By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

Unthankfulness July 1, 2009

Do you know how many times my children have opened their dresser drawers and exclaimed, “Clean clothes!  Washed, dried, folded and put in my drawer!  Way to go, Mom!  Thank you!”

Zero.  Usually, all I hear is, “When are you going to wash my Transformer pj’s?”  Sound familiar?

When I read Jerry Bridge’s chapter on Unthankfulness (see previous post on his book Respectable Sins), I realized that I must look the same way to God as my kids do to me.  God has done so much for me and continues to sustain me every day, and I seldom stop to thank Him.  God has rescued me from guilt, sin and death by delivering me from the domain of darkness and transferring me to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom I have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14).  He has blessed me in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3).  In addition to spiritual blessings, He has given me every ability or skill I have, a loving husband, three healthy children, friends, a home, possessions, food . . . everything I have comes from Him.

How often do I thank God for my mini-van?  For the ability to go to the store when we run low on food?  For the privelege of gathering with other Christians openly every Sunday to hear the Word of God preached?  It is not often that I exhibit a sincere attitude of thankfulness.

I read an article on happiness recently in Good Housekeeping magazine.  It said that when we buy something we want, we have a high level of satisfaction, but only for a very short time.  We quickly become used to having that item around and take it for granted, and our sights turn to the next item we want.  This is so true in my life.  I remember last year, when I desperately wanted to replace the ceiling fan over our dining room table with a beautiful chandelier.  Finally, I got my chandelier, and I loved it.  For about a week, I looked at it all the time and felt happy and thankful.  Now, how often do you think I still notice my beautiful chandelier?  Pretty much never.  Rather than being thankful for what I have, I turn my attention to that sofa I’d like to replace.

Jerry Bridges reminded me in this chapter that my unthankfulness is a sin.  Sound harsh?  It’s true.  In Ephesians 5:20, we see the command to give “thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Bridges writes, “Failure to give Him the thanks due to Him is sin.  It might seem like a benign sin to us because it doesn’t harm anyone else.  But it is an affront and insult to the One who created us and sustains us every second of our lives.”

Bridges also writes about giving thanks in ALL circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  This is a personal challenge for me right now, as someone I love very much is facing a battle with cancer.  I found comfort in Bridges’ discussion of this topic, encouraging us that giving thanks in difficult circumstances can only be done by faith in the promises of God.  We can only obey I Thessalonians 5:18 because we know Romans 8:28 is true:  For we know for those who love God all things work together for good.  In the midst of heartache, we can thank God for the good we know He can accomplish through any circumstance.


My Complaining Heart March 2, 2009

The Israelites are at it again.  Grumbling, that is.  A recurring theme in our BSF study of the Life of Moses this year is how the Israelites continue to grumble and complain in spite of all the wonderful things God has done for them.  Last week, we studied Numbers 11, in which the Israelites once again complain about the manna God is miraculously providing for food each day.  In our lecture, our teaching leader said that we often think we have the right to tell everyone how we are feeling at all times, especially if we are unhappy about something.

She might as well have been talking directly to me.  Even with the sinfulness of complaining being pointed out to me again and again in this study, I still struggle with a complaining heart.  I definitely think everyone around me needs the full story whenever something is bothering me, and there are plenty of things that bother me.  I have to admit, one of the things I look forward to when my husband gets home from work is being able to unload on him all the hardships of my day.  The complaining heart rears its head over and over again.  And Numbers 11 reminds me that each time I complain, I am sinning and even rejecting the Lord and His provision for me (verse 20).

And then there’s the fact that I’m 31 weeks pregnant with my third child.  Those of you who have walked in my shoes know exactly how this could lead to some complaining–complaining that even seems justified until you look at it through God’s holy eyes.  When I first heard the BSF lecture on complaining last week, I thought, “People ask me how I’m feeling all the time.  How am I supposed to answer honestly without complaining?”  Our teaching leader pointed out that God desires our gratitude, regardless of our circumstances.  I need to ask God to take away my complaining heart and replace it with a grateful one.

At first, I just aimed for outward change with regard to complaining.  My husband may not have noticed much change yet–sorry, honey, I’m working on it–but I have tried to answer the “how are you feeling?” questions with less complaining and more thankfulness.   Instead of cataloging every ache and pain for everyone who asks, I try to say I am mostly feeling good and thankful to be having a healthy pregnancy.

As I’ve made this outward change, I’ve noticed that there has been an inward change going on as well.  The aches and pains don’t bother me as much anymore.  They are simply reminders that God has given me the privilege of carrying this baby girl for 31 weeks, and that she is active and growing.

I still have work to do in this area . . . it is hardest to not complain to those I am closest to and other favorite topics of complaining that I need to deal with.  There is a fine line between being honest about my struggles and complaining.  While I want to be open and honest, I also want to glorify God with my speech and not grumble about any of the gifts He has given me–including my kids, my husband, his job, our home, and our finances.

The REAL test will come in 2 months when the baby comes and people ask, “How are you doing?  Are you getting any sleep yet?”  I better start asking God now to show me how to be thankful for sleep that comes in 2 hour increments!


Perspective May 2, 2008

Filed under: spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 11:59 am
Tags: , ,

I have several friends’ blogs and other websites I enjoy reading, and I try to keep up with them as best I can.  But there are two blogs that I read faithfully every day.  Brad and Laura Grammer are friends of ours from Indy, and Laura is struggling with leukemia.  Drew Christy is the nephew of another Indy friend, and he has been in a coma since a car accident on February 22.  Brad, Laura, and Drew’s mom are all Christians, and the way they rely on Christ through their heart-wrenching circumstances is both convicting and inspiring for me.

I know it is cliche, but I think it is important for me to remember how truly easy and comfortable my life is right now.  It is so easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking that my life as a stay-at-home mom of two small boys is incredibly difficult.  But reading about the suffering of the Grammers and the Christys reminds me to be thankful for what I have.  I complain when my kids are sick, because it means that I am stuck at home with them, listening to their whining all day long.  But when Laura’s kids are sick, she has to go stay somewhere else and cannot see her kids because their germs could be dangerous for her.  And Drew’s mom has been waiting for over 2 months for her son to wake up and talk, and she would probably give anything to hear him complain about something.

Staying home with two little boys is not suffering.  Having a husband who works past 5 p.m. most days is not suffering.  Not having money to buy new furniture is not suffering.  Dealing with potty training and disobedience and whining most of the day is not suffering.  Even dealing with seemingly never-ending diarrhea is not suffering.  And not liking how I look in my jeans is definitely not suffering.  But I’m embarrassed to admit that most days, I think and act and talk like it is.

In addition to praying for healing for Laura and Drew, I’ve been asking God to give me a better perspective on suffering and gratitude for the life He’s given me.  Ever since my friend Linda, Drew’s aunt, reminded me how much Drew’s mom would love to have her son chasing her and screaming while she tries to cook dinner, I’ve been a little more patient with my kids.  I’ve tried to view each day with them as a gift and enjoy them more.  We never know what God has planned for us, so I want to be committed to making the most of this relatively easy time to teach my children and prepare my own heart to suffer for Christ’s sake.

The bottom line is that I can always find someone who is ahead or behind me on the suffering scale.  My attitude should be the same no matter what God gives:  reliance on Christ alone for my daily needs and gratitude for the ultimate gift of salvation that He’s given.  I hope that God is glorified by my easy life in some way even as I see Him glorified tremendously in the life and faith of the Grammers and the Christys.  Would you join me in praying for them?