By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

Proverbs, Part 2 August 27, 2008

I’ve been reading Proverbs this summer and finally finished.  It was excellent!  (Of course.)  Here are some of my favorite encouraging and convicting verses from the second half of the book:

Proverbs 14:29:  Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. Very convicting–the last thing we need around here is more folly!

Proverbs 15:28:  The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things. I really stink at pondering how to answer.  I prefer to pour out whatever comes to mind.  I want to ponder like the righteous!

Proverbs 23:12:  Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge. This one is for me and for my kids.  I’ve been praying for a verse for our part-time homeschooling next year, and I think this may be it.

Proverbs 27:14:  Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! I stink at waiting even more than I stink at pondering how to answer.

Proverbs 29:17:  Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart. What a fabulous promise!  Did you see that, moms?!?  He said REST!!

Proverbs 30:5:  Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. What great truth and comfort.

Proverbs 31:11, 26-27:  The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.  She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.  She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

I’ve been inspired by the Proverbs 31 Woman for a long time.  This month, verse 11 stood out to me with regard to my spending habits.  The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. Can my husband completely trust the way I handle our money and run our household?  Am I doing all I can to make sure he has “no lack of gain”?  Or am I adding to his stress as he works to keep up with my spending?  (Answers:  No, No, and Yes.)  What can I do differently to be more worthy of his trust and add to his gain?

 

Broken Hearts August 17, 2008

Filed under: spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 8:29 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

My pastor had recently been asking us the question, “Does your heart break for the same things that break God’s heart?” This has been a very convicting question for me. When left to my own devices, these are some of the things that break my heart:

  • Not getting what I want
  • Not getting what I want when I want it
  • Having to struggle or suffer
  • People not liking me
  • My children inconveniencing me with their disobedience
  • My children running a fever on days I have something fun to do

The common theme: Me. My way. My comfort.

If I were going to feel brokenhearted over things that break God’s heart, the list would look more like this:

  • My sin
  • People who don’t know Christ
  • The sick, the lonely, the poor, and the outcast

Therefore, I would trade my sorrow over suffering for joy in suffering for God’s glory. My sadness over not getting my way would become trust in God’s goodness and provision. Rather than feel inconvenienced by my children’s disobedience, I would have an earnest desire to share the Gospel with them. My heart would mourn my sinfulness, ache to share Christ with those who don’t know Him, and overflow with compassion for those in need.

A month ago when I first heard our pastor ask this question, my heart had been breaking over something that I wanted and didn’t get.  And before worship, we had heard from a missionary who was trying to raise money to buy Bibles.  He wanted give to them to people who desperately wanted to read God’s Word but did not have it available to them.  God confronted me with my selfishness that morning.  It was clear to me that my heart was not breaking over the things that break God’s heart.

Emotions are tricky.  It is hard to turn off ungodly sorrow and trade it for godly sorrow.  But I am reminded of John 15:7:  If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. I want to be abiding so deeply in the Father that my will is intertwined with His.  I want to trust so fully in His goodness and provision that when I don’t get my way, my immediate response is to know it wasn’t best for me.  (Even if I really, really thought it was.)

I want my heart and God’s heart to be breaking over the same things.  And I’ve got a long way to go.

 

Sowing Seeds of God’s Word August 14, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 9:32 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Galatians 6:7-9: Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

One of my most important jobs as a mom is to plant seeds of God’s truth in my children’s hearts. Two great tools I have been using recently are Steve Green’s Hide ‘Em in Your Hearts CD and my new CD’s from Seeds Music. I love the Steve Green CD, but the Seeds music CD’s are FABULOUS. (Thank you, Julie, for introducing me to them!) They have adults and children singing, but it is so well done that I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself listening to them even without kids in the backseat. Honestly, the Ephesians 2:8 song brought tears to my eyes the first time I heard it. I have the Praise and Faith albums, and I plan to order the others soon.

It is such a blessing for me to watch my kids as they listen to God’s Word set to music. I pray that God will take these seeds we are planting and grow them into living, active faith in Christ. I’ll admit it, I’m becoming a bit of a fanatic. It is hard to get excited about singing about bus drivers and climbing spiders with my kids when we could be singing, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). There’s just nothing better than the Word of God.

 

Worry August 7, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 7:11 am
Tags: , , , ,

You want to hear some pathetic? I was looking for this post the other day. I was certain I had written a post about Worry at some point, but couldn’t find it anywhere. Yesterday I noticed I had two drafts–I knew about one, but couldn’t remember the second. Yep, there was my post about worry. Just some notes, waiting to be written into a post. I can be such an airhead sometimes!

