Category Archives: Life in Ministry

Book Review: The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women

Biblical Counseling Guide for WomenIn the forward to The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women, Martha Peace says, “John and Janie Street have made it abundantly clear that there is great hope no matter the kinds of problems women struggle with. They have laid out clear, biblical plans of action for issues women face today.” (pg. 9)

I honestly could not say it any better. This is exactly what they have done!

The authors describe the purpose of the book in this way:

“This book is written to assist Christian women who possess a high view of the sufficiency of God’s Word and its ability to adequately address the most serious personal struggles women will face. Women who trust His Word will benefit greatly from its narrative.” (pg. 11, emphasis mine)

A high view of the sufficiency of Scripture, and a desire to understand what God’s Word says about our sin, our struggles, and our suffering is essential to fully appreciate, understand, and benefit from the wisdom this book has to offer.

In this book, John and Janie Street address issues that most women have probably struggled with, to some degree, at one time or another: anger, anxiety, appearance, depression, grief. But, it also deals with much harder, perhaps more “hot button” topics that, by the grace of God, many of us may not have experienced: abuse, chemical dependency, eating disorders, panic attacks, PTSD, and transgenderism.

Each topic is introduced with a fictional account of a woman who is struggling with a particular issue…whether as a result of her own sinful choices, or those of someone close to her. Although the scenarios presented are fictional, that can be difficult to remember at times, because they come from years of counseling and pastoral experience, and are written in such a way that they could easily be factual. In my limited counseling experiences, I have rarely seen women, even professing believers, recognize their sin so quickly, or so completely, and respond so humbly to biblical counsel and correction. But, in each case, is assumed that each of these (fictional) women have a high view of God’s Word.

“The truth of God’s Word slices and dices your behavior and peers into the most shameful recesses of your heart (see Hebrews 4:12-13). Our hearts are resistant to this type of spiritual heart surgery. Thus we must pray that God will help us to humbly repent of this sin (Psalm 51:10).” (pg. 30)

This is what makes their quick, humble, repentant responses not only realistic, but a helpful example to follow when we find ourselves in similar situations. Because, without that perspective, many of these issues could easily be, and often are addressed indefinitely, without any sort of real hope or resolution.

“Too often we use the term hope carelessly because it is used to express uncertainty….However, when your concept of hope is anchored in biblical promises, all ambiguity and doubt is removed. Biblical hope is backed up by the very character of God. Unlike ‘I hope so’ hope, it is absolute and full confident assurance.” (pg. 161)

I have taken several biblical counseling classes (in college, at the graduate level, and for “personal enrichment”), I have read numerous books on biblical counseling, and I am currently, albeit slowly, pursuing certification in Biblical Counseling. So, I consider myself to be fairly well-acquainted with the philosophy and procedures behind biblical counseling. And, as a pastor’s wife, I am also familiar with the great need for this type of counseling in the church. And, because of my background, I assumed this would be an “easy read.”

This book is not, nor is it intended to be, a cold, comprehensive, clinical textbook. It is interesting and engaging. And, it accomplishes its stated purpose of pointing the reader to the insightful, practical, and authoritative answers in God’s Word in a compassionate, personal, thought-provoking way.

I am not a naturally empathetic person. But, as the authors unpacked each chapter, I was able to put myself in the place of both the counselor and the counselee. Whether the situation was one that I had personally experienced, or not, there were many characteristics, struggles, and habits that made it surprisingly easy to identify with, and genuinely empathize with both sides of each story.

But, this book goes far beyond these relevant and relatable introductions to each topic.

“When a true Christian goes through such a traumatic event and asks the hard questions….her search for answers should drive her toward greater faithfulness to study God’s Word. It is in the pages of the Bible that she will learn God’s character: that He is good and without sin (Psalm 119:68), that He never tempts His children to sin (James 1:13), and that He is the protector and refuge of all who call upon His name in saving faith (Psalm 125:4-5).” (pgs. 255-256)

After each topic is introduced, the authors then go on to identify the problematic thoughts, patterns, behaviors, and lifestyles, pointing the reader back to the truths of Scripture in a practical, realistic way. I have not personally experienced the pain of a pornography-tainted marriage, or the betrayal of adultery. But, I have experienced the pain of being sinned against in other ways by people I love and care about. I have not struggled through post-traumatic stress, panic attacks, or battled an eating disorder. But, I have reacted to my circumstances in sinful anger, anxiety, pride, and self-sufficiency.

