Fearless Motherhood: Mothering with an Eternal Perspective

By: Beth Doohan

 “I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4

“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.” Psalm 46:1–2

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For those of you who are mothers, you know that motherhood is a privilege, so fulfilling, and a lot of work. From dirty diapers and lack of sleep, to adventurous accidents and homework help, to sassy attitudes and driving lessons, motherhood is an ever-changing adventure. It can also be very challenging when we see our children hurting, sick or struggling with sin. As wholehearted women, we have been uniquely called to mother with an eternal perspective, raising our children to be Christ-followers in their youth, and ultimately to serve Him in adulthood. Many times, however, a little thing gets in the way of this calling: fear.

Everyone deals with fear sometimes, but I think that as mothers, our fear can compound out of control because we have so much more at stake. Here are just a few fears we may face:

  • My child is struggling in school. Could he have a learning disability?
  • With all the predators out there, what if something happens to my child?
  • I want my child to know the Lord, but what if she turns away from Him one day?
  • What if my son becomes a victim of bullying?
  • I long for a close relationship with my child, but what if she rejects me when I discipline her?
  • How do I protect my child from illness, disease, or even death?

As mothers, we should definitely use wisdom and listen to the Holy Spirit if we have a sense about our child’s protection, what is best for their wellbeing or how to help them succeed. But fear can quickly get out of hand if it becomes stronger than our trust in God for our children. So what do we do with our fears? I John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (NASB). As mothers, we need to bring our fears before our loving heavenly Father, re-train our minds to believe God’s Word about our children, and allow His love to cast out fearful thoughts.

For those of you who have read my story in “Through Every Season: Experiencing God through Brokenness,” you know that my husband and I had a miscarriage before our son was born. After that loss, God took me on a journey of putting my hope and trust in Him. For a season during pregnancy and even after my son was born, I had to reject fearful thoughts of losing him and continually put my trust in the Lord for his protection and well-being. When facing crippling fears, I had to discipline my mind and heart to trust in the Lord. I had to choose not to dwell on these thoughts and instead, focus on the goodness of God and His protection for our family. When I did, God lovingly stepped in, removed all fear of losing our son, and filled me instead with His peace and joy. Psalm 34:45 says, “I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.”

My heart’s prayer for our son has been that he would be the Lord’s for all his life—that he would belong to God, surrender his heart fully to God’s lordship, and serve Him by ministering to others. I still occasionally have thoughts of fear for our son, but have made it a practice to rebuke these fears with God’s Word and to trust in Him for protection and blessing.

Ladies, for those of you who are mothers, I encourage you to do three things to fight the fears you may be facing:

1) Develop Your Child’s Primary Identity.

Let your children’s primary identity be as sons and daughters of the Lord Jesus Christ. This means teaching them to become mature Christ-followers, praying that they would know the Lord in His fullness and encouraging them to make an impact for the Kingdom of God. The book Prayers and Promises for My Little Girl by Stormie Omartian shares the following prayer based on Jeremiah 29:13: “My sweet [child], may you believe from a very early age that if you seek God, you will find Him. When you search for God with all your heart, He has promised to make Himself known” (see also Prayers and Promises for My Little Boy). We are called as mothers to show our children who God is and point them to Him through His Word, prayer and worship. Psalm 8:2 says, “You have taught children and infants to tell of Your strength, silencing Your enemies and all who oppose You.” It is never too early, or too late, to start teaching our children about God and His ways. Remember that God chose YOU as your child’s mother. No one is better equipped, qualified, or capable for nurturing your child’s heart than you. Wholehearted women, let us passionately teach our children to love the Lord with all their hearts, minds, souls and strength and to love their neighbors as themselves.

2) Know Your God-Given Identity.

Let your primary identity be as daughters of the Lord Jesus Christ. This means knowing who you are in Christ apart from being a mother. After the birth of her son Samuel, Hannah returned to the temple to worship the Lord and give her son back to Him. “I asked the Lord to give me this boy, and He has granted my request. Now I am giving him to the Lord, and he will belong to the Lord his whole life” (I Samuel 1:26-28). Think of the courage this took for Hannah to give her heart’s desire completely up to the Lord. After years of pain and pleading with the Lord for a child, He granted her request, and she willingly gave her son back to Him. She knew her identity was found in her Lord, not just in being a mother. Hannah did not know if she would ever bear other children, but God blessed her for her heart of surrender and gratitude by giving her five other children. First and foremost, we are daughters of the King, then wives, mothers, sisters, friends, etc. God delights in you, calls you His own, and has equipped you with unique gifts and talents for serving Him. When our identity is found in Christ Jesus, we can have confidence and complete trust in His lordship and be examples of godly womanhood for our children.

3) Enjoy the Journey!

Enjoy this season of motherhood. This means refusing to fear for our children or cling to them. Of course we should love them deeply, protect them and do what is best for them, but must do so with our hope and trust in the Lord. We can know that they are ultimately in God’s care, and choose not to fear for them. And once our season of being responsible for their care is complete, we must continue to life them up to the Lord, trusting that He will be at work in their lives As the Proverbs 31 woman is described, “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future” (Proverbs 31:25). Let us put our confident trust in the Lord and lean on Him for wisdom and guidance in raising our children.

As the mother of our son Hunter, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for his precious life and love him deeply. But I think the experience of loss has given me an eternal perspective as I raise my son. Seeing him grow and develop, I enjoy each season and recognize that God has entrusted him into our care as parents for the purpose of showing him the love of the Lord and teaching him God’s ways so that he may become a mature man of God one day. The end goal is in mind—that he would be the Lord’s for all his life. As a mother, I see him as he is now, a baby. But I also picture him as a boy, a young man, and a man serving the Lord and loving Him with all his heart. I keep the end goal in mind: to raise a son who is strong in the Lord and in His mighty power serving the Kingdom for Christ. As his mother, I recognize that although I love him dearly, he belongs to the Lord first and I have been entrusted with his care until he is grown. Like Hannah, I have dedicated him to the Lord for His plans and purposes.

Ladies, our hope and trust must be in the Lord, knowing that He is the protector of our families. We can trust Him and serve Him as mothers. We can teach our children God’s ways and devote ourselves to the Lord as His daughters. We can walk in the present, delighting in each season of motherhood. And when we do face challenges, crises or tragedies with our children, we can come to the Lord for wisdom, direction, and healing to be made whole. He is our refuge, our strength, and always ready to help when we face trouble (Psalm 46:1).

I encourage you to take some time today to read Psalm 34. As you do, pour your heart out to the Lord about the fears, hurts, and challenges you are experiencing. Ask Him to deliver you from fear, to provide healing for wounded hearts, and to give you wisdom for how to mother your children. He is faithful to answer and will show you His love as you trust in HIM to help you develop your children’s primary identity, to know your own identity in Christ, and to enjoy the journey of fearless motherhood with an eternal perspective!

The Heart of David: Committed to Our Calling

By: Beth Doohan

“[The Lord] made their hearts, so He understands everything they do…the Lord watches over those who fear Him, those who rely on His unfailing love.”  (Psalm 33:16, 18)

“Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)

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Here at The Wholehearted Woman, part of our mission is helping women be fully surrendered to the lordship of Jesus Christ. When I think about this calling, one of the greatest biblical heroes of the faith comes to mind. He authored our mission’s Scripture, “I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8). That’s right—King David!

From the humble beginnings of a shepherd, God selected David to be king over Israel and made his name great as a powerful warrior and leader. As my husband Corey and I recently reflected on David’s story, we were struck by how set apart he was from other leaders of Israel, both before and after his reign. The Bible tells us that God’s favor was upon him. So we asked ourselves, what was it that made David so different?

Throughout David’s life, we see again and again how open and transparent he was before the Lord. The Psalms reveal David’s heart and fervent prayer to God. His life shows that David looked to the Lord for approval and sought to obey Him fully in all that he did. His wholehearted devotion and sincere love of the Lord is what made him a man after God’s own heart. Corey also noted that David was heavenly-minded, always thinking about things above and how to please the Lord. Unlike other rulers who sought favor with man or followed their own self-interests, David made decisions based on his relationship with the Lord and seeking to follow Him.

As we explore this great man of God’s life, we will discuss three key components: his youth, his reign and his legacy.

1) David’s Youth

One of the most powerful elements of David’s story is that he followed the Lord from his youth. His challenges as a shepherd boy trained David for a life of service to the Lord. That is not to say that a Christian’s impact is diminished if they did not follow the Lord in their youth. But for David, his youth was a season of preparation In fact, one of the greatest kings following David’s reign was King Josiah, who became ruler at age eight and discovered the Book of God’s Law 18 years later. When he read the Scriptures, King Josiah was grieved in his spirit, for he knew that he and all Judah were living in sin against the Lord. In response, he turned to the Lord fully, asked for His forgiveness and issued reforms to restore the Lord’s temple and remove pagan practices from the land. II Kings 23:25 tells us that, “Never before had there been a king like Josiah, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses.”

In Psalm 8:2, David penned, “You have taught children and infants to tell of your strength,” showing he recognized God’s hand in his life from a young age. As we discuss his early years, take note how David wholeheartedly served the Lord and trusted in Him, which prepared him to rule as king.

