immediately in my spirit, a prick.

We chatted pleasantly for a few minutes. As pleasant as a conversation about a lost baby can be. Yes, I did just lose my baby at 11 1/2 weeks. Yes, I was supposed to have my 12 week ultrasound today, but instead they changed it to my post-miscarriage ultrasound. No, this was not my first pregnancy. The conversation then took a rather innocent turn. I had mistakenly thought that my ultrasound was going to be after my doctor exam (and urine sample) and had filled up on water. So, I commented on how excruciating it can be to have an ultrasound with a full bladder. She began to relate a story to me of an ultrasound she had had recently where she was in intense discomfort.

I assumed she had children and asked how many she had. She quickly explained that she had no children but had actually had an ultrasound to look at a cyst on her uterus that she had been having problems with for the past few years. The moment that she said “cyst” a word dropped into my brain, and I tried to shake it off, but it came again. Unforgiveness. She continued to talk and the word came again. Unforgiveness. It drowned out all other sounds and kept interrupting my thoughts like an incoming message chime in an email.

As much as I would like to say that I am a wonderful Christian and that I wanted to speak to this woman and tell her about my own past struggles with unforgiveness and the physical problems it caused me, I really didn’t. However, I also know that God gives me very specific words for people at extremely inconvenient times, and when I ignore His assignments I always regret it. Feeling a thin film of sweat develop on my brow, I made my way off the table and into the bathroom to get the rest of my clothes on. God, do you want me to tell her that her condition may be caused by unforgiveness in a relationship? I only heard silence and the efficient hum of the ultrasound tech’s movements on the other side of the door.

I already knew the answer.

In the least awkward way possible, I opened the door, smiled at the woman and said to her, “I am not a medical professional, and this may not even be for you, but when you were talking about cysts a moment ago, I got a word in my mind for you.” I then proceeded to tell her I was a Christian and how my decision to hold onto hatred for a friend after she had hurt me had caused a problem with bleeding.

The issue continued for over a month until I felt convicted and apologized to my friend. The very day I forgave her and sent her an apology email the problem went away. I told the ultrasound tech that sometimes we just get physical problems (we live in a fallen world and experience illness as a result), but at times we get physical problems as a result of emotional or spiritual problems. I offered her my story and told her I did not want her to suffer, so she could weigh out if what I said applied to her.

The awkward thing for me in that moment was I could very well have been wrong. I could have imagined the words in my head and imagined that it had anything to do with her. I could have greatly offended her and made a stressful situation worse. Yet, Jesus was bold with people. He gave them actions to complete and didn’t mince words. He was compassionate, but he didn’t just stand around and lament the condition people were in. He healed them.

I wasn’t Jesus and I didn’t even feel much like Him in that moment, but if He was indeed giving me these words for this woman, He was offering her a step to healing. And a step to Himself.

I was just a flawed woman in a doctor’s office after the loss of a pregnancy. A woman feeling dizzy and lightheaded and sad for my baby. But when I began talking, I felt such strength and power, as only Christ can provide, and I didn’t feel sad at all. My problems were so far removed from me at that moment. And I really felt that there was something sadder than an ultrasound when you aren’t pregnant: a person without the hope of Jesus Christ.

Even in my condition, I had a hope to lean the weight of my sadness on.

She didn’t say much in response, but I could tell by the look in her eyes that my words had moved her. And because nothing else came to mind and she looked like she needed a moment to process everything, I gave her a hug and stepped away. I didn’t know what was going on her life or what was going on with her body, but God did. And all I could do was offer Him.

Helping Others Helps Us Heal

The lesson I learned in the ultrasound room is this: God wants to use me even when I feel that I am at my lowest and weakest point. He always has others on His mind. While I mainly have myself on my mind — reaching out and ministering to others in my own broken state can heal not only the other person but can help to heal my own heart. As Shelene Bryan notes in Love, Skip, Jump, “It is in sacrificially loving others that God can use us and fulfill us in a way that nothing else can. By surrendering our plans and desires to Him we can be part of something He wants to do.”

Is there something right now that the Lord might be asking of you? Something that makes you a little scared, a little uncomfortable? You may have to push aside your own desires or even reach out in the midst of your own suffering, but if you do, you may be able to forget your own sadness and feel the goodness of God in the midst of your pain.