At the very beginning, the authors suggest having a Bible close at hand as you read, to consult the many Scripture references found throughout its pages. So, I found myself taking much longer than I had originally intended to read this book. I took time to reflect on, and answer, the discussion questions at the end of each chapter. And, I tried to implement the authors’ suggestions to write down lists of my own fears, worries, and sinful behaviors or attitudes that needed to be “put off.” At the same time, I created corresponding lists of things to “put on” in place of sinful thoughts and attitudes.

The very first chapter, on Anger, immediately caught my attention. I do not like to think of myself as an angry person. (Who does?) But, as I read, I could see myself in many of the sinful attitudes and (re)actions described. Specifically in this:

“Listening is hard to do when you’re angry, because true listening involves submission…. To listen carefully, you must not continue to speak. This is difficult for angry people to do, as they are continually engaged in spewing out their opinions and attacks. Oftentimes angry people say they are listening, but at the same time, they persist in defending their viewpoint, often pointing out how another person also perceives the situation as unfair, jaded, or misconstrued – and it is clear that they are not really listening.” (pgs. 31-32)

That was a not-so-pleasant, but much needed, moment of conviction for me. And, it was what caused me to choose to slow down, and read this less as a “textbook” for my dealings with “other people,” and to treat it as more of a personal improvement project.

Elisabeth Elliot often said, “The difference is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.” And, this book can help to turn our eyes off of the temporary circumstances and solutions of this world, and back to the lasting hope that can be found only in obedience to God’s Word.

“The goal is not simply a short-sighted attempt to get a woman out of her problems, even though, when a person follows Christ’s admonitions, her problems will often eventually be resolved. However, some problems will not go away, even after you have faithfully obeyed Christ. Some of life’s difficulties may even get worse….How can you, as a godly woman, learn to please God in the midst of your problems? This must be the pursuit of a woman who is a committed Christian.” (pg. 15)

The genuine compassion, biblical wisdom, and practical suggestions presented in this book make it an invaluable resource for the church today. This book is for women who want to live a life of obedience and faith, as they learn to please God in the midst of their struggles and problems. It is for women who wish to grow in their ability to disciple and counsel other women in their church, in the model of Titus 2. It is for mothers who are teaching and training their children to love and serve the Lord in spite of their own sin and failures. And, men, do not be dissuaded by the title! As a pastor’s wife, I can confidently say that this book should be in every pastor’s library as well.

I will add that I have had the privilege of knowing John and Janie Street for close to 18 years. So, I may not be seen as the most unbiased reviewer. But, I do not believe that should be considered a negative. My husband and I have personally benefited from their teaching, their biblical counsel, their godly example, and their faithful ministry in so many ways. And, because of that, I could not be more thrilled that this resource, and the wisdom and experience of its authors, is now available to so many!

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Resurrection Sunday 2017

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“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” ~Acts 2:22-24 (ESV)

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2017 Reading Goals

Last year, I posted a list of 12 books that I wanted to read over the course of 2016. Twelve. There was a time, in the not too distant past, when I could have easily read 12 books in a single month. But, at the beginning of last year, the challenge of reading just one book a month seemed like a major undertaking.

Here I am a year later, and while I didn’t complete my self-imposed assignment, I definitely read more books last year than I did in the past 4 years combined! So, I’ll still call it a win.

The books I read in 2016:

  • The Pastor’s Wife, by Gloria Furman
  • Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full, by Gloria Furman
  • Missional Motherhood, by Gloria Furman (Um, yeah. I like her.)
  • A Path Through Suffering, by Elisabeth Elliot
  • The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, by Rosaria Butterfield
  • Modesty, by Martha Peace and Kent Keller
  • The Busy Homeschooling Mom’s Guide to Daylight, by Heidi St. John
  • The Pastor’s Kid, by Barnabas Piper

If you compare, you’ll notice that some of these books were on my list last year. Some of them were not. When it comes to books, I’m kind of like that dog in Disney/Pixar’s “Up.” Books are my “Squirrel!” I frequently pick up new books to read long before I am anywhere close to finishing (or, starting!) the ones I already have.