God Sees Our Hearts

Have you ever felt unimportant, or that what you are doing in life is insignificant? I have news for you: God promises that if you remain faithful in little, you will be entrusted with much (Luke 16:10). Think of David, who from humble beginnings was chosen to reign as king of Israel.

As Saul, David’s predecessor, continued to disobey God’s commandments, the Lord told Samuel that He was grieved He had ever made Saul king. He instructed Samuel to go to Bethlehem and anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the next king. When Samuel arrived, he thought he knew which of Jesse’s eight sons would be king just by looking at how impressive and good-looking the oldest brother Eliab was. But God told Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7). As one by one the Lord passed over each of Jesse’s sons, Samuel asked if there were any others. Indeed, there was one, the youngest of them all, who was tending to the family’s sheep in the fields. As David approached, God told Samuel to anoint him, for he was the Lord’s chosen one.

Why did God choose David to be king? David had learned to be faithful with little while caring for his father’s sheep. Through encounters with lions and bears, he had learned to trust in the Lord no matter what and knew that God would protect him. The Lord saw David’s heart of obedience and surrender to Him and blessed David for his service. We learned by Saul’s example that “Obedience is better than sacrifice and submission is better than offering the fat of rams” (I Samuel 15:22b). As daughters of the King, God wants us to surrender our whole hearts to Him and serve Him faithfully. David understood this and devoted himself completely to the Lord. In Psalm 33:16, 18, David wrote, “[The Lord] made their hearts, so He understands everything they do…the Lord watches over those who fear Him, those who rely on His unfailing love.” Whatever season you may be in, preparation, action or renewed surrender, keep in mind the shepherd boy who God selected in midst of his everyday work because the Lord saw his heart.

Fear the Lord First

Throughout his life, Saul consistently feared man more than he feared God. Because of this God eventually rejected him as king. When Saul was chosen to be king, Samuel anointed him and later introduced him as God’s chosen one, but Saul was nowhere to be found. Then, God told Samuel that Saul was hiding. He did not think himself worthy or capable enough to rule over Israel. He did not see himself as God saw him—a man of character and godliness fit to lead the nation. The underlying root of his insecurity was a lack of trust in God to be with him and help him reign as he should.

If we fear man more than God, we will lose what He has entrusted to us. When Samuel confronted Saul about disobeying the Lord, he said “Although you may think little of yourself, are you not the leader of the tribes of Israel?…Because you have rejected the command of the Lord, He has rejected you as king” (I Samuel 15:17, 23b). Saul had given in to what the people wanted instead of leading them in the Lord’s commands. Saul told Samuel he was afraid to say no to the people’s demands, so he went along with their request instead of doing what God wanted. Does this sound familiar? We can all get trapped into following what other’s want instead of what we know God wants. But as His children, the Lord calls us to fear Him first, walking in obedience to Him and not going along with what others think. If we do not, we may end up missing out on God’s best, like Saul did as king.

In contrast to Saul, David’s whole heart was surrendered to the Lord. He was unafraid to face Goliath the giant and to become the next king, because he knew that his strength came from the Lord. David said, “The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine” (I Samuel 17:37). Because David trusted in God and feared Him more than man, God was able to make his efforts successful. He looked to God for approval and was blessed, while Saul looked to man and lost his kingdom because of it. When you have a willing heart trusting and devoted to God, He will use you mightily.

2) David’s Reign

As king of Israel, David enjoyed great favor and blessing from the Lord. God had prepared him to reign and continued to make him victorious in battle after battle, even allowing him to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. David also made some powerful mistakes and suffered the consequences of his sin. But through it all, his first response was humility and surrender before the Lord, admitting his fault and not making excuses. David chose to keep his heart open before the Lord his entire life, and this gave him God’s favor.

Turn to Me and I Will Restore You

One of the most distasteful sins of David’s life was his affair with Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife. After he had committed the act, he further sinned by trying to cover it up. When he could not convince Uriah to return home to be with his wife during battle, David arranged a bloody murder for him on the front lines of the fight. However, when Nathan the prophet confronted David about it, he quickly admitted, “I have sinned against the Lord” (II Samuel 12:13). Immediately, Nathan responded that the Lord had forgiven him. In great contrast, when Saul had sinned and was confronted by the prophet Samuel, Saul made excuses and refused to admit his sin before the Lord. Because David humbled himself and repented of his wrongdoing, the Lord continued to bless him, although in consequence the child Bathsheba bore died.

As we go through life, our hearts should be ready and willing to admit fault before God. Like David, our heart’s cry must be “yes, Lord, I have done wrong. Forgive me, Father, and help me change and make it right.” Part of being fully surrendered to the lordship of Jesus Christ is having a heart of repentance and humility before the Lord to acknowledge any sin. David exhibited this heart when he turned back to God after sinning. In Psalm 139:23-24, he wrote, “Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” As wholehearted women, we need to ask God to reveal any areas of sin in our life and be willing to repent before the Lord and turn toward righteous living. Then, like David, we can experience God’s continued favor and blessings. Psalm 34:12-14 says, “Does anyone want to live a life that is long and prosperous? Then keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies! Turn away from evil and do good.”

Serve God Like No Other

What was it that distinguished David, to make him be called “a man after God’s own heart”? Among all the kings of Israel and Judah, God said that no one followed Him like His servant David, even though there were other kings who did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight. What was different about David’s relationship with the Lord?

First and second Kings documents the history of rulers who reigned over Israel and Judah after David. We see a pattern in this account that each one either “did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight” or “did what was evil in the Lord’s sight.” Even if a king followed the Lord, he often did so with mixed loyalty. We see this pattern over and over again of kings who sought to please the Lord, but also failed to remove the idols in his nation, failed to remove shrines and detestable practices or failed to follow God’s instructions.

In contrast, David served God with his whole heart. The Psalms are a window into David’s heart of surrender and openness before God: “Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me”; “This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God, and I trust Him”; “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship…The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul…The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart” (Psalm 51:10; Psalm 91:2; Psalm 19:1, 7-8). These passages reveal God’s glory and nature through what He had spoken to David’s heart as His servant and anointed king. David sought to follow the Lord with his whole self. Even when he sinned, David repented and surrendered to the lordship of his Savior, admitting his wrongdoing and asking God for forgiveness.

3) David’s Legacy

David’s life was remarkable, and his enduring legacy has impacted generations of believers for thousands of years. Not only does the Bible tell his story, but it also holds the many psalms and hymns David wrote unto the Lord in devotion and praise. As a man after God’s own heart, the Lord honored David with a lasting lineage. As wholehearted women, how we live now has a huge impact while we are alive, but also leaves an important legacy for generations to come. When we live in surrender to Jesus Christ, He will bless us and our descendants after us.

Promises of an Enduring Lineage

God loved David and was very pleased with him. He was with him as a shepherd, brought him victory as a warrior and anointed him as king. Because David had followed the Lord wholeheartedly, God promised him that He would create a dynasty of kings from him: “Your house and your kingdom will continue before Me for all time and your throne will be secure forever” (II Samuel 7:16). God honored David with a lasting dynasty, leading all the way down to the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem. What a privilege!!

When we faithfully serve God with our whole hearts, He promises to be with us and even with our children and grandchildren. Even though not all David’s descendants remained faithful to the Lord, God still showed mercy and special grace to them for David’s sake. II Kings 8:19 tells us, “But the Lord did not want to destroy Judah, for He had made a covenant with David and promised that his descendants would continue to rule, shining like a lamp forever.” Like David, we play a powerful role in our family’s legacy and heritage to follow the Lord.

I mentioned in the beginning how David was heavenly-minded, fixing his heart on things above. In a song of praise near the end of his life, David told how the ways of the Lord are perfect and that His promises prove true, praising God for blessing those who love Him. “The Lord has rewarded me for doing right. He has seen my innocence. To the faithful You show Yourself faithful; to those with integrity You show integrity. To the pure You show Yourself pure…You show unfailing love to your anointed, to David and all his descendants forever” (II Samuel 22:25-27, 51). David knew his success and legacy were rewards from God for following Him wholeheartedly. We, too, can experience God’s blessings when we commit to our calling all the days of our lives!

Carrying the Torch

Wholehearted women, let us strive to live in total surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ and to be women after God’s own heart. As we have seen from the life of David, God longs for us to know Him deeply and to use us for His glory. Through seasons of preparation, service unto God and even through a lasting legacy, the Lord has plans for our lives that are far greater than we could imagine as we continue to trust in Him. May we always stay close to Him, follow Him in wholehearted devotion, and carry the torch of faith that will impact generations to come.

Loving Your Man

By: Jenni Walker

“Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?  She is more precious than rubies.  Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life.  She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”  Proverbs 31:10-12

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Ah, Valentine’s Day.  It is a day both loved and loathed by many.  Depending on the individual, it can involve romance and passion while for others they experience resentment or pain.  Amidst the candy hearts, the deep-red roses, and the long restaurant waits before dinner, at its core this day reminds all of us of our longing to be loved.