Related Resources:

As stated in the article, physical illness is not always a result of an emotional issue or sin in our lives. Physical illness is part of the fallen world we live in. However, sometimes our physical illness can come as a result of emotional pain or sin struggles in our lives. If you’re interested in learning more about illness that comes as a result of an issue in our lives such as unforgiveness, check out this series on healing: Part One: Is There a Healing Formula in the Bible?, Part Two: How Confession Brings Healing, Part Three: How Repentance Brings Healing.

Have you missed hearing co-hosts Suzy Lolley and Carol Whitaker talk through the points of our posts on our podcast? We’ve taken a break from the podcast this summer, but we’re coming back in September, so mark your calendars! Our first podcast for Season 2 will cover what our view as Christians should be on homosexuality.  Check out our podcast archive from Season 1 if you would like to circle back and listen to any episodes you missed.

*Updated and adapted from a post originally published November 8, 2014.

 

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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How Forgiveness Helped Bring Unity in My Marriage

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“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times’ ” (Matthew 18:21, 22).

Years ago, when I married I thought I would have a match made in heaven. I was a divorcée at the time, so I came with an extensive list of do’s and don’ts that I thought led to success and failure in a marriage. I soon discovered that forgiveness was not on my list of do’s.

In the first year of our marriage, we walked hand-in-hand enjoying our new relationship, but then disagreements began to surface. I questioned if I had made a mistake in marrying again. Marriage was not looking so good, and I began to battle thoughts that I would fail again in this new marriage. When I prayed, I asked God to fix my husband to make him into the man I desired. I certainly didn’t understand Colossians 3:13, which says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Even though I was a Christian when I married, I held onto wordly ideas about marriage and hadn’t learned to surrender to God’s plan for my marriage. Like Eve in the Garden of Eden, I believed that I could be independent and make my own choices, yet I didn’t realize that when I stepped away from the principles God had given me in His Word for making a marriage relationship work, such as forgiveness, those choices would only lead to strife.

Depending on God in the Marriage Relationship

When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, there were two trees in the middle of the garden: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God warned them that they must eat only from the tree of life, but Satan came along and challenged God’s statement with a lie, “‘Can it really be that God has said, ‘You shall not eat from every tree of the garden?’ ” (Genesis 3:1)

God’s plan for them as individuals and in marriage was to stay attached to Him and depend on Him in their relationship. However, Satan tempted Eve with a different path — one in which she could do what she pleased. And we still face that temptation. What Eve didn’t know is that the choice she made would not be without consequences. She did eat the fruit of the knowledge of the tree of good and evil with her husband, and because of the choice, she and her husband were banished from the garden.

Humanity no longer lives in the Garden of Eden, but rather in a world full of sin because of Adam and Eve’s sin. However, God gave us a way to be restored and live how He originally intended us to live with one another. We have a tree of life in Jesus that we must choose daily. As the tree of life stood in the middle of the garden, so we must position Jesus — our “tree of life” in the center of our marriage, as He holds the knowledge of how we should do life within His Word.

In particular, as I mentioned, forgiveness, as well as some of the other commands in God’s Word, weren’t on my list of “do’s.” Yet, slowly, when I began to learn the importance of choosing not to “eat” from the wrong tree, but instead choose the tree of life in my marriage, I began to change my list of do’s — and forgiveness, as well as other biblical principles, became a priority. Doing so helped me change my perspective of my marriage and kept me connected to my spouse.

How I Learned to Forgive in My Marriage

In particular, in regards to forgiveness, I can recall a situation when I needed to ask for and receive forgiveness from God and my spouse. In this situation, I spent too much on an outfit for myself. Lured to purchase something that I knew was too expensive, I quietly put it in my closet, knowing I didn’t need it. My husband and I had agreed on our family budget, but instead of honoring our agreement, I spent more than I should have.

The day the bill arrived, my purchase was disclosed and my husband confronted me. I defended myself with words of justification, and he returned heated comments.

In my purchase of the item and attempts to justify my purchase, I broke the boundaries my husband and I had both agreed on for our finances. My husband was hurt because he trusted me to be faithful to the guidelines we had established. When he voiced his displeasure to me over my actions, I stormed off from the conversation, so filled with my justification of wrongdoing, that I refused to accept responsibility and admit my mistake.

I was restless all day after our argument. I knew I had to clean up my relationship by asking for forgiveness from my Heavenly Father in the marriage, and I needed to ask my husband to forgive me for my unkind words and reckless spending. It says in 2 Chronicles 7:14 (KJV): “ If my people who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins and heal their land.”

