Amy woke up feeling like she should have slept with her running shoes on. How would she ever get everything done today? She had the paper plates to pick up for the baby shower she was co-hosting on Saturday. While she was out, she needed to pick up celery and onions. Of all the nights she could have chosen to take the McCabes dinner, WHY had she signed up for tonight? Getting dinner made and delivered before soccer practice at four would require a herculean effort. Then there was the birthday cake for Jake’s birthday. If she was going to get it ready before tomorrow afternoon, it at least had to be baked today so that it would be cool enough to decorate in the morning. She thought to herself, “Maybe I can do that tonight after the kids are in bed?”
Sound familiar? Haven’t we all had days like that? Sometimes there is no way to avoid them, but when they become a regular event, isn’t it time to re-evaluate? Most of the activity we fill our time with can be labeled as “service”, the baby shower, dinner for a friend, birthday parties. We do them because we want our loved ones to know that they are, well… loved.
The re-evaluation needs to come, when we find ourselves defining life in the following terms: burned out, overwhelmed, depressed, unhappy, hopeless, anxious, angry, and resentful. What causes these feelings? Could it be that we are no longer functioning out of genuine love? Let’s consider three ways that we can function wrongly. If this is an issue for you, I encourage you to take the time to dig deeper to find the root idols at work in your heart.
It is easy for people, especially stay-at-home moms, to feel somewhat invisible. Most of our work is done under the radar and out of sight. Have you ever thought about how rarely we take note of a clean bathroom, but it is always noticed when it’s dirty? Often, what we DO goes unseen. In such situations, it is easy to feel unimportant. So, we tend to be drawn to those projects and activities where our DOING is seen so that we feel productive and valuable. Of course, there is nothing wrong with hosting a shower or organizing an event. It is only a problem when we wrap our worth up in our DOING these things.
The remedy: Remember that our worth is one hundred percent perfect in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). We don’t need to validate ourselves. It’s a good thing too, because on our own, we are completely incapable!
Sometimes we can feel like such a failure in one area of our life, that it seems easier to just “escape” to something else where outward success is more easily seen. Maybe it is a hard relationship: a disinterested husband or challenging child. Whatever, it is just easier to busy yourself with a committee at church or sign up to be team mom. We begin to feel that if we can prove our self in this project, it somehow translates that things are okay in other areas. Avoidance will never fix the problems we have. In fact, they will only get worse.
The remedy: God knows life is messy. He knew about it before we existed. He has provided our justification (Romans 5:1). We cannot justify ourselves. Only Jesus justifies us. As we dwell on that truth our hearts will be set right for dealing with the challenges from the right perspective.
This last area is closely linked to the first two. We can involve ourselves in projects and activities out of fear. We may be afraid that someday we will need help and have no one around. We respond to this concern by keeping ourselves involved in other’s lives, actively looking for ways to help out or serve so that one day when we need help, they will hopefully remember all that we’ve done for them. This really at its core, is an attempt to take matters into our own hands.
The remedy: Remember who holds the ocean in his hands. When we are in Christ, he has us covered (Col. 3:3). We don’t have to fear the future (Matthew 6:25-34).
When we find our validation, our justification and our protection in God alone, first and foremost, then can truly love and serve others. Our doing becomes a joyous “Thank you!” to God for all the riches we have in Him. This is how we can overcome the Martha Complex.
What goals will make the biggest difference in your life this year? Losing weight, spending less, and saving more are worthy goals. But what happens if your paycheck shrinks like a cheap cotton T-shirt and you can no longer afford the organic Kohlrabi you love so much? You might even be reduced to buying groceries…at Dollar Tree. Let’s consider a different goal. How about the goal of improving our relationships?
Years come and go and it’s hard not to wax a bit disappointed or even jaded about relationships. In particular, I am thinking about those relationships that suck the life out of us, send us through the seventh circle of frustration, or compare well to regular root canals. Usually, these relationships are in our own home or church.
Will This be a Good Year for Your Relationships?
What are you going to do differently this year? What will help you to be a more effective spouse or parent? I’d like to suggest a goal that I am certain will help. How about the goal of digging deep into the glory of Christ? Does that sound too heavenly minded to be any earthly good?
If you think I’m wackamo, then I appeal to the highly respected Puritan, John Owen. Owen writes prolifically about the glory of God in his work, The Glory of Christ:
A constant view of the glory of Christ will revive our souls and cause our spiritual lives to flourish and thrive. Our souls will be revived by the transforming power with which beholding Christ is always accompanied. This is what transforms us daily into the likeness of Christ. So let us live in constant contemplation of the glory of Christ, and power will then flow from him to us, healing all our declensions, renewing a right spirit in us and enabling us to abound in all the duties that God requires of us…such as building relationships! (Author’s addition in bold)
Only one thing will eclipse the challenges we face in our relationships: our joy in Christ. Owen describes the glory of Christ as “an anchor they may cast within the veil, to hold them firm and steadfast in all their trials.”