Being the start of a new year, I have a new list of books that I would like to read in 2017. But, like last year, I am sure I will find more titles to add to the list before the year’s end. So, next January, my list of completed books might bear very little resemblance to this one:

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Counseling the Hard Cases, by Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert – I recently told someone that I would make a terrible counselor. And, I really would. But, that is exactly why I am reading this. I have had many opportunities to see the need for solid, biblical counseling in the church. And, as the Lord gives me opportunities to invest in women, whether through casual conversation or formal counseling, I want to be equipped to help them, and to point them to the hope offered in God’s Word.

On Guard, by Deepak Reju – Probably my biggest fear is that of something terrible happening to my children. I have seen too, too many stories of child abuse, at the hands of professing believers…church members. And, in addition to the fear of something happening to my own children is the fear of something happening to one of the little ones in our church family. No, these things should not happen. But, they do. Churches are easy targets. Frankly, this is the book I don’t want to read. But, at the same time, I desperately want to do everything I humanly can to protect these little ones. And, should the unthinkable happen, I want our church to be prepared, and equipped to deal with it correctly.

Women in the Church, by Andreas Kostenberger and Thomas Schreiner – This is an increasingly fuzzy area in the church today. It shouldn’t be. But, it is. As the issue continually comes up for debate, and the “job description” of what women can and cannot do is frequently revised and adjusted to fit modern (and post-modern) sensibilities, I want to be faithful to what God’s Word says on the issue. This is the third edition of this book. It has been updated to address current issues, and to add some new voices to the conversation.

Word-Filled Women’s Ministry, ed. by Gloria Furman and Kathleen Nielson – The theme of women’s issues/ministry was unintentional. But, not entirely surprising. Ministry to women – teaching, counseling, discipling – is something I have been interested in for a long time. So, books addressing these topics always draw me. Right now, my main sphere of ministry is my home, and my children. I am not responsible for heading up the women’s ministry in our church. But, that does not mean that I am exempt from “ministry.” I want to be faithful to do what I can to love, serve, and encourage the women in our church, older and younger alike. I have heard very good things about this book, and I have appreciated the writing of several of the contributors in the past, so I am looking forward to reading it.

J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone, by Iain Murray – The writings of J.C. Ryle have long been a favorite in our home. His influence can be seen in the fact that our son’s middle name is Ryle. But, although I’ve read much by J.C. Ryle, I have never read much about him.

The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women, by John & Janie Street – My husband gave me this for Christmas. Other than a new Bible, this was the one thing I wanted for Christmas. I started dropping not-at-all subtle hints that I wanted it back in April when we discovered that it was being published. And, my sweet husband wisely picked up on those “hints,” and I found it under the tree on Christmas Afternoon. It is written by our college professor and pastor, and his wife. With 35 years of biblical counseling experience between them, I can only assume that the wisdom in this book is unparalleled. I’ve cheated a little bit, and started reading it before the new year began. And, so far, it is absolutely every bit as good as I expected.

Spiritual Mothering, by Susan Hunt – In terms of the Titus 2 older/younger woman dynamic, I would probably still be considered by most to be in the “younger woman” category. I have 4 children – one pre-teen, and 3 young children, which might increase the perception, and appearance that I am younger than I actually am. So, it might seem odd that I am reading a book about older women investing in the lives of younger women within the church. But, I have seen the desperate desire for this type of relationship. I have heard so many younger women question where the older, “Titus 2” women are.

Seated With Christ, by Heather Holleman – This book was one that my husband brought home from the Shepherd’s Conference last year. I had never heard of it, or the author, before that. But, the subtitle, “Living Freely in a Culture of Comparison,” was intriguing. And, in an age where everyone’s best moments, cleanest rooms, gourmet meals, and well-behaved children are put on full display, it can be hard not to fall into the trap of comparing our own regular, messy, and imperfect lives.

