By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

I Don’t Wanna. May 10, 2010

Filed under: spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 2:59 pm
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I’ve been reading The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers compiled by Arthur Bennett.  I highly recommend it.  They are short (perfect for a quick morning reading before the kids are up), and they have been very encouraging and challenging to me in my personal prayer life.  One of the prayers that I read weeks ago is still lingering with me.  It is a prayer that I want to pray sincerely for myself, but it’s a tough one:

“I am well pleased with thy will, whatever it is, or should be in all respects,

And if thou bidst me decide for myself in any affair, I would choose to refer all to thee,

for thou art infinitely wise and cannot do amiss, as I am in danger of doing.

I rejoice to think that all things are at thy disposal, and it delights me to leave them there.

Then prayer turns wholly into praise, and all I can do is to adore and bless thee.”

Valley of Vision, p. 4

I’ll be honest.  When I read this, I thought for a moment how wonderful it would be if God let me decide how things were going to go.  Never in a million years would I “choose to refer all to thee.”  I’d be in charge, and it would be awesome.  And rejoicing that all things are at His disposal?  Delighting to leave them there?  I’m too busy trying to yank things out of God’s hands so I can manage the situation and manipulate things according to my desires.

After typing the above paragraph, I did some strategic formatting.  As you can see, it’s all about me.  My wisdom (ha!) and my wants.  The way I think things should go.  One problem (among many) with this way of thinking is that my desires (happiness and comfort) are rarely in line with God’s desire for me (to make me more like Christ).

I want to desire what God desires for me.  I want to be more like Christ.  I want to glorify God with my life and point others to Him and His grace.  I want to so fully trust His goodness and faithfulness to me that even if he bidst me decide for myself, I would choose to refer all to the all-wise, all-loving, sovereign Creator.  But I’ve got some growing to do in this area.  So I guess it’s good that God’s in control, whether I like it or not.  🙂


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.


Broken Hearts August 17, 2008

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


Worry August 7, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 7:11 am
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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
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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!