The namesake of this particular day was Valentine, a priest who was likely alive during the Roman era in the third century A.D.  The Roman Emperor Claudius II of that time took desperate measures to maintain his Roman power: He outlawed all new marriages.  After this decree, no one was allowed get married because he believed that unmarried young men would fight more valiantly and without distraction as Roman soldiers.

St. Valentine, at great personal risk, continued to hold marriage ceremonies in secret for young couples because of his deep conviction that marriage is God’s will.  He ardently believed that laws against marriage were in direct violation of God’s divine purposes.  Although there are varied versions of the exact timeline, St. Valentine was eventually imprisoned and later put to death.

While this story may not produce in us the euphoric feelings of love sought after on each February 14th, it gives us a serious reminder of the value of marriage.  What would you do to prove your love to your husband?  Would you risk personal pain, sacrifice, and even your life?

All of us who have vowed to love our husbands “for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; until death do us part” have actually pledged to do just that!  And while it is unlikely that any of us had to marry in secret for reasons like those under the Emperor Claudius II, our vows still ought to be taken just as seriously.

Your husband, despite all of his potential quirks, differences, and yes, even flaws, is the man you chose to marry.  You stood before God and man and pledged your love to him.  We would like to present you with three important elements of “loving your man” that will bring purpose, joy, and even romance to your marriage, not just this Valentine’s Day but every day!

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1) With your WORDS

“That’s what every man wants.”

I was sharing a few of my thoughts about this article with Bryan as we sat at the kitchen table last night.  As he munched on a creamy peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich, he was listening thoughtfully.  But when I got to the part about honor and respect, he interrupted me emphatically with these words: “That’s what every man wants.”

Honor and respect.  Do you prioritize these in your communication with your husband?  Do your words convey that you respect and esteem him?  Ladies, we live in a culture that finds humor in demeaning others.  Sarcasm, put-downs, and eye-rolling are all considered acceptable forms of humor.  But over time, they can quickly create a lot of wear-and-tear in relationships, marriage included!

Consider how you can show your husband honor and respect through the following ways:

  • Edification – Ephesians 4:29 commands us, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” As Christians, we are all recipients of God’s amazing grace through the work of Jesus on the cross. This should permeate every aspect of our lives, including how we speak to our husbands!  “Edification” in this verse literally means to “build up” others.  Do you use your words with the intent to build him up?  How can your words impart grace in your home?

 

  • Appreciation – “Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well” (Voltaire). One of the things that Bryan and I try to do regularly is to specifically articulate what we appreciate about the other. For example, when he puts out the trash and recycling by the curb, I endeavor to tell him thank you.  When he likes a certain shirt or outfit that I am wearing, he will interrupt me to tell me that I look “really pretty.”  When he comes home and is weary from a long work day, I tell him how much I appreciate his leadership and his commitment to work so hard, both for us and as unto the Lord.  When I help him with a project or we are just relaxing on the weekend with a movie, he tells me how much he likes to spend time with me.  We work really hard to make specific appreciation a genuine priority.  This not only makes both of us feel good individually but fosters a greater unity in our marital team!

 

  • Skip the sarcasm – It is so easy when we are stressed or feel a little bit irritated internally to deal with it in a sarcastic way. For many of us, this is our default mode when our expectations are not met by our husbands. Guess what?  Unmet expectations are going to happen sometimes in a marriage!  John Eldredge writes in his book Wild at Heart, “Every man carries a wound.  I have never met a man without one.  No matter how good your life may have seemed to you, you live in a broken world full of broken people.”  As wives, it is incredibly important to remember that our sometimes-stoic husbands still require a special sensitivity from their wives.  You have the deep honor of being “one” with your husband.  Sarcasm is something that chinks away at this oneness, sometimes without us even realizing it.  If sarcastic words or tones have crept into your regular communication with each other (even if it is about something else, not necessarily each other), identify and correct it now! If there is a misunderstanding between the two of you, skip the sarcasm and choose grace.  When direct communication needs to happen, do it in a way that is free of sarcasm and, rather, that demonstrates the transformative love of Christ to one another!
    • Wholehearted women, let’s skip the sarcasm and choose to impart grace with our words. John Eldredge challenges us with this observation: “Eve is a life giver; she is Adam’s ally…It will take both of them to sustain life.  And they will both need to fight together.”  Let your words show your husband that you are his ally, that you are in this with him, and use your words give life to your husband and to your marriage!

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2) With your ACTIONS

“If you’re following Christ, you have to be selfless in all of your relationships.  And your marriage, other than your relationship with Christ, is your most important relationship…

Last night as Bryan shared these words with me, my heart swelled with thankfulness for this man that God has given me.  Things have not been perfect, and we have had our share of challenges we have had to face together.  But in all of it, we have gone back to God’s design for marriage and held fast to that.  When Bryan proposed to me, he read from Ephesians 5:22-33, which expounds on the roles both husbands and wives play within a marriage.  Seven years later, I have seen the impact of our mutual commitment to live out these verses with obedient hearts, wisdom sought from the Lord, and the ongoing choice to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).

Our reverence for Christ ought to permeate not only our words but our actions within marriage.  Ephesians 5:2 reminds us to “walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us.”  Let’s not walk in love toward others throughout the day and then give our husbands the leftovers when we are both home.  After our relationship with Christ, marriage truly is the most important relationship that we are called to!  The following are ideas for how to put your love for love for your man into action with creativity and joy:

  • Use his love languages – All men like to come home to a place where they feel welcome. A clean counter or freshly washed sheets, a welcome-home kiss accompanied by a smiling gaze, a brief shoulder rub, laughing at his jokes, affirming his playtime with the kids…all of these represent various love languages, and they all require intentionality. Make communicating your love to him in different ways a top priority each and every day!  (To learn more about your love languages, take this quiz to learn more about your personal profile.  Invite your hubby to join you!  Click here http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/ (online), or you can find a printable PDF version here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/moody-profiles/uploads/profile/attachment/5/5LLPersonalProfile_COUPLES__1_.pdf)

  • Enjoy what he enjoys – Does your husband enjoy being at home? Or are you constantly barraging him with a list of to-do’s and complaints? To-do lists and practical communication are a reality of life, but a husband needs to also be able to relax and enjoy his home environment and to also determine some of his own priorities.  He does not need to constantly be told what to do.  I have found that Bryan really loves when I watch football with him, especially if I put on my University of Oklahoma t-shirt.  Or when we go to a cabin on a weekend, he loves to spend several hours at a time just fishing from the shoreline.  I don’t always stay out there the whole time with him, but I always make an effort to be there with him for awhile, both doing some fishing and watching him.  Just being together and valuing what he values is really important to him. (Compliments on his deft abilities with a rod and reel don’t hurt anything either!)
    • When life demands immediate help, say it with grace!  “Hey, baby, when you get settled in from your work day, do you mind watching the kids for a few minutes while I finish getting dinner prepped for tonight?” is a more inviting request than, “Go watch the kids.  I have a million things to do for tonight.”  Make the home a place where he is invited into the hustle and bustle.
    • And remember that you BOTH need to enjoy time together!  When life gets busy, this can still be done with a bit of creativity: Watching the kids play while holding hands on the couch, pulling out a deck of cards and playing a few hands, or just eating a bowl of ice cream together in bed are great ways to just “enjoy life” together.
  • Prioritize intimacy – This is a BIG one, ladies! Long kisses, hugging in the kitchen, and yes, taking off those flannel PJ’s in bed are all intimate actions with your hubby that foster intimacy and that make your man feel loved! I asked Bryan to give us wives some insights about this, to which he responded: “Have fun with it!  Dance, chase (literally chase each other – clothes optional!), smooch, be openly affectionate – in front of kids and others.   [Affection in marriage] makes me feel loved and connected.  For wives, maybe being selfless is getting nude and hopping in bed.  I think not in the same way as women, but men do want to be desired – for their strength and their part in doing the ‘hibbidy-dibbidy.’”
    • Wholehearted women, let’s face it: Sexual intimacy in marriage makes our husbands feel loved!  While many women express that they enjoy emotional intimacy more (which is also very important!), we must remember that sex was created for marriage by God (Genesis 2:24-25, Hebrews 13:4).  It is a place to come together as one, with literally nothing hidden, and to express in the most intimate of acts, “I am all yours.”
    • As we wrap up this section, consider a few of these tips to help you and your hubby prioritize intimacy:  a) Set an expectation. (“Hey, babe, meet me in the bedroom ten minutes after the kids are in bed…”) b) Make a plan. (“Let’s do it at least twice this weekend – how about Friday night and Saturday afternoon after you get home from working out?”) c) Be creative! (i.e. As soon as kids are in bed and asleep, skip the dishes and find each other!  Lock your door and head to the walk-in closet if needed, lol.)  Show your hubby that sexual intimacy is a priority to you, too, and make it happen!
    • (Check out “Two Ways to Fire Up Passion in the Bedroom” by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott for a few quick insights!  https://www.lesandleslie.com/devotions/two-ways-to-fire-up-passion-in-the-bedroom/)

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3) With your ATTITUDE

“Your attitude can make any action an act of worship.”  (More wisdom from Bryan Walker!)  🙂

In our marriages, our attitude is critically important.  It affects the words we say, the actions we take, and how we respond to the words and actions of others.  Attitude is both how we respond and approach something.  As wholehearted women, we are called first and foremost to have an attitude of worshipful surrender to Christ in all things: “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2, NLT).