It was not an easy choice to go to God to confess, but when I asked God to forgive me, I discovered my anger was gone. I began to see how my behavior was wrong and my words were hurtful. After going to God, I knew I had to approach my husband and not just say the words “I am sorry,” but ask him to forgive me. I needed to be specific, telling him how I realized I had broken our agreement and tried to hide it, plus defended my actions with hurtful words.

Just as God was faithful to forgive me when I confessed my wrong, my husband was faithful to forgive me. But like Adam and Eve had to walk out steps of repentance and confession, I had to do the same. Adam and Eve initially tried to hide from God because they felt ashamed of their choices and even tried to fix the situation by covering themselves with fig leaves.

But God went after them and initiated the repentance process. He asked them what they had done not because He didn’t know, but so that they could confess openly and be healed. When they confessed their wrong, He made a way for them to be cleansed of their sin by making the first animal sacrifice (Genesis 3:21).

Now, on the other side of the cross, we no longer have to make sacrifices for sin as Adam and Eve did. We have Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice for sin. Jesus makes it possible for us to come to Him without sacrifices and be forgiven of our sin, but we still have to repent and confess when we wrong others (including our spouse) to make things right in our relationship with God and others (1 John 1:9; James 5:16).

Choosing to Put God at the Center of Our Marriage

Practicing forgiveness in marriage is not only that which brings healing and restoration to our relationship, our action is one that helps to put God at the center of our marriage because it glorifies God rather than ourselves. In our day-to-day living, our decisions and responses to life cannot be based on our desires, but on how we can glorify God in a situation. When I made the purchase, I made it out of my selfish desires, knowing I was going against our agreement. My spending decisions led me down the wrong path, which later erupted into fights filled with words and frustration that didn’t bring God glory in our home.

However, forgiveness restored the unity between us and helped us move past the incident. In our marriages, no matter the conflict, we have to seek God’s guidance on how to deal with it. Just like the first married couple post-Eden, we will have moments of marital bliss and we will have unhappy moments. But to have a match made in heaven, we have to understand and live out the principles God gives us in His Word for making relationships work — including confession of sin when we’re wrong and forgiveness of our spouse.

In choosing God’s way, we choose the tree of life, rather than our own way. Now that’s giving God the glory!

*This article was written in collaboration with Carol Whitaker.

Sheila Michael

Sheila Michael

Sheila is a retired elementary school principal and educator. She spent over thirty years in education and has a specialist degree in educational leadership. She is also a wife, mother of four grown children, and grandmother of 12 amazing kiddos. Sheila enjoys cooking and teaching her grandchildren how to cook. Family gatherings are essential to the Michael “herd,” as they gather to share life with each other. Residing in Georgia, Sheila calls herself a “Southern belle with a twist,” since her husband is from Iowa. Sheila’s personal journey with God has created in her a desire to write and share the “God moments” she has experienced in her life. She loves mentoring young women in their walk with Christ and encouraging families to serve and love the Lord and each other as they navigate through life’s challenges.

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Why It’s Hard to Forgive

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I love a good hero or heroine, don’t you? One of my favorite heroines of all time would have to be Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. She is relatable, completely human, yet smart and charismatic. While Elizabeth shares the spotlight with her sister Jane in the book, as the two have parallel romances, it is arguably Elizabeth who captures the hearts of readers.

However much we love heroines like Elizabeth in a story, though, the other characters (even if more minor) help bring interest to the story and are still crucial to its development. Much can be learned if we focus not only on the protagonist, but if we also shift our gaze to the less-mentioned characters in a story.

This is certainly true in the parable of the prodigal son. In the parable, most of us are most familiar with the youngest son. Although I am not sure we would call him a hero (at least at the beginning of the story), we can all relate to the rebellion of this presumptuous lad, the poor choices, the change of heart, and the return home. Even if we haven’t had a major “run” from God in our walk with Him, chances are we can all point to seasons where we strayed or were unfaithful and experienced His grace and forgiveness.

However, if we turn our focus for a moment not on the younger brother in the story but on the older brother, we can learn much from his reactions to his father’s lavish forgiveness of his younger brother. Rather than rejoice when his brother returned, the older brother grew angry and resentful. Notice the exchange between the father and the older brother in Luke 15:25-32:

Meanwhile the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of his servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’

2 Lessons About Forgiveness We Can Learn From the Older Brother

1. Forgiveness costs us.

Forgiveness doesn’t come easily for any of us. We find it difficult to forgive. Why? Forgiveness costs us. This is a parable, so the story is one Jesus made up to illustrate a point. However, let’s say for a moment the events actually transpired.

