By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

Dealing with life’s craziness September 28, 2007

Filed under: marriage,parenting,spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 1:46 pm
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I recently started attending Bible Study Fellowship, and our teaching leader is so wonderful that I’m sure I’ll be sharing many tidbits from her lectures. Last week, she said that all of us have craziness in our lives–I’m sure at this very moment, at least ten things have come to mind that you are dealing with in your own life. That’s what I started thinking about when she said it, going down the familiar path of self-pity, discouragement and mental exhaustion from worry. But the next thing she said grabbed my attention: “We can choose to deal with life’s craziness biblically or non-biblically.” Such a simple idea, and so obvious, and yet it has completely changed the way that I look at things. There are only two options, two black-and-white categories in which I can place the way I react to my kids, my husband, difficult circumstances and mundane responsibilities. One question to ask: Am I responding biblically or non-biblically?

So I sat down and thought about the three primary areas of my life that cause my emotional and spiritual struggles and then outlined my non-biblical responses and what some biblical responses would be. The first task was easy–I struggle with impatience with my kids, frustration with my husband, and feeling a lack of significance as a stay-at-home mom.

Kids: I tend to respond non-biblically by avoidance (“Just go play in your rooms for awhile, please!”) or in anger. Biblical responses would include responding in love (I Corinthians 13), displaying the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), being thankful for the time I have with them, and covering all of my parenting with a heavy dose of prayer (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Husband: I usually respond non-biblically because I am focused on myself and my needs. I am only seeing things from my perspective (I am tired and had a long day, and he better swoop in with a smile and unending energy and rescue me), and I end up being demanding and angry as a result. Instead, I should remember that I am called to love him sacrificially, just as God has loved me (Ephesians 5:1-2). I need to remember the stress he’s under and do what I can to support and encourage him (I Thessalonians 5:11). I need to view marriage as a tool for God to teach me and for God’s glory, not as a way to get my needs met. (More on that later from a great book I’m reading, Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas.)

Burnout: I struggle as a stay-at-home mom because I am focused on my need to feel good about myself, and I am desperate for a way to earn the praise of others. (Doing laundry and raising kids isn’t working out too well in that regard.) I want my life to be easy, fun and comfortable, or at least be significant in the eyes of the world. A biblical response would be to understand that I’m working for God’s glory and His eternal purposes by investing my time in my husband and children (Colossians 3:23-24). I must remember that God is faithful to sustain me through the work He has called me to do (2 Corinthians 12:9). I must resist laziness and ask God to show me how He wants me to spend free time–it probably isn’t those continuous Law and Order reruns I’m so addicted to on cable (Proverbs 31–especially verses 15 and 27).

I wonder what it would look like to put all my thoughts and actions through a biblical/non-biblical filter. My response to my kid’s tantrum–biblical or non-biblical? My judgment of someone I encounter during the day that annoys me–biblical or non-biblical? My shopping habits–biblical or non-biblical? (Ouch.) My response when my husband wants his back scratched at 10:00 pm–biblical or non-biblical? If I could permanently attach this filter to my brain, my husband would probably have more money and more frequent back-scratching. 🙂

One side-note: Thank you to Rachel for the comment on the post below. I really appreciated the use of the word “temptation” to describe your struggle with discouragement. I so often forget that when I am feeling discouraged because I am believing lies rather than the truth, it is sin. I’m not supposed to tolerate it or continue in it, but rather identify it as sin, confess it, and turn from the temptation to give in to those sinful emotions.


Battling discouragement September 7, 2007

Filed under: spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 9:13 pm
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Since this is supposed to be my honest blog, I guess I better confess that for the last couple weeks, I’ve felt really discouraged. I am completely focused on myself, wallowing in self-pity, and generally hating my life and disliking everyone (read: husband and kids) who make my life the way it is. When this happens, poor hubby bears the brunt of it–I vent all my unhappiness to him, along with any small transgression he has committed in the last few months. Poor guy. This happened to him last week, and at one point he stared at me in bewilderment and said, “Maybe you should read your own blog.”

He is so right. And that is one reason I’m writing this blog, because it doesn’t take me long at all to forget the lessons that God teaches me. I start yearning for my own comfort and desires, rather than desiring nothing else but that God be glorified by my daily life.

So in the midst of my discouragement, I’ve turned to one of my favorite books–Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss–because I know that believing lies is at the root of my emotional turmoil. She writes about many lies women believe that lead to loneliness, discouragement, lack of faith, burnout, guilt, fear and depression. She also counters each lie with the truth of Scripture. Some lies that I’m struggling with right now are (lies are verbatim from the book, parenthetical remarks are my application to my struggles):

1. “If I feel something, it must be true.” (So if I feel like I never accomplish anything, I am a terrible wife and mother, and my kids are disasters, then it must be true that my life is futile.)

2. “If my circumstances were different, I would be different.” (Maybe if I had a part-time job, my kids wouldn’t drive me crazy when I was with them.)
3. “It’s all about me.” (And I seldom get to do what I want to do! Why does Will always wake up from his nap at the exact moment I finally collapse on the couch to rest for a minute?!?)
4. “I should not have to live with unfulfilled longings.” (I deserve to have all of my needs met by those around me–appreciation, comfort, privacy on the potty, etc.)

The truth is that most of the emotions I’m feeling right now are not rooted in truth; my circumstances have changed dramatically in recent months, and all my issues stayed right with me; it is all about God and for His glory; and I will always have unfulfilled longings this side of Heaven, and the most well-behaved children and adoring husband could never meet all my needs.

I’m still in the midst of battling this discouragement, but I’m trying, by God’s grace, to take each thought captive and make it obedient to Christ and His truth (see 2 Corinthians 10:5b) . I’m seeking to set my heart and mind on things above, not on earthly things (see Colossians 3:1-2). And I’m reminding myself that God has called me to spend these days serving my children so I can have daily opportunities to share the Gospel with them and teach them about their need for a Savior and how God has provided for that need by sending His Son. And when I don’t think I can endure one more afternoon of whining and tantrums, God’s grace is sufficient for me (see 2 Corinthians 12:9).

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Psalm 43:5

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3