And as wholehearted wives who are surrendered to the lordship of Jesus Christ, we are also called to both approach and respond to our husbands in ways that demonstrate honor both to them and to our Lord.  In loving worship to the Lord and out of marital love for our hubbies, let’s choose to adopt the following attitudes toward our husbands:

  • I value you. (Doing his laundry, making a family meal, having friends over for a football game he’s especially excited about, his style of communication, his particular looks, his talents…this is the man you married! Let him know that you value him!)

 

  • I appreciate you. (His work, service, time with kids, mowing the lawn, volunteering at church, his arm around your shoulder, him holding the car door for you, his hair, his smile…Not just our words but our body language and attitudes can communicate to our hubbies that we appreciate them immensely!)

 

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All the Days of Her Life

Let’s each remember that our husband, despite all of his potential quirks, differences, and yes, even flaws, is the man that we married before God and man.  We are called as wives to rely in all things on the grace of God as we love our husbands according to His holy and wise design for marriage.  We pray that these three important elements of “loving your man” will bring fresh purpose, joy, and even romance to each of your marriages, not just this Valentine’s Day but every day!  As we conclude our time together today, may the words of Proverbs 31:10-12 compel you to wholeheartedly love your husband in your words, your actions, and your attitude all the days of your life!

“Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?  She is more precious than rubies.  Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life.  She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”  Proverbs 31:10-12

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Closing insights and reflections:

  • If you have found yourself in an uncertain or even abusive situation in your marriage, please seek counsel. Remember that you are never alone, and there is always hope!

  • If you and your hubby are bickering often, and there seems to be frequent unresolved conflict and lack of intimacy, do not ignore it! Keep “loving your man” with the love of Christ and with God’s wisdom and help.  Also, do not be afraid to seek godly counsel.  Talk to your husband, endeavor to get on the same page about it, and then talk together to a pastor, a trusted couple or church small group leaders, or even a professional therapist.  There is no shame in getting a tune-up!

  • Lastly, even those of us who believe we have the best husbands in the world still have to be intentional in “loving our man.” Remember that “Every wise woman builds up her household…” (Proverbs 14:1)  Pray for your husband!  Be with him!  And love him every day.

No Place Like Home

By: Jenni Walker

“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  For the love of Christ compels us…and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”  (2 Corinthians 5:1, 14-15)

“God’s thoughts, His will, His love, His judgments are all man’s home. To think His thoughts, to choose His will, to love His loves, to judge His judgments, and thus to know that He is in us, is to be at home.” (George MacDonald)

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            “Why does anyone live there?!”

I was born and raised in Minnesota.  Throughout my adult life as a resident of Oklahoma, I have frequently heard this phrase asked with incredulity and a bit of awe.  Why would anyone choose to live in a place that is so snowy and frigidly cold? they wonder.  Typically, I have laughed off this question with delight and an appreciation of warm winter coats and armies of snow plows that are all necessities of a Minnesota life.

But this Christmas season, I lived the reality of that question in a fresh way.  My husband and I were up north visiting my family for the holiday season.  The Christmas carol line of “folks dressed up like eskimos…” could be sung about every person we encountered (myself included!) as we ran around town with our breath hanging frozen in the air like clouds swirling around us. This line of the Christmas song is always a reality at this time of year, but even more so this recent Christmas with below-zero temperatures and cautionary tales of leaving skin exposed to the elements.

Why would people live in such a frozen tundra?  How do people endure the long winters?  The answer lies in the iconic phrase from The Wizard of Oz: There is no place like home.

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Several relatives from Fargo, North Dakota arrived at my parents’ Minnesota home a few days before new year’s eve.  Upon my uncle’s arrival, we quickly began chatting about the weather.  “The temperature is only a high of -4 degrees tomorrow!” I exclaimed, to which he replied, “It is supposed to get to -30 degrees in Fargo tomorrow!”  I couldn’t top that, and indeed, the same question I had heard so often entered my own head: Why does anyone live there?!

Again, the answer for many people is simple: There is no place like home.  People do not stay because of the skin-numbing cold temperatures.  (Although even this kind of cold has never stopped Minnesotans from playing outdoor ice hockey, from sledding at the local park, or from window shopping in the downtown streets of St. Paul!)  They stay because of the people, the opportunities, the way of life, the memories that have been and that are yet to be.  And like myself, even if they move out-of-state, they visit frequently to make more memories, to be with those they love, and to brave the wintery elements together!

This recent holiday season, I took time to reflect about how home can produce a multitude of emotions.  There are joyful memories from years past, longing for loved ones who are not with us anymore, anticipation of time-tested traditions, and a very real sense of “coming home.”

God has put this desire to “come home” in each one of us.  There truly is no place like home.  And yet, there are many statistics floating around at this time of year about people feeling a sense of depression or just being “down in the dumps.”  Why is this?

Home for each individual holds a slightly different expectation.  It fills us and yet also stirs in us a longing for something more.  For those who do not yet know Jesus, this stirring can produce an acute sense of emptiness.  For those of us who have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, this sense of longing is something we know to be a longing for our eternal home, one in which we are truly with Jesus.  Jesus is “Immanuel, God with us.”  This world also is not our final destination, and our approach toward the concept of home during our time here on earth should reflect that. But does this mean that our physical homes are unimportant?  That songs such as “I’ll be home for Christmas” should be sung with tempered gusto? What is a God-honoring perspective about home supposed to look like?

As we embark on a new year, many of your resolutions, aspirations, and goals may be related to the concept of home: keep the house cleaner, stay in your weekly budget so you can save enough to get the kitchen remodeled, host a dinner party once a month, have your devotion time in a consistent place of the house each morning, be more understanding of your spouse, spend more time together as a family, actually use the treadmill that is in the basement, update the front yard landscape, or make healthier meals for your family.  There are God-given reasons that so many of our hopes and goals connect directly to the home.  As the holiday season comes to a close and a new year is before us, let’s take a look together at three proactive attitudes that we should cultivate to give us the clear insight and perspective that God wants us to have about HIS purpose and design for home…

1) Make your home.

I love HGTV shows like Fixer Upper and Home Town!  These are two shows that don’t just emphasize the look of the house but even more so the people who will inhabit those homes.  The homes are designed in such a way as to express the beauty of their family lives: laundry rooms and offices are designed with functional organization in mind; master suites are planned out down to the minute detail so as to provide a retreat for the married couples of the home; and attractive kitchen islands are installed to bring the family together.

Whether or not updated furniture or a new kitchen island is in your future, our homes are places that should constantly be in a design process.  I am not just talking about outward appearance or how organized your home is, although those can most definitely contribute to a sense of peace and purpose.  But most importantly, our homes ought to be places that stem from a beautiful heart that is inhabited by Jesus Christ.  Every part of our home lives are to be “designed” around that!

And, ladies, this starts with us!  Yes, husbands are called by God to leadership in the home, but women are the ones who are shown in the Bible to be the caretakers of the home in the day-in, day-out and the gnitty-gritty.  The Bible shows us that it is the woman’s responsibility to “make the home” and to tend her household; this is more than mere duty or drudgery but a holy calling that can bear fruit for the kingdom of God!  Consider the Proverbs 31 woman:

She also rises while it is yet night, and provides food for her household. (v. 15)

She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household is clothed with scarlet. (v. 21)

She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. (v. 27)

Her home is well-tended, and all of her actions and motivations stem from her fear of the Lord: Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates. (v. 30-31)

Be a homemaker, and make your home a place of holiness that is consecrated to the Lord. Whether you are single, married, work outside the home, or are a stay-at-home mom, this is something that we are all called to. In the look, the routine, the relational dynamics, and the organization of your home, know your purpose and begin with a surrendered heart!  Give your home heart, because home is where the heart is!  Don’t strive for perfection, but foster and cultivate joy, peace, holiness, and welcoming to the glory of God.  Seek His wisdom, and ask HIM for fresh ideas as to where to begin this year in honoring Him and bearing kingdom fruit as a homemaker.

2) Remember your home.

“This life helps prepare us for the glory of the heavenly kingdom…here on earth we may have a foretaste of the divine kindness, so that our hope and longing may be kindled for the full revelation of it.”  (John Calvin)

This world is not our final destination.  Right now, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and He has made a residence in our hearts. But one day, we will be with Him for eternity.  He has prepared a place for us, and we will finally and truly be “home” when we see Him face-to-face! (Revelation 22:4)

But while we are here on this earth, we can gain a foretaste of the next world.  Oftentimes, the holidays produce in us a beautiful nostalgia.  But there is also a longing that gets stirred in us that we may not quite be able to put our finger on. What is this longing that we feel when the family is gathered cozily with pie and coffee in the living room, the Christmas tree is lit, candles on the fireplace mantel are flickering, and Bing Crosby is crooning “White Christmas” in the background?  I believe that at the holidays, home for many of us gives us a foretaste of the life to come: our eternal home.