The older brother might have had to console his distraught father after the younger son left — repeatedly. Maybe the older brother had to take on added responsibilities after the younger son was of out of the picture. Perhaps the older brother had to continually answer pointed question from neighbors and friends about the antics of his irresponsible brother.

Therefore, when he came in from the field and saw that a celebration was taking place for this same brother that had caused so much hurt to the family, no wonder he couldn’t get past these memories and inconveniences caused by his brother’s sin.

And we’re the same way. Maybe a person’s continued sin in our lives is that which has caused us terrible pain and heartache. While I am not suggesting that we put up with abuse or condone wrong actions, we are asked to forgive those in our lives that hurt us and at times bear with their grievances — whether they are repentant or not.

Forgiveness doesn’t give them a free pass to mistreat us and it doesn’t mean that we don’t put up healthy boundaries at times to protect ourselves, but it does ask us to release into God’s hands our desire to have the person pay for the wrong done to us. It also requires us to override our gut impulses and bless someone who doesn’t deserve our blessing. And that, friends, is a tall order!

2. We may be self-righteous.

The other reason it’s tough to forgive is that like the older brother, we might be offended by the idea of a person who has hurt us receiving grace and forgiveness. I heard a pastor once say that we like to receive God’s grace — but want God’s judgment for others. How true those words are!

Having worked faithfully the entire time the brother was gone, the older brother could not believe his father was throwing a celebration for his younger brother. He pointed out that he had “slaved away” and yet had not even been given a goat to eat with his friends (v. 29). Yet, his brother — or “this son of yours,” as he labels him — was given a fattened calf after he had been out spending the father’s wealth on prostitutes (v. 30). The other brother is so angry here, he won’t even use the word “brother,” but instead uses the phrase “this son of yours.”

However, the father responds, saying, “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours” (v. 31). In other words, the father points out that the older brother would have nothing if not for the generosity of the father. Because of the wealth of the father, both sons could receive — but it is clear by the older son’s reaction that he felt himself more deserving of the father’s lavish love because of his works. But the father corrected him and let him know that neither brother could benefit were it not for the father.

Similarly, we may feel that we are more deserving of our Father’s forgiveness than a disobedient brother or sister in Christ. But the story reminds us that we would all be destitute if not for the Father’s generosity to us. Our adoption as sons and daughters has nothing to do with our merit, but because of the love of our Heavenly Father (Eph. 2:8, 9). As the story illustrates, we can offer forgiveness to others because of what the Father has freely given us.

Conclusion:

Why did Jesus tell the story of the prodigal son? While we can view the story from the lens of forgiveness given by the father and received by a wayward son, we also see that the story is also about how we as believers must model the love of a Heavenly Father and forgive those who don’t deserve it. Rather than take on the pharisaical attitude of the older brother, we can remember our Father’s forgiveness of us in those moments when it’s tough to forgive an offender  — and do the same.

As the Bible reminds us, even sinners treat their friends well, but it is our task as Christ-followers to show love and mercy not just to the people we like, but also those who we might consider our enemies (Luke 6:27-32). When we do, we release ourselves from resentment and bitterness. Though initially harder to do, forgiveness costs us less than unforgiveness in the end.

Related Resources:

With Father’s Day coming up, perhaps you are reminded of past issues you have had in your relationship with your father. Read about Jamie Wills’ story of forgiving her father.

Today’s post is part of a month long series on forgiveness. Check out last week’s article on forgiving from the heart, by Rachel Howard.

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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How I Learned to Truly Forgive

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Has God ever spoken to you in a dream? While some dreams have no meaning or make absolutely no sense — probably most of mine — I can recall a small handful of dreams in my lifetime that I felt were truly from God. I believe that one in particular was used to teach me about the importance of forgiveness.

The dream centered on an offense that had happened about four years prior. I will not share the details, but it was a big one. An offense that the world would say is unforgivable. Although many people would tell me that they completely understood why I would be hurt, as a Christian, I knew I couldn’t harbor bitterness in my heart. I needed to be like Jesus. I had had several conversations with one of the offenders and had prayed many prayers about forgiving everyone involved. In my mind, I was good. But this dream told me otherwise.

