For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Life with children can be, or perhaps just plain is, messy. It is one drama after another with teens. Inevitably there's one mess after another with all ages of families, as they always seem to keep eating and creating dirty dishes and making messes! Children fuss no matter what method you use and no matter what book you have bought--especially with personality differences rubbing against one another.
All in my family are sinful--including me!--which means there are moods and attitudes and ups and downs. There are illnesses--mental, emotional, physical and spiritual--that make relationships a challenge.
Many of us carry baggage from our past lives that creep into our marriage, influencing the ways we view life and treat our husbands and children. If only we could take back some of the things we have said, or start certain conversations over again, we could do a better job! I remember often thinking as I learned new things about myself and repented from some bad habits and ways of dealing with my family, that I needed to have more children so that I could do it right at least once.
Yet, now, as I get older, I have collected some perspective. God has used the humbling circumstances of having a family and being married to bring me to my knees. He has used these very circumstances to humble me--and to thus develop more compassion for others who also struggle. What good would I have been to myself, my children or my husband If I remained a self-confident, pompous Pharisee, who was assured of my right philosophy?
God's ultimate desire was to do heart surgery that I didn't realize I needed, in order to "little by little" make my heart and character more like Christ's. So, He in His sovereignty, used my family and children to chisel the blemishes and deficiencies away.
I have realized that part of my problem is that I am faint-hearted and conflict-resistant at heart--I do not like difficulty or challenges and tire of the whole process. Yet, God somehow knew that deep in my heart, I wanted to hold fast to faith and trust Him and persevere, so He was faithful to press me through difficulties.
Having now lived through so many seasons, it's finally obvious that in spite of my fretting, stresses and fears, God was there all the time, working, showing faithfulness, and being patient with me in the process.
It takes practice to do and pursue what is true and right. I have seen the Lord bring me through so many difficult courses. A key, however, was learning to choose to believe and listen to His voice and Word. When I come into His presence and spend time in His Word, He has been there for me--I didn't always feel His presence, but I took His Word and promises at face value and rested in them and then practiced taking steps of faith, one day, one issue at a time. Now, I can look back and see that He has used each part of the journey to shape me--my character, my love, my humility and compassion and learning to rest in Him.
The more I have learned to put all of my issues into his hands (along with my feelings of loneliness, fear, weariness and deep emotion), the more I have learned to leave them there--with Him who is able and will accomplish His will in His time in my life. These verses have been some of my anchors:
1. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God, and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" Philippians 4:6I need heart- and mind-guarding so that I don't spend unnecessary energy and time on worrying, so I give my concerns into His hands and picture him taking everything and working on my behalf.
2. "In this world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world" John 16:33b. I have made a decision of my will to take courage--to practice being strong, practicing the habit of putting one foot in front of the other to believe in a good outcome from a Father who is good. Courage is believing and behaving as though God will indeed be faithful. These habits create a life of faithfulness.
3. "For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances and I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and having need. I can do all things through Him who gives me strength" Philippians 4:12-13. I have had to grow in character as I walk in God's ways--to stretch my capacity to work, to stretch my capacity to love--to resist the down feelings and to learn to cultivate a content attitude and to practice being joyful in front of my children and family. I can, by faith, and by putting one foot in front of the other, do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
I have told my children that it is best to decide to like and embrace God's will--because having a bad attitude about it will not make it go away and indeed will make the pressures and circumstances worse! I have also noticed that bad attitudes or depressed feelings or content feelings behave much like plants in garden. If I water and nurture the depressed or negative attitudes they are what grow even stronger. If I water and fertilize faith and obedience, they are what grows.
So here is my prayer for you today, as you seek to practice believing and walk in faithfulness ... "Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word" 2 Thessalonians 2:17.
We've had such a great response to this week's podcast, which focused on training our children to have a heart of gratitude. Here's a snippet ...
"When we give our children every single thing they want and meet every single need, we're actually giving them idols. We're causing them to be spoiled. We're making them think they deserve for the whole world to kowtow and bow at their feet, and provide everything they want.
That is never how a godly person is going to be able to sustain their life in this world ... This world is not the place we've ever been promised we'll have everything we desire. ...
Sometimes we feel like our kids need to be happy all the time and have so many things ... Parents don't realize they are hindering their children by giving them the illusion that having things and having experiences is a right, and is something that's actually going to make them happy. ... actually, having more makes you more discontent.
When you run around with people who have every single popular piece of clothing and every single class and every single opportunity, it probably makes you UNhappy. The more ungrateful you are, the more unhappy you are with what you have, the more bitter you'll be, the less spiritual you'll be, and the worse legacy you're going to pass onto your kids."
To hear the rest, click here! A Heart for Gratitude