Jesus said to His disciples in John 14:1-3, shortly before His crucifixion, “Let not your heart be troubled:  ye believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many mansions:  if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

The last several chapters in the book of Revelation describe what it will be like when we are finally with the Lord.  It will be the “full revelation” of the divine kindness that we have had a taste of in this world.  It will also be a time when “God will wipe away every tear” from our eyes, and there will be “no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, and there will be no more pain.” (Revelation 21:4)

This world is not our final destination, so let’s choose to consciously be in remembrance of our eternal home!  We are called as Christians to look at what is unseen, but this will work in us a deeper longing for our “habitation which is from heaven.”  (2 Corinthians 5:2)  We will get to BE with Him!  (2 Corinthians 5:8)   The more we grow in our spiritual-mindedness, with our eyes fixed upon Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2), the more our awareness of eternity will be stirred in us where will be “always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

3) Invite others home.

When we have cultivated a God-honoring attitude of intentionally making our home and of remembering our eternal home, the third attitude will come naturally: That of inviting others home.  This is the most action-oriented of the three “home” attitudes God wants to foster in us, and it is two-fold:

  • In Romans 12:13, we are commanded as followers of Jesus Christ to distribute to the needs of the saints (our fellow brothers and sisters in the body of Christ) and to be “given to hospitality.” The word given in this verse means literally pursuing hospitality.  Make your home a place of hospitality where all who enter experience the light and love of Jesus!  You can do this for your family members, neighbor children, friends and loved ones, a small group, a missionary family, etc.  Home is one of the ways God designed for believers to minister to one another!
  • Secondly, knowing that we have an eternal home with Jesus should compel us to tell others, too! When we live spiritually-minded with the ever-growing understanding that this world is not our home, our longing for the Lord will intensify and our sense of urgency to share the transforming truth of the Gospel will, too!  (Click here to read one of our posts from last year about “Living Daily with an Eternal Perspective”! It gives a ton of practical ideas to put the Great Commission into action as we embark on a new year: https://wholeheartedwoman.live/2017/05/04/living-daily-with-an-eternal-perspective-part-2-compelled-by-the-great-commission/)

Habits of Home

With the Christmas season once again behind us and a new year ahead of us, seek the Lord about HIS design for home in your life.  As we close, prayerfully consider some of the following questions:

  • Make your home: Is there an area that needs God’s truth and wisdom as you “make your home” to His glory? Does a “keeping up with the Joneses” attitude motivate you, or does a desire to bless others?  Does your family truly feel “at home” in your residence?  Why is this so important, both on a practical and spiritual level?
  • Remember your home: Do you frequently consider that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21)? Do you live with an awareness that for Christians, death is just a gateway to eternal life with Jesus?  That He is preparing a place for us?  This does not mean that we do not tend to the affairs of this life – God is in the details and wants us to do whatever we do with an attitude of excellence as we “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17).  Yet, why is it so important to live with an awareness of eternity?  How can you become more spiritually-minded?  How will this affect your day-to-day attitudes and actions?
  • Invite others home: Who does God want you to invite into your home this year? How can your physical residence become a place for spiritually-minded fellowship with other believers?  Or a place of powerful prayer that extends beyond the walls of your home and has repercussions that God uses to reach into eternity?  Secondly, how can you live with even greater intention this year as an ambassador for Christ?  Our goal is not just to make life better for others while they are here.  We MUST tell them about everlasting life through salvation through Jesus Christ!  A few quick ideas: Prayer calendar for international missions endeavors; showing the love of Jesus at a local soup kitchen; a short-term mission trip as a family; host a meal for a missionary family who spoke at your church and learn from their experiences; invite an unsaved relative to church; guide your children in being spiritually-minded in their friendships, helping them to pray for the salvation of their friends and to be a verbal witness, too (inviting friends to church, hosting a neighborhood “Good News Club,” etc.); visiting a nursing home with your children and having them distribute hand-made pictures or cards to the residents with notes of encouragement such as “Jesus loves you and so do we!”  Use that creative mind that God has given you, and do SOMETHING for the sake of the gospel.  Start somewhere, put it into action, and just see what God does.  People are searching whether they realize it or not, and you are a tool in God’s hands to invite people HOME!

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True Thanksgiving

By: Jenni Walker

“O Lord, that lends me life, lend me a heart replete with thankfulness!”  (William Shakespeare)

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  (Colossians 3:17)

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Halloween clearance items lined the endcaps of store shelves while Christmas music played.  Signs near each aisle boasted of the soon-to-be Christmas season with messages like:  “Make it a Christmas to remember.”  “Jumpstart the Christmas season.”  “Need some Christmas spirit?  Check out our online options!”  And it was only November first.

Where was the message of Thanksgiving?  For many, this is the meaning of Thanksgiving now – enjoy a low-key Thursday and then shop until you drop on Black Friday.  I saw a quote recently that said, “Only in America do people trample others for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.”  This, of course, is a humorously exaggerated experience of Thanksgiving, but for most of us Thanksgiving comes and goes in a blink of an eye.  And for many of us, we do not even stop to consider the depth of its meaning.

What is the meaning of Thanksgiving?  For many of us, it is a day of boxes to check off: The Pilgrims and Native Americans?  That story seems rather antiquated, but I did put up a welcome sign with a turkey in a Pilgrim hat.  I thought of things I am thankful for.  I posted a photo of my perfect-looking meal and of the family that I love.  Yes, I sure do have a lot to be thankful for…but Halloween is more fun for my kids, and now I need to move on to Christmas preparations so I prefer a low-key Thanksgiving. A little bit of family, food, football…‘Tis the season!

Again, what is the true meaning Thanksgiving?  It is more than just a day: by God’s design, it is a way of life that should be emphasized, celebrated, and put into practice all throughout the year.  Am I thankful only when life feels easy?  Do I demonstrate my thankfulness for my family in actionable ways year-round?  Am I thankful for the instant gratification of things more than I am for intangibles like high moral character built over a lifetime?  Do I say that I am thankful for salvation through the work of Jesus on the cross but not live a life that testifies of it it through the ongoing work of being a “living sacrifice” with a life of service to the Lord?  Do I say that I am blessed but not demonstrate it in my thoughts, words, and actions?

The even larger question is this: to Whom do we give thanks?  Like the commemorated meal of the Pilgrims and the Native Americans that first Thanksgiving, together we look up to the Source of all our blessings and say, “Praise GOD from Whom all blessings flow, praise HIM all creatures here below!”  By God’s design, thanksgiving is something to be practiced not just one day a year or merely as lip service.  It is meant by God to be transformative in our lives if we will remember several important aspects about what it truly means to have a thankful heart.

1) Thanksgiving is an attitude.

“An attitude of gratitude” is more than good manners and saying please and thank you.  We are called to approach and respond to each part of life with hearts that are surrendered to the Lord.  He is our Creator, our Shepherd, our Savior, our Lord, and we come to Him on His terms, not our own.  And for this we are grateful, because the One to whom we have surrendered our lives and chosen to follow for all of our days is who He says He is.  And He not only says it – He reveals Himself actionably!

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for thanks means “Acknowledging what is right about God in praise and thanksgiving (1 Chr. 16:34). It can also mean a right acknowledgment of self before God in confessing sin (Lev. 26:40).”  (Warren Baker and Eugene E. Carpenter, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2003), 419.)  Thanksgiving God’s way begins with an attitude of surrender to the lordship of Christ – acknowledging our need for Him and praising and thanking Him for who He is.

In Psalm 100, we are given a beautiful depiction of how a thankful heart is two-fold as both an attitude and action:

Do:

“Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.
Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing.”

Know:
“Know that the LORD Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.”

Do:

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.”

Know:

“For the LORD is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.”

(Psalm 100)

True Thanksgiving begins with a heart of thankfulness for who God is and for what He has done!

2) Thanksgiving is an action.

While Psalm 100 demonstrates an attitude of sincere thanksgiving to the Lord, it also emphasizes the importance of responding to who we know God to be!  To Whom are we giving thanks?  It is the giving of thanks which stems from an ongoing state of being: “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts…and be thankful.”  It is from this that our actions can genuinely be from a God-honoring thankful heart, and our lives become permeated with true thanksgiving.

When we understand to Whom we are thankful and that our lives are defined by Him and who He is, our lives take on a deeper sense of purpose because we grow more deeply rooted in our identity as “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  (Ephesians 2:10)  There is a work we are here to do – to know our Lord and to make Him known others!

On our Cape Cod honeymoon, Bryan and I visited the Pilgrim Memorial, which commemorates the harbor where the Pilgrims first landed.  On August 20, 1907, President Teddy Roosevelt gave an address at its cornerstone-laying ceremony in which he observed this kind of attitude in the Pilgrims that came to fruition in the work that they did.  He said of the Pilgrims that they laid “deep the immovable foundations of our whole American system of civil, political, and religious liberty achieved through the orderly process of law.  This was the work allotted him to do; this is the work he did; and only a master spirit among men could have done it.”