The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Romance, by Heidi St. John – I have heard Heidi St. John speak at our local homeschooling convention for the past two years. And, I have appreciated her honesty, humor, and passion, as she encourages busy, overwhelmed, homeschooling moms to seek to honor Christ, and to be faithfully in God’s Word, each day. I picked up her book on scheduling and organization a couple of years ago. This past year, I picked up her book on nurturing your marriage. In one of her sessions at this year’s convention, she clearly illustrated the point that the enemy is actively attacking Christian families…and specifically Christian marriages. And, she was absolutely right. I’ve seen it happen. And, for so very many reasons, I do not want to become another casualty of the busyness of homeschooling and ministry.

What are you reading this year?

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2016 ~ Year In Review

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” ~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Dear Family and Friends,

This year, much like every year, was full of joys and trials. But, through it all, Lord has given us many reasons to rejoice, to pray, and to give thanks!

January – Jason continued a tradition that he started a couple of years ago at our church. At the beginning of each year, he preaches a special series of sermons for the purpose of “Strengthening Grace.” This year, he taught on some of the key elements of the church. It fit in so well with his ongoing series in the book of Acts. He has also been teaching a Sunday School class on the Doctrine of God, and leading our church’s monthly men’s study. In addition to his preaching and teaching responsibilities, counseling, discipling, performing weddings, and developing new ministries and leadership have kept him more than a little busy! In order to keep up with everything (between church and a young, growing family), we had to make the hard decision to eliminate our midweek service this year. But, we are eagerly looking forward to its return this coming year…along with a new children’s program!

img_9030cfm-copyFebruary – Titus turned 4 on February 7th! We celebrated with a Monster Truck-themed party with a few of his friends from church. Superheroes, Transformers, and monster trucks are his newest obsessions. He often tells me that he wants to be a monster truck driver when he grows up. And, he has already promised us all a ride! He is in Kindergarten this year! He is still young, so, I know I should say that our plan is to go slow and keep it simple…but, it’s not. He is not having any of that. He loves school! I thought some of his first-day enthusiasm would have worn off by now, but he continues to amaze me with his eagerness and hard work each day. He asks for more work than I have planned. He is disappointed when his schoolwork is completed for the day. And he has been known to cry when I tell him that we don’t do school on Saturdays. Reading is his favorite subject, and he loves practicing his new skill by sounding out everything he can get his hands (and eyes!) on! He has become very responsible, remembering and diligently doing his chores each morning. He loves his sisters, even if he does show it by alternating between terrorizing them and being their best buddy. Sometimes, it is easy to forget how young he really is, because he is growing up so fast!

img_9015cfm-copyMarch – We celebrated Rachel’s first birthday on March 23rd! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a one-year-old so into opening presents! She thoroughly enjoyed every single moment of her party…just like she does everything. This girl has brought so much joy to our family this year with her sweet smiles and silly antics. She started walking shortly before her first birthday, and has recently mastered climbing the stairs! (Going down is still a bit of a work in progress!) She rarely sits still, but, when she does, she is a cuddle-bug. And, she gives the best hugs! She loves being outside, coloring, play dough, all things Minnie Mouse, and playing dolls with Hannah. She shares a room with her big sister, Rebekah, and it is so sweet to hear them talking and singing together before they go to sleep. Her vocabulary seems to grow each day. And, even after 4 kids, I still treasure each new each new word and sentence. She greets me each morning with a big smile and a loud “Peek-boo!” She rarely says yes. Instead, she always responds in the affirmative with an enthusiastic “Sure!” But, I think my favorite is hearing her sweet prayers before bed and mealtimes. We look forward to seeing these simple prayers grow into a true faith and obedience in the years to come.