So what I thought I had written weeks ago is what Linda Dillow has to say about worry in her book, “Calm My Anxious Heart.” (Click the Linda Dillow tag on the right to see my other posts on this book.) I loved her discussion of God’s character. She writes about how He is trustworthy, faithful, and eternal. His goodness and power are constants, despite our changing circumstances. We know about God’s character from His Word, which also does not change. Truth is truth, regardless of our feelings and situation.

So when difficulties come, we can choose to worry, or we can choose to trust the One who is trustworthy. Dillow writes, “When What Ifs come into our lives, we must ask ourselves if we’re going to judge God by the circumstances we don’t understand or judge the circumstances in light of the character of God” (p. 160).

One reason I struggle with worry so often is that I am too focused on the future and possible troubles that could come my way. Almost all of the possible events I worry about never happen. Dillow included a quote from George McDonald that really spoke to me about this: “It has been well said that no man ever sank under the burden of the day. It’s when tomorrow’s burden is added to the burden of today that the weight is more than a man can bear” (p. 190). I’m trying to focus more on what God is calling me to do right now and not borrow trouble from tomorrow.

In Dillow’s discussion of faith, she writes: “We say we want more faith, but really what we want is sight. Sight says, ‘I see that it’s good for me, so God must have sent it,’ but faith says, ‘God sent it, so it must be good for me.’ God asks us to walk by faith, not by sight” (p. 151). This was so convicting for me. I love information. I hate surprises. I want to know everything, and I want to be the first to know. But God asks me to trust Him, even when I don’t have all the information.

Dillow includes two examples of this type of faith from Scripture. In Exodus 14, the Israelites are fleeing Egypt. During a long, dark night, they can hear the Egyptians closing in, and they are terrified. They cannot see that during the night, God is working to save them by parting the Red Sea.

In Habakkuk, God tells the prophet Habakkuk that his people are going to be conquered by a nation known for its cruelty. Habakkuk asks God why He will allow this to happen, but God does not provide an answer. Habakkuk must endure the suffering, relying on God’s faithfulness and character. In the midst of devastation and an uncertain future, Habakkuk chooses to rejoice in the Lord: Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places (Habakkuk 3:17-19). I had never read Habakkuk before, and I recommend it to you. It is only three chapters, so it is a quick read.

Just like the Israelites and Habakkuk, sometimes we are required to walk through a dark night without knowing why or how it will end. Even without all the information we’d like to have, we know that God’s Word is true and His goodness never falters. We can trust that no matter what storm is blasting through our life, from God’s eternal perspective, we are safe in His hands.

 

Trusting God August 4, 2008

Filed under: spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 8:31 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I was recently asked by Shane at Heart Reflections what I would say to someone who was struggling with trusting God. I thought it was an excellent question. (And was flattered that she would ask me.) It is also a timely question for me, because right now, as always, there are at least two or three areas of my life that I’m struggling to commit to God’s timing and provision.

Shane posted my response here and two other blogger’s responses here. Here’s what I wrote:

What is the basis for our trust in God? We are all trusting someone or something–random chance, ourselves (our own skills and ability to make things happen), other people, the stars, money and material possessions, relationships, or the sovereign Creator of the universe. The truth is that God is sovereign (in control, ruling) over every aspect of our lives. When we put our trust in someone or something else, we are putting our hope in a lie.

How do we trust God when He seems distant or absent from our lives? We’ve all been there–we’ve prayed and prayed, and things are still not working out like we planned. Often, when my plans don’t work out the way I hoped, I am devastated. Then I realize that I was not trusting God in the sense of wholly submitting to His plan for my life. I was merely believing that God would give me what I wanted, when I wanted it. Trusting that God will give me what I want is not trusting God. Taking whatever He gives as an expression of His love for me and knowing it is for my good–that is trusting Him. Romans 8:32 tells us: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” We have seen the lengths to which God will go to take care of His people–He sent His own Son to the cross for our salvation. So I can trust that if I have something, it is because it is for my good. If I don’t have something, it is because I don’t need it or it isn’t good for me.

The verse I cling to when I am struggling with trusting God is Proverbs 19:21: “Many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” I like to make plans, and I hate it when my plans don’t work out. It can be annoying, frustrating, discouraging, painful, heartbreaking, and devastating. Proverbs 19:21 reminds me that if my plan does not line up with the Lord’s purpose, it is best for me that it fails. It is better that my life be ruled by the purpose of the Sovereign Creator rather than the short-sighted, feeble mind of a sinful human. God demonstrated His love for me on the cross (see Romans 5:8 ) and continues to demonstrate His love for me by only bringing into my life that which is for my good and for His glory. He protects me by not giving me those things I ask for which would not truly be best for me. Praise the Lord!