He expounded, saying, “We have traveled far since his day.  That liberty of conscience which he demanded for himself, we now realize must be freely accorded to others as it is resolutely insisted upon for ourselves.  The splendid qualities which he left to his children…and which we can by no manner of means afford to lose.  We have gained a joy of living which he had not, and which it is a good thing for every people to have and to develop.  Let us see to it that we do not lose what is more important still: that we do not lose the Puritan’s iron sense of duty, his unbending, unflinching will to do the right as it was given him to see the right.  It is a good thing that life should gain in sweetness, but only provided that it does not lose in strength.  Ease and rest and pleasure are good things, but only if they come as the reward of work well done, of a good fight well won, of strong effort resolutely made, and crowned by high achievement.

“The life of mere men will pass by with contemptuous disdain alike the advisers who would seek to lead us into the paths of ignoble ease and those who teach us to admire successful wrongdoing.  Our ideals should be high, and yet they should be capable of achievement in practical fashion; and we are as little to be excused if we permit our ideals to be tainted with what is sordid and mean and base, as if we allow our power of achievement to atrophy and become either incapable of effort or capable only of such fantastic effort as to accomplish nothing of permanent good.  The true doctrine to preach to this nation, as to the individuals composing this nation, is not the life of ease, but the life of effort.  If it were in my power to promise the people of this land anything, I would not promise them pleasure, I would promise them that stern happiness which comes from the sense of having done in practical fashion a difficult work which was worth doing.” (http://www.theodorerooseveltcenter.org/Research/Digital-Library/Record/ImageViewer?libID=o286435&imageNo=1)

Many people in our country today have come to believe today that work to do is not something to be thankful for.  But true thankfulness to the Lord for who He is and all He has done will spur us to DO what He has called us to do!  We are called to be a holy people of action, and doing the will of God is directly tied to a thankful heart: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  (Colossians 3:17)

3) Thanksgiving is ongoing.

Thanksgiving became an officially-recognized holiday in our nation in 1789 at the request of Congress under George Washington’s presidency.  In his Thanksgiving proclamation, Washington said, “Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation…”

Washington aptly points out that we give thanks to God in an ongoing manner for “all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”  A day to commemorate is important, and I believe the ceremony of tradition and remembrance is honoring to the Lord.  But we must not stop there but, rather, should cultivate a heart of thankfulness that is continues during the year and throughout the course of our time here on earth.

The Israelites throughout the Old Testament had feasts which were days of remembrance for what the Lord had done; they erected memorials to commemorate God’s faithfulness to them in specific locations.  They also posted the laws of God over the doors of their homes, wore them on their clothing, talked about them at mealtime with their children, and “bound them around their neck” and “wrote them upon the table of their heart” throughout the course of their everyday lives (Deuteronomy 6:6-13).

A recent story that has impressed this on my heart lately is that of Ebenezer Scrooge.  This story has become Christmas folklore and has been shared by so many people over the years.  This Christmas season is no exception in my local community where I have been preparing to make my directorial debut as director of Ken Jones’ Scrooge’s Christmas, a condensed musical version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  As the director, I have been eating, breathing, and sleeping this play, and I have read the script more times than I can count.  With each rehearsal, something about the story seems to strike me in a new way.  It was only natural around Thanksgiving last week that I gleaned some new insight into the true meaning of Thanksgiving from this Christmas-themed show.

Near the end of Scrooge’s story, he must face all of the choices and experiences of his upbringing, of the people currently in his life, and of the resulting bleakness in his future.  As he pours out his heart in contrition and repentance, he finally exclaims, “I will live in the past, present, and the future!”

We can be thankful for the past because we see the faithfulness of God in guiding our steps, in leading us according to His will, in healing the broken places of our hearts…

We can be thankful for the present because we know that what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal.  It is a beautiful peak on a mountain on which to say, “Lord, I have so much higher to go.  But thank you for how far I have come and for being with me right here, right now…”

We can be thankful for the yet-to-come.  “His mercy endures forever.”  “He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”  “All His promises are yes and amen.”  We can be assured that God is at work and that He is making His plans and purposes come to pass in this earth!  That when we pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” that He is already answering that prayer in so many ways not just for our time here on earth but for eternity…

This Is the Will of God

This article is not meant to discourage you from watching football on Thanksgiving or shopping on Black Friday.  Rather, I pray that it will encourage you to consider what true thanksgiving is supposed to look like in the life of a wholehearted woman of God. True thanksgiving is an attitude, an action, and is ongoing.  Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  This is not something done in our own strength.  It comes to fruition from a heart of full surrender to the will of God and recognizing that thanksgiving is both commanded of us because it is His will, and it also produces great peace and blessing!  We are reminded in Romans 8:6 that “to be spiritually-minded is life and peace.”  This is why cultivating a thankful heart is so essential to the will of God: it lifts up the eyes of our heart to who our Lord is; it helps us to know Him, depend upon Him, and to experience Him as He truly is in our everyday lives; and it spurs us to action to see His kingdom come and His will be done “on earth as it is in heaven.”

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Feeding Your Fears

By: Jenni Walker

“When I am afraid, I will trust in You.  In God (I will praise His word), in God I have put my trust; I will not fear.  What can flesh do to me?”  (Psalm 56:3-4)

“If you would live in victory . . . you must refuse to be dominated by the seen and the felt.” (Amy Carmichael) 

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It all began with Preena, a little girl of seven years old who had been sold by her mother to the Hindu priests in her region of India.  With branded hands and a captive life of temple prostitution ahead of her, she had only hopelessness, abuse, and despair to look forward to.  After already trying to escape once and failing, little Preena attempted escape again, this time finding her way quite literally into the hands of her rescuer.  She describes her first meeting with the woman who she would later call her “true mother” in the following way: “Our precious Ammai [‘Ammai’ means ‘true mother’ in Tamil] was having her morning chota. When she saw me, the first thing she did was to put me on her lap and kiss me. I thought, ‘My mother used to put me on her lap and kiss me – who is this person who kisses me like my mother?’ From that day she became my mother, body and soul.’”  (http://www.christianvoice.org.uk/index.php/heroes-of-faith/) You may have heard of this woman before.  Her name is Amy Carmichael: tireless missionary to India, author of 35 books and poems, and rescuer of over 1000 children like little Preena.

Amy Carmichael was a woman who did not trifle with fear.  She was a real woman with both a heart that experienced loneliness and loss as well as a body that was susceptible to ongoing pain, illness, and injury.  And yet, her entire being was consumed by passion to be used by her Lord for His purposes and by a holy love for the children that she was “Ammai” to.  There were plenty of opportunities throughout the course of her lifetime for her to be stopped by fear: She could have given up missionary work for fear of failure after having to leave Japan just over a year after her arrival there in her early years.  She could have easily grown despairing of the critical and unsupportive things often said of her ministry by fellow local missionaries.  She could have become despondent in her efforts when one of the orphans in her care died of disease.  She could have simply chosen to not even attempt to rescue children from being “tied to the gods” in temple prostitution for fear of it being too hard, of being discovered by local authorities, or from thinking herself ill-equipped or incapable.  But because she refused to be governed by fear, we today know her story and the eternal fruit that was produced through her life’s work.

Feeding and Festering

I think we as women often rationalize our fears.  We often treat each one of them like a pet goldfish – just a pinch of worry here, a fearful thought that we choose to ruminate about over here, a decision that we decide not to make for fear of what others may think.  We can still keep it together with our fear in the bowl like that goldfish, not really getting in our way, but giving it occasional attention by watching it, feeding it, and keeping it around.

But fear does not stay contained like a pet goldfish.  If unchecked, it is something that can grow and begin to ingrain itself in our thought patterns, in our speech, in the actions we choose to take (or not take), and ultimately in the course and calling that God has for each one of us.  Hmm, that sounds kind of extreme, you may be thinking to yourself.  Besides, how am I supposed to not fear or worry sometimes?  To be sure, the uncertainties of life can easily produce fear in each one of us.  Our bodies even have natural heightened responses when there is a perceived threat:  Your body may be in shock after a car accident; your heart may race as you jump into action the moment when it looks like your child is about to take a tumble from the top of the swing set; your palms may sweat when you have a presentation to give to a large audience.  There will be times when we have to face some fearful realities in our lives.  But the problem comes when we begin to live with the habit of feeding our fears.

Ladies, we cannot make light of fear, worry, and anxiety.  Fear is not something to address just because it is unwanted or feels unpleasant.  Any fear, anxiousness, or worry that is allowed to fester divides our focus, holds us captive, and stymies the eternal impact that God has ordained for each one of us in our time here on this earth.  So what do we do when we are faced with fear?  That will depend on the habits and attitudes we have been cultivating day-in, day-out.  We must build up our trust in the Lord and combat our fears with the truth of His Word!  Psalm 56:9-11 provides us with a beautiful description of how to do this in the face of fear: “When I cry out to You, then my enemies will turn back; this I know, because God is for me.  In God (I will praise His word), in the Lord (I will praise His word), in God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?”