The dissonance in our relationships often reveals that we are anchoring ourselves onto something –or someone—other than God. No one can be the source of supply for someone else. We must first find our supply in God alone so that we can be free to be God’s instrument in their lives. Otherwise, idolatry will get in the way and we will have to endure another year of relational discontent.
Show Me Your Glory!
The struggles we face are elements in a sovereign plan for our growth in the image of Christ. Indeed we were created for glory. And in heaven we will all be about one thing: God’s glory. Our preparation for heaven boils down to growing in a passionate pursuit of God’s glory. Our souls need to be lifted up out of our individual cesspools and the only thing capable of doing that is the transcendent reality that is the glory of God as seen in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Seeing Jesus is satisfying, most especially in those moments of trouble or seasons of disquiet.
Moses asked to see God’s glory in the midst of his trial leading Israel (Exodus 33:22). But all Moses was shown was a glimpse of God’s glory as it quickly passed by. Since then, Scripture tells us that man has actually seen Jesus; the very Son of God. He has listened to him, eaten with him, touched him, and been touched by him. We today continue to see him in the scriptures. One day we will see him perfectly, in all of his glory.
Our relational struggles are teachers that help us to see how we are deficient in desiring God’s glory.
How do we see God’s Glory?
Seeing God’s glory is different from what we typically do in devotions. Devotions can often be dry and, well, “informational”. We might think to ourselves, “Wow. I’ve never seen before that the first four commandments deal with our relationship with God and the last six deal with our relationship with our fellow man.” Or, “Finally! I now know where Paul went on each of his missionary journeys.” For sure, these are good things to know. But by themselves they are mere information that we normally file away in our brains. Algebraic Theorems could be just as exciting. We can miss the bigger picture.
Jesus says in John 5:39, “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” Scripture is the Fort Knox of God’s Glory in this life. From Creation and on through the Old Testament we see Christ exemplified in key people we read about (typology). We see Christ in the ceremonial laws; the priesthood, the sacrifices, and the sanctuary. We see Christ in the redemption of his people out of Egypt, and later out of the hands of various enemy nations. And then, in the New Testament, Christ comes and we actually see how Christ fully, perfectly fulfills the law for us.
Seeing God’s Glory Helps us Build Better Relationships
Information does not save us! A person—Jesus Christ—does. He saves us for a relationship that is so close that its archetype is the Trinity itself (John 17:24). We are vicariously united with Christ in his death and his resurrection (Rom. 6:1-2). We are, now “Hidden in Christ” (Col. 3:3). This is a glorious reality that should fill us with impenetrable delight as we dwell upon it. As we dwell on it, intentionally, each day, it lifts our souls, filling them with satisfaction so that we can build even our most difficult relationships.
Listed in no particular order. The books are clickable for your browsing ease. Some are duplicates from the father’s bookshelf. They’re just that good;)
1. Women of the Word
This is a superb overview on reading and studying the Bible with your mind and heart. She simply walks you through a step by step process that you can apply in your personal devotion time.
2. Instruments in the Hands of the Redeemer
Want practical relationship help? Here you go! I can’t say enough about the ways this book has blessed me and helped me work through struggles with others.
3. Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full
Eric got me this for Christmas a couple of years ago, and I just gobbled it up. An absolute gem for any busy momma!
4. New Mercies Every Morning
My copy of this dear book has coffee stains and bent pages with a warped cover! I read it last year and this year we are reading it as a family incorporated into family devotions!
5. Relationships a Mess Worth Making
Another amazing Paul Tripp, Tim Lane resource! So many helpful insights.
6. Mom Enough
Love, love, love this FREE resource from Desiring God. An excellent collection of encouraging articles.
This is another very practical resource. We use the PAUSE method for working through conflict that is defined in this book.
8. The Young Peacemakers
We have gone through this as a family a few times. It brings important heart level issues down to a child’s level. Great for elementary through high school!
9. The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment
This old re-printed puritan book is not for the faint of heart. It is heady reading and requires intention, but there are gems of great encouragement. (pun intended!)
10. ESV Study Bible (or ESV Transformation Bible)
We experience it everyday… something sets us off, we know our heart is not right in the situation, but how do we begin to work through the problem and “preach the gospel” to ourselves? For years I struggled with this concept. I knew there was a problem but did not feel equipped to deal with it in a fruitful way.
Today, I want to share a simple outline created by Covenant PCA’s Pastor John Neal. I have found this immensely helpful in working through heart issues in a clear and concise way. I have used it in conflict with others as well as just dealing with my own wrong attitudes. I call it “Heart Journaling” because journaling is very important to the process.