April – At the beginning of the month, we had the privilege of having John and Janie Street out to speak at our church’s annual Bible Conference. They taught on “Parenting for the Long Run.” As always, it was wonderful to see them, and sit under their wise, biblical teaching again.

img_9035cfm-copyAlthough we had to delay the celebration a few times, due to illness, we celebrated Hannah’s 11th birthday this year! Of course, she handled the delays graciously, with a maturity far beyond her 11 years. She is our sweet, creative, dreamer. She loves to write stories, draw pictures, and make cards for her friends and siblings. She is in 6th grade this year, which I am told is considered “middle school” here in Texas (but, that just sounds a little too much like junior high). Her favorite subject continues to be science (Zoology), because, in her words, “we are finally studying land animals!” Her favorite land animals are horses…which we will begin studying shortly after the new year. But, she has already checked out every book our library has on the topic of horse care and training, dreaming of someday getting one of her own! Her grandparents gave her a day of “horse camp” for her birthday. She spent a Saturday at a local stable, where she got to ride and groom a real horse! Even cleaning the stalls could not make her enormous smile disappear! I think it was the highlight, not only of her year, but of her life! She has also joined a homeschool band, and is learning to play the flute. She seems to be a natural, and absolutely loves it! She is currently preparing for her first concert, which is coming up this week! She is a wonderful big sister, and continues to be a capable and willing helper. She cares for her siblings, and works hard at the many things she is asked to do around the house. But, her favorite place right now seems to be in the kitchen. She loves learning how to cook and bake! And, we all got to enjoy the results of her hard work when she made a delicious chocolate chip-pecan pie for Thanksgiving – all on her own.

May – Just before Rachel’s birthday, we were thrilled to learn that we were expecting another little one to join our family in November, around Thanksgiving Day. But, sadly, we miscarried just before Mother’s Day. My mom was very sweet to fly out here to help us as I recovered. And despite the circumstances, it was a special blessing to spend Mother’s Day with her. At the end of May, some complications landed me in the emergency room. Although it was a difficult time, both physically and emotionally, and my recovery was slow, through it, the Lord used it to allow us to address some other health issues, and I am feeling better than I have in years!

June – In addition to my health issues, we all spent about 2 months fighting what seemed like a never-ending cycle of illnesses. There were too many sleepless nights to count, mountains of laundry, multiple prescriptions, and several visits to the doctor’s office and urgent care. It did end…eventually. And, we were even able to enjoy a visit with Veronica’s parents, sister, and our nephew/cousin. But, this time definitely made us all very thankful for our normally good health, and for the help and care of our church and family! People brought meals, cleaned our house, and watched sick children while we took others to the doctor. Jason’s dad even rescued Titus and me after we got stranded in a downpour and flooded streets on our way to (yet another) doctor’s appointment!

July – Everyone recovered in time to enjoy our first real vacation! Well, I guess it was really more of a “stay-cation,” since we didn’t go anywhere. But, we rested, and visited the park and splash pad, and took care of a few projects around the house. It was perfect!

img_9056cfm-copyAugust – Jason and I celebrated our 15th anniversary. The celebration really was quite simple. More than anything, it was an opportunity to reflect on, and thank the Lord for the life, the children, and the ministry that the Lord has given us so far.

September – We started our 7th year of homeschooling! It has been quite the puzzle trying to figuimg_5812wmre out how to fit in all we want, and need to do each day. This year, I am teaching 6th grade, Kindergarten, and Pre-School…while simultaneously trying to keep a 1-year-old (constructively!) entertained. At the same time, I am also trying to get everyone to weekly band practice (during naptime!), grocery shopping, keeping track of the giant stacks of library books we check out each week, potty training, feeding growing children 3 (or more!) times a day, and attempting to keep the resulting piles of laundry and dishes under control! My days, and hands, are definitely full! Some days, it miraculously all gets done. Other days are a little (or, a lot!) crazy. The good days are sweet reminders of graciously answered prayers. The chaotic ones are too, but, they are also vivid reminders of God’s patience with His children, and opportunities to rely on His grace and strength when my own is severely lacking.

img_9022cfm-copyOctober – We celebrated Rebekah’s 3rd birthday! I think her favorite present was the bouquet of balloons from her party. She sang about them for a week! This little girl loves music! She loves to sing, dance, and pretend to play all sorts of instruments (but especially the flute, like her big sister!). Rebekah is equal parts sweetness and spunk. She is very compassionate, and it just breaks her little heart to see anyone sad or hurt. She is always the first to offer a hug when one of her friends or siblings is upset. And, she is our family cheerleader, and can often be heard encouraging her brother or sisters (or mom and dad!) with a hearty “Good job!” when they finish a chore, or project. She has joined us for pre-school this year, and is having fun with her own lessons, as well as listening in on a few her brother’s and sister’s. But, since she doesn’t like to sit still for too long, we are keeping things simple and fun for her this year. She would much rather be outside, “fwinging” (swinging), climbing up the slide, going to the park, riding her scooter or tricycle, and catching lizards or butterflies.