Is there an area of your life that you have been experiencing fear instead of unshakeable trust in the Lord?  Like the little goldfish, do you regularly feed your fears?  Let’s look at three fear-feeding habits that we as wholehearted women need to be on guard about…

Habit 1 — Playing it out in our minds.

All of us experience fearful or anxious thoughts that slip into our minds at various times.  But rather than combating them immediately with the truth of God’s Word, many times people choose to entertain those thoughts.  They mull them over, play out the various scenarios, and slowly that fear gets fed.  Many of these begin with thinking about the “what-ifs” of life – what if I experience…

Physical harm from a natural disaster or a sudden illness?

A broken relationship like the one on that television program?

A disappointing reaction to something I worked really hard at?

The harm of a child when he/she is at a friend’s home or is learning to drive?

The fear of what others may think of you or might be saying behind my back?

King David of the Old Testament had plenty of opportunities to play out fearful scenarios in his mind.  Did you know that many of his Psalms were written in the midst of great difficulties?  And yet his responses demonstrate to us how to feed our trust in the Lord in the midst of circumstances that could easily produce fear:

  • In Psalm 7, when a Benjamite named Cush was intentionally speaking slanderously against him, David prays, “O Lord my God, in You I put my trust; save me from all those who persecute me, and deliver me” (verse 1).
  • In Psalm 56, when he has just been captured by Philistine enemies, he writes: “You number my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle; are they not in Your book? When I cry out to You, then my enemies will turn back; this I know, because God is for me” (verses 8-9).
  • In Psalm 57, David has fled from Saul’s murderous pursuit into a cave, and he writes: “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by” (verse 1).
  • In Psalm 63, when David is in the midst of the wilderness of Judah, he pours out his heart to the Lord: “When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches. Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.  My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me” (verses 6-8).

King David was showing us how to do what Amy Carmichael referred to as “steeping your soul in His eternal truth.”  Stop those fearful thoughts with the most powerful anecdote there is: the living and active Word of God (Hebrews 4:12-13)!  Courageously, intentionally, and habitually feed your trust in the Lord in this way.  In the words of Amy Carmichael, “We say, then, to anyone who is under trial, give Him time to steep the soul in His eternal truth. Go into the open air, look up into the depths of the sky, or out upon the wideness of the sea, or on the strength of the hills that is His also; or, if bound in the body, go forth in the spirit; spirit is not bound. Give Him time and, as surely as dawn follows night, there will break upon the heart a sense of certainty that cannot be shaken.”

Habit 2 — Talking about it with others.

While it is not wrong to seek wise counsel, many women easily make airing their thoughts and opinions with one another about worrisome topics a regular habit in a way that elevates their fears over the lordship of Christ in their life.  Does what you say align with the truth of God’s Word?  Is it feeding your trust in Him?  Is it demonstrating that your soul has found its rest and hope in God alone?

Well, I’m just a worrier, you may be thinking to yourself.  Many times, we process our worries and fears by making light of them.  Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

“Oh, my co-teacher probably won’t come through, and then I’ll have to do everything for this weekend’s Sunday school lesson.  We’re going to look completely unprepared!”

“My kindergarten son told a lie last night – again.  I’m like, ‘Am I raising a delinquent?’ sometimes.”

“My daughter just got her driver’s license, and I can’t stop picturing her getting into an accident this winter.  There are just so many reckless drivers out there, and her response time isn’t good yet.  I can only imagine the car crashes she could cause when you add ice to the mix!  Plus, she’s already kind of a worry wart.  After that, she may never want to drive again, and then I’d be the one driving her around again all the time!”

In each one of these situations, there is a valid concern.  But each woman is not practicing a godly response.  Psalm 56:3 says, “When I am afraid, I will trust in You.”  Proverbs 3:5-6 commands us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”  How do we keep a surrendered heart that trusts the Lord in the face of fear?  Again, the answer is the same: we stop feeding our fears and, instead, feed our trust in the Lord!  “Blessed be the Lord, because He has heard the voice of my supplications!  The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.  Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him” (Psalm 28:6-7).

Are the words that you speak demonstrating your trust in the Lord?  Are they a reflection of your choice to meditate on God’s Word and to feed on His faithfulness in all circumstances (Psalm 37:3)?  No matter what circumstances, uncertainties, or opportunities for worry that you are facing today, remember that God is your everlasting strength, that He is with you, and you are His (Isaiah 26:3-4; 43:1-3).  Meditate on the truth of His Word and keep a singular focus of mind, heart, and word on the Lord.  Make sure that your words and everyday conversations are aligned with the promise of His faithfulness!  “Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall enjoy much peace. If you refuse to be hurried and pressed, if you stay your soul on God, nothing can keep you from that clearness of spirit which is life and peace. In that stillness you will know what His will is.”  (Amy Carmichael)

Habit 3 — Letting it influence our choices and decisions.

At any given time, a thought like one of these might pop into your head or out of your mouth:

“Oh no, I could never do that.”

“I’m just a mom/wife/employee…”

 “I’m afraid that this is not going to turn out the way I’d hoped for.”

“I’m just not that kind of person.”

“What I have to say probably won’t be accepted, so I’ll just keep it to myself.”

 “I just don’t have what it takes.”

This list of fear-based thoughts and phrases that is only a scratch on the surface.  The enemy will use certain tactics to affect how we see ourselves, to rattle our cage, and to keep us from action!  (Check out C.S. Lewis’s intriguing and insightful Screwtape Letters from more thoughts on the matter!)  Has fear become your master in a thought pattern?  In the way you talk about a certain area of your life?  When we let habits 1 and 2 go unchecked, we can find ourselves allowing those fearful or worrisome thoughts and spoken words to keep us from making courageous choices, choosing wise decisions, and walking in fruitful freedom!  Perhaps there is something that the Holy Spirit has been tugging at your heart about, but you have been feeding your fears instead of a cultivating a courageous willingness to step out in faith. God calls us to be a holy and courageous people who refuse to let God’s plans and purposes for their lives be stunted, stalled, or hindered by fear but who, instead, seek Him in their decision-making and are on-mission for Him in all that they do!

Pastor Chris Hodges puts it well in his book entitled Four Cups: “Fear-based procrastination keeps people from living life to the fullest.”  He goes on to explain that “everything changes when Jesus arrives on the scene.  He looks at ordinary people and says, ‘You are the light of the world…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be My witnesses…to the ends of the earth’ (Matthew 5:14; Acts 1:8).  [God] loves taking ordinary people and using them to do extraordinary things” (p. 88, 95-96).

Is fear or worry holding you back from being who God has called you to be?  From doing what He has called you to do?  From getting out of your comfort zone and putting the results in His hands instead of yours?  In addition to feeding your trust in the Lord through the promises of His Word, one of the best ways I know to be spurred toward action is to learn about heroes of the faith who have gone before me.  As I read about them, I observe how they kept their souls stayed on the Lord (Isaiah 26:3-4) in their mind, emotions, and words, and how they refused to let their actions be mastered by any surfacing fears, worries, or uncertainties.  They knew what to do with those fears: to refuse to feed them and, instead, to feed their faith and trust in the Lord!  In doing so, they each became examples of great and courageous faith for us to follow.  Here are just a few of my personal favorites:

Elisabeth Elliot – She stayed for a time as a missionary with the Auca Indians in South America even after her husband had been speared to death by them in attempt to reach them with the gospel.  But this was only the beginning of her story.  Much of her life after that was comprised of diligent service to the Lord as a twice-widowed wife, a mother, speaker, author, mentor, and grandmother.  Every part of her life was done in service to the Lord according to His precepts, and He expanded her audience tremendously.

Ruth Bell Graham – She had desired to be a missionary and gave up that dream when she felt God calling her to marry Billy Graham and to be a stay-at-home-mom and homemaker.  While her husband traveled as a world-renowned evangelist, she did not fear loneliness or insignificance but lived each day with a holy purpose and with a deep love for the Lord, His Word, and for others.

Gladys Aylward – A missionary to China who, among countless acts of courage for Christ, infamously walked into the midst of a murderous prison riot, took authority over the situation as she commanded each of the men to stop fighting, and then continued to demand of the prison guards that the men receive better and more humane treatment to prevent such outbreaks in the future.

Amy Carmichael – Before her missionary work in India even began, Amy faced seasickness and the possibility of her ship capsizing near Japan in the midst of a typhoon.  Upon reaching Japan, she experienced great difficulties not only with the language, but her time there was both physically and mentally taxing.  She was sent home fifteen months later and could have given up her belief that she was called by her Lord to “go ye…” as a missionary.  But she continued on courageously, finding herself in India soon thereafter and spending the rest of her days there on mission for God’s kingdom purposes!

No Mere Trifle

I would like to close with the words of Amy Carmichael, who wrote “What is the secret to great living? Entire separation to Christ and devotion to Him. Thus speaks every man and woman whose life has made more than a passing flicker in the spiritual realm. It is the life that has no time for trifling that counts.”   Wholehearted women of God, don’t trifle with fear. Fear is not something that you can keep around just a little like a pet goldfish; it grows when it is fed, and it is a tactic of the enemy of our souls!  Are you playing out fear-based scenarios in your mind?  Do you frequently hash out your worries with others in a way that builds up the fear rather than your trust in the Lord?  Have your fears become consultants in your decision-making?  Identify any of these thought patterns and habits, refuse to feed your fears and, instead, feed your trust in the Lord!