I will briefly walk through the process in an easy to remember system. We also have a handy PDF document that goes into great detail about what I share briefly below. Download that document, here. We can call this “The ABC’s of Heart Journaling”.
- We begin with the “Activating event”. What is the issue that has you upset? Simply state it in a sentence or two.
- Next, think through your “Beliefs”. What are the thoughts and feelings that are stirring you up; causing you to respond wrongly?
- “Circumstances”. Narrow things down to the sin: the idol: the root issue.
- Next, “Dispute” sinful, idolatrous, distorted thinking with truth!
- Finally, “Enact!” Pray for the grace and power of the Lord who is the Spirit of freedom.
I hope you find this as helpful and encouraging as I have! God’s plan includes using the conflicts and trials of life to sanctify us. Heart journaling will help you seize those opportunities for this purpose. Enjoy “The ABC’s of Heart Journaling“!
Blessed by this article? Please forward it to a friend!
During these increasingly turbulent times, we need to be agents of hope, not despair. While we as Christians watch what is happening with sadness, frustration and concern, it really does not define us, or our present or future state. As responsible citizens, we should discuss what is happening with believers and non-believers remembering to remind –or offer—as the case may be the certain biblical hope offered through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
My purpose in writing is to encourage us with a few thoughts about our mindset during these very dark times that will provide personal peace and position us to be ministers of hope.
God is sovereign (Gen. 1:1, Ps. 115:3, Prov. 16:9). (You know, I will even add an exclamation point to that -!-) God is in control of every detail of what is happening in our nation and the world (2 Chon. 20:6, Isa. 40:23). By itself, this is enough to bring tremendous peace to distressed souls. Because God is The Creator, he is sovereign over all of his creation. History is the account of God’s steady rule over national and world affairs. Man acts according to his sinful ways, but the glory of God is that he works in and through man’s most sinful actions to accomplish his redemptive plan. While current events may indicate a clear lack of control on man’s part, God is firmly in control of everything that is happening today, tomorrow, and the next day.
God is working all things out for his glory which is also the good of his people (Rom. 8:28-29). The purpose of God’s control is to accomplish the goal of glorying himself through the redemption of his church which he accomplishes within the affairs of men in history. Romans 8:28 says, “All things” not just the good things are part of his plan for our good.
Joseph is a textbook example of this truth. He was the victim of incredible evil at the hands of his bothers and Potipher’s wife. But he knew that God was up to good even in his misery. This perspective allowed him to forgive and say to his brothers that what they meant for evil God used for good (Gen. 50:20). Through the evil he endured, God used Joseph to save the world from famine, and in so doing, sustained the family line through which Jesus Christ would eventually be born.
God has promised that he will never leave nor forsake his children (Deut. 31:6, Heb. 13:5). We are covered by the blood of his dear son, Jesus (Ex. 12:13, Rev. 1:5). We are hidden in Christ (Col. 3:3). He cannot deny his own for to deny us would be to deny his son whom he loves and who is at this very moment sitting at his right hand in heaven interceding for us (2 Tim. 2:13).
Evil will prosper for a season, but it will ultimately come to an end—forever (Ps. 37:7; 73:1-28). I struggle mightily with the fact that politicians fortify their checkbooks (and hang on to power like a petulant 3 year old holds on to his lollipop) while they constantly get away with incredible lawlessness that the rest of us would be quickly jailed for. But their day will come. Evil will not continue forever.
We are Sojourners (1 Pet. 1:17, Heb. 11:13-16). That we have lived in arguably the most prosperous, free nation in the history of the world is such a remarkable blessing that we can hardly fully appreciate it. Yet, what we have enjoyed and come to depend on pales in comparison to what God promises is ahead for those who love him. In the meantime, like our father Abraham, we are to consider ourselves as sojourners. We are just passing through. This is not our home. (This does not mean that we don’t care about what is happening, nor does it mean we should shrink back from trying to offer biblical solutions. But the course of events in this life are not to be our source of hope). God is preparing a much better place for us (John 14:2-3, Heb. 11:15-16, Rev. 21:1-4). We need to meditate on that truth much, much more.
We would do well to talk about these truths with our children.
God is just and he will judge the sins of nations. And while we will likely have to suffer through some of that judgement, we must do so in light of the truths I presented above. Through Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, God has actually made us to be sources of his hope to the countless people, including our neighbors, friends and acquaintances. There are people who do not know God and have no hope other than the empty promises of slime ball politicians and their own limited ability to care for themselves (Acts 1:8, 1 Pet. 2:9).
In the midst of the sacking of Jerusalem, the prophet Jeremiah writes in Lamentations 3:22-26, The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him. The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
May Jeremiah’s prayer and hope be our own in these discouraging times.
If you were encouraged by this article, please forward it to a friend.
Have you been blessed by this website? Consider supporting the ministry!