November – On Thanksgiving, we got to enjoy a visit with Jason’s aunt, uncle, and grandmother. And, Rachel got to meet her Great-Grammy! The 3 older kids helped make our Thanksgiving desserts! It was so fun to work alongside them, and to see their excitement to share the pies that they helped to make.

December – This month has already been busy with school, band and choir practices, fellowship with friends, and fun preparations for Christmas – at church and at home!

At times, this year has looked very different than what we would have liked. But, as we reflect on all that took place – the sweet and happy moments, as well as the sad times – it was a year marked by the grace, the mercy, and the providence of a sovereign, loving God. And, as a new year lies before us, we continue to rest and rejoice in the steadfast goodness and faithfulness of our Lord.

We pray that He would be the source of your joy and hope this Christmas, and in the year to come.

By His Grace,

img_9039cfm-copyJason, Veronica, Hannah, Titus, Rebekah, & Rachel Whitley

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Momentary Light Affliction

This blog is (or, perhaps has been) my attempt to encourage and challenge primarily myself, but other women as well, to view every area and event of life through the lens of Scripture. And to be joyfully content as we recognize God’s undeserved grace, mercy, and sovereign care in the big, unexpected joys, as well as in the difficult trials, but especially in those little, often overlooked, everyday moments.

Because, most of life is lived in the simple and the ordinary.

But, in doing so, my desire is not to paint our life as one of sunshine and unicorns, untouched by reality and troubles.

Like everyone, my days are filled with joys and failures, blessings and trials, celebration and suffering. My children are sinners. Their mother is a sinner. (I know Scripture says that I married a sinner as well. But, I’m beginning to wonder about that one. He’s amazing.)

I detest the trend of airing one’s dirty laundry to the whole of the worldwide web, under the guise of “transparency.” I don’t want to complain. I don’t want to “vent.”

My desire is to focus on that which is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). To look for the grace and mercy that God has so richly, and undeservedly given, not in spite of the difficult times, but through, and maybe even because of them.

Amy Carmichael wrote, “A cup brimful of sweetness cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, no matter how suddenly jarred.”

So, it is rare that I will write from a place of discouragement and weakness.

But, you want transparency? Here it is…

Life is hard.

I am not making that statement in relation to the suffering, trials, or circumstances of anyone but myself. The comparison game is futile. Comparing my situation to that of someone else is like comparing apples and oranges. No. It’s like comparing apples and turtles. You just can’t. There is always someone else going through something bigger, something worse, something harder. (And I know many who are.)

I am just stating the simple fact that, life can be hard.

And, recently, it has been.

“In this world you will have trouble.” John 16:33 (NIV)

In addition to multiple minor illnesses hitting every member of our family, teething toddlers, night terrors, mastitis, our recent miscarriage, migraines, and a stint in the ER, I have been living with severe anemia (and the accompanying symptoms and side effects) for at least a year…likely a lot longer. I am now on a prescription iron supplement, which I am praying might remedy some, or maybe even all of that.

Oh. And, did I mention that, as a result, we are still trying to finish up our school year? And the laundry and dishes have continued to multiply at alarming rates.

So, those simple, everyday, real life moments are still very much there, very much demanding that we keep up.

And, somehow, in the craziness of caring for, and keeping up with us, my husband still has to do his job. He still has to prepare sermons and Sunday school lessons. Some weeks, I have wondered if he isn’t writing his sermons on the back of a napkin on his way to church! (Don’t worry. He’s not!) People are still coming to him for counsel. Each one a judgment call. Is this an urgent need? Can they wait? And, meetings that have been canceled, long-postponed, and rescheduled (multiple times), have to be attended.

There are just not enough hours in the day.

“Why does our heavenly Father seem at times to be steadily shoveling suffering into the lives of those he loves so deeply, when he could easily relieve it?” (Running