In my dream, I saw one of the people who had hurt me. When I saw them, I felt my face and chest get hot. I was overcome with rage and began running towards them, screaming. Obviously, I hadn’t forgiven this person. But then came the even stranger part. As I was screaming, I started punching MYSELF in the face. Blow after blow after blow.

“Whoa, what was that!?” I thought to myself as I woke up in a sweat. Then I felt the Lord speak to my spirit, “You haven’t forgiven them, and your unforgiveness is hurting only one person … YOU. Let it go. Put it under the blood of my Son. These are the kind of things He died for.”

Jesus died for all sin. His death and resurrection was for all the penalties of sin, for the offender and the offended. To set us free from our own sins, as well as from the hurt and pain the sin of others can cause us. His redemption is for both ends of the spectrum.

It’s no wonder then that in Matthew 18:21, 22 Jesus explains to Peter that there is no limit to forgiveness: “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’ ”

The world will tell us that only certain things are forgivable. If someone crosses over the line, then we are to write them off as a person and to ban them from our lives and our love. This is not what the Bible teaches us. Should we sometimes set up healthy boundaries to protect us, our families, and even those who wrong us? Absolutely. However, we are called to be like Christ and to allow His love, truth, and forgiveness to flow from our lives.

Through this journey of learning to apply genuine forgiveness in my own difficult situation, here are a few more specific things that I took away and now try to think about when an occasion may arise.

1. Forgiveness is a heart issue.

Through my dream, the Lord revealed to me that I was still hurting on the inside. In my situation, I had “forgiven” these people. I had prayed about it, and even told them that I forgave them. But there were still wounds I was holding onto inside that became evident in my dream. I realized that I needed to “forgive from the heart” (Matthew 18:35).

This means that I couldn’t just say I forgave these people with my words and allow wrong feelings to fester. In all honesty, in my attempt to forgive, instead of dealing with my pain and anger, I had been simply pushing down the angry thoughts, allowing them to sink down deeper. To forgive from the heart, I needed to choose to let go of my resentment and bitterness and turn these thoughts and feelings over to Jesus.

2. Forgiveness is often an ongoing process.

Even after we have chosen to fully forgive a person, one of the enemy’s schemes is to remind us of the wrongs that others have committed against us at a later time. He whispers in our ears, “Remember what they did to you? They haven’t changed. How can you love someone like that?” When these kinds of thoughts arise, we have the choice to either agree with him or to instead align ourselves with God’s Word.

We must take those thoughts captive each time they surface and remember that Jesus can redeem anyone. Forgiveness is often not simply a one time thing. We have to continue to forgive. In every instance that follows where wrong thoughts arise, we need to challenge these thoughts and replace them with truth so that we can continue to walk in forgiveness.

3. Forgiveness releases Christ’s power and glory.

Forgiveness does not only bring healing and a positive change in our lives. When we offer forgiveness to others, we invite them into the same love and grace that we have found in Christ ourselves. We invite those around us to change by becoming a display of His transforming grace in situations that would otherwise be a mess. When we bear with each other and forgive one another as the Lord has forgiven us (Colossians 3:13), we will stand out and bring other people to ask the question, “How could you forgive something like that?!”

In my own situation, when I truly gave my offense to Jesus, He set me free to live in His love again, and to reveal Him in a mighty way. Forgiving my friend genuinely from the heart enabled me to be filled with love and compassion for them. And this extension of God’s love brought about a change in our relationship. Shortly after, I also noticed a change in my friend. Within a few months, we found ourselves in a place of full restoration, hugging, crying, and praying together.

Only my Jesus could do that.

Not every relationship will necessarily end this way. Sometimes people may not even see that they have hurt us. Sometimes people may feel that they are justified in their actions. Regardless of the response or outcome, our call to forgive is the same.

Knowing this, whether the offense is big or small, let’s forgive those who hurt or wrong us and allow Christ’s forgiveness to change us all.

Rachel Howard

Rachel Howard

With a degree in music education, Rachel Howard is a middle grades chorus instructor who has a passion for teaching students about her love for music. In addition to inspiring adolescents in the public school system, Rachel is currently taking piano lessons and also enjoys photography, scrapbooking and Francine Rivers novels. A small-group leader at her church, Rachel also leads worship on occasion. In addition to these roles, Rachel is a wife and mom to two kids, Isaac and Evelyn. Rachel currently resides in Georgia with her husband and kids.

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