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Scriptures to Feed Your Trust in the Lord: 

“You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.”  (Psalm 32:7)

“In You, O Lord, I put my trust; let me never be ashamed; deliver me in Your righteousness (Psalm 31:1)

“The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.  I opened my mouth and panted, for I longed for Your commandments.  Look upon me and be merciful to me, as Your custom is toward those who love Your name.  Direct my steps by Your word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me.”  (Psalm 119:130-133)

“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.  My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; the humble shall hear of it and be glad.  Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.  I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.  They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed.  This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.  The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him and delivers them.  Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!”  (Psalm 34:1-8)   

Do I Belong?, Part 3: Fellowship, Our True Identity, and Eternity

By: Jenni Walker

“The moment I unite to God through Jesus Christ…I am absolutely accepted…if you are that affirmed deep down in your soul, if you know you are loved like that, then you can go out into the church, you will not look around and say, ‘Who can I hang out with to make me feel good about myself.’  You will look around and think instead, ‘Who just needs somebody to hang out with them?’  You go out there not looking to be affirmed but to be affirming.” (Timothy Keller)

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

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No matter how young or old we are, we have all had those moments throughout our lifetimes: Not getting asked to the winter formal in high school…being passed over for kickball on the playground…not having anyone to sit with at lunch…feeling like a sibling is a parent’s favorite…scanning a new environment for a friendly or familiar face…not being asked to sit with a group of women at a meeting…laughing along with some friends who are sharing a joke but not feeling a sense of connection…not receiving an invitation to a friend’s dinner party…moving to a new neighborhood…

The list of possible scenarios where we feel awkward, slightly hurt, or disconnected from others is endless.  Based on our various experiences, upbringings, and personalities, those scenarios and our responses to them will differ.  Some we can get over quickly; still others stay with us for a long time.  But we all have had them.  And we all remember them.

Accepted and Affirmed

Even when we are anchored as children who are loved by our Heavenly Father and have received adoption into the family of God by the work of Christ Jesus (John 3:16, Ephesians 1:5), we still have to wrestle with this need and desire to belong, to be wanted, to be affirmed.  How do we navigate our time here on this earth where there is always the possibility of pain, rejection, and broken relationships?   Timothy Keller puts it well explaining, “The moment I unite to God through Jesus Christ…I am absolutely accepted…if you are that affirmed deep down in your soul, if you know you are loved like that, then you can go out into the church, you will not look around and say, ‘Who can I hang out with to make me feel good about myself.’  You will look around and think instead, ‘Who just needs somebody to hang out with them?’  You go out there not looking to be affirmed but to be affirming.”  (From The Gospel, the Church, and the World sermon.)

Wholehearted women, we need to take our eyes off of ourselves!  As daughters of the King who belong to Him and in His family, we do not need to live for the approval of others.  Rather, we can live as courageous women who live for our Lord’s purposes and who are empowered by our identity in Christ. And now we can help others to belong, too!

It is interesting to note that both women who undermine themselves with words and those who criticize others have a common root of these behaviors: a fear of what others think of them.  Proverbs 29:25 tells us, “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.”  Combatting the need for approval from others starts with Christ!  And as Timothy Keller put it, when you have settled in your heart that you belong to the Lord and are a part of His church body, you will stop approaching relationships from a self-oriented perspective, looking for your interactions with others to make you “feel good” about yourself.  Rather, you will have a paradigm shift as you start “not looking to be affirmed but to be affirming” (Timothy Keller).

We cannot say that we belong to God, that we are a part of His body, and not be the hands and feet of Jesus to others.  These truths must translate into how we treat others in our own personal lives!  Pastor and author Chris Hodges explains it well when he writes that God “promised that we would know Him as our Lord and be part of His family.  We belong.  We’re part of a community that knows and loves the Lord and wants to serve Him.  We’re people making a difference just as our Creator designed us to do.  In light of our awareness of our true identity as sons and daughters of the King, we find ourselves compelled to praise Him, worship Him, and serve Him so that others may be set free as well.”  (From Four Cups, p. 27)  When we grow in understanding of what it means to belong to the Lord and to be a part of His family, we will begin to develop hearts of compassion that are not only free from the “fear of man” described in Proverbs 29:25, but that desire to help others experience that freedom and belonging, too!

Take Notice

Let’s be wholehearted women who have a friendly attitude that takes notice of others with a smile of acknowledgement or a helping hand, being full of hospitality, service-oriented, and demonstrating to others the great love of the Father that we have also received (Galatians 6:10; Romans 12:13).  Those who are not saved are not yet in the family of God.  But we can treat them as men and women made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and we can be demonstrators of the lavish love of God (1 John 3:1).  They need their hearts led to repentance and to see their need for a Savior, just as each one of us has experienced through the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9).  As Christians, we need to remember that we are not just good people, but are partakers of all that has been offered to us through Christ!  Living this authentically in the body of Christ and taking that kind of love to others can be used by the Holy Spirit to convict and reach the dark, needy, numbed, and rejected areas of people’s hearts.

When we relish being part of the family of God, we are not being exclusive or telling others they do not belong.  Rather, we are putting the goodness of God on display in a way that says, “Welcome, you too can belong!”  Timothy Keller puts it well in The Reason for God, explaining “[These are] Christianity’s unsurpassed offers—a meaning that suffering cannot remove, a satisfaction not based on circumstances, a freedom that does not hurt but rather enhances love, an identity that does not crush you or exclude others, a moral compass that does not turn you into an oppressor, and a hope that can face anything, even death” (Timothy Keller, The Reason for God, p. 216).  How powerful it is when Christians are real in the way that they live out these “unsurpassed offers”!

A Church of Affection and Fellowship

Before we end this section, there is one more thing for us to consider: being friendly, hospitable, and service-oriented is not just how to treat others who do not yet know Christ.  This applies to how we treat those who are already our brothers and sisters in Christ, too!  The Bible addresses time and time again how Christians are to treat one another.  Jesus commands His disciples in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”  Romans 12:10 tells believers, “Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor.”

Why does the Bible emphasize this so much?  Shouldn’t it be easier to love other Christians than non-believers?  Not always, but we are still called to do it. God’s design for family and for His church is meant to produce blessed fellowship and sincere love among His children.  This brotherly affection and love in the church is also a light to others!  In John 13:35, Jesus says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Ladies, we must love one another!  When we choose to love our sisters and Christ with a holy affection and to say and do things that bless them, we are living out part of our calling and will also receive great blessings in return (1 Peter 3:8-9).

Also, both serving people outside of the body of Christ and loving those in it is a part of our witness.  When family members extend grace and selflessness to one another, it is counter-cultural to what a “normal” reaction might be.  And it makes others outside of that family want to be a part of that, too.  People cannot help but notice the difference!  This can produce something that is deep and enduring inside the hearts of others.  There are seemingly innumerable organizations, worthy causes, Facebook groups, church small groups, and much more that we have available to help people nowadays.  But when we live in such a way as to help others belong, they are blessed and nurtured as we give and receive hospitality, neighborliness, respect, and grace to one another.  And those outside the body of Christ can have the opportunity to come to terms with their deep, eternal need to belong as they observe Christians living the hope that is provided through Christ and the beauty of His church.

We Don’t Belong Here

As we conclude, let’s revisit that question that resonates deep within each of our hearts: Do I belong?  We have examined three truths (see Parts 1 and 2 in earlier posts) that God wants each of us as wholehearted women to be deeply assured of.  As Christians, we now belong to our Lord, we belong to His family, and we are called to help others to experience that belonging.  And yet, there is one final truth that we need to address: we do not belong here.  Yes, we as Christians belong to God, we belong to the family of God as part of His church, and we are called to help others belong, too!  But no matter how deeply anchored we become in each of these biblical truths, there will always be a feeling that we do not belong that must be grappled with in our time on this earth.  Why?  Because this is not our final destination!

In 1 Peter 1:1, Peter begins his letter by addressing it to “the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Capadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.”  This word pilgrims means sojourners or temporary residents.  Here are these Christians who are dispersed all over; they all belong to the “elect” through the blood of Jesus.  And, yet, they also know that this earth is only their temporary residence.  Peter goes on to write about the genuineness of their faith, which will “be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love.  Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:7b-8).  He uses this same terminology again in 1 Peter 2:11 saying, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.”

The closer we grow in our relationship with the Lord and in the foundation of our identity, our belonging, our hope in Christ, the more we will also grow in our understanding that we will one day be with the Lord! That desire deep down to belong will be fully realized one day!  Revelation 22:3-4 describes a time when “there will be no more curse” and His servants shall serve Him and “see His face.”  And in the meantime, as sojourners here on this earth, we can be assured that we belong to our Lord (Isaiah 43:1), that we have a place in His church body (1 Corinthians 12:18), that we can help others to belong (Titus 2:14), and that one day we will always be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17).  Revelation 21:3 says, “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people.  God Himself will be with them and be their God.’”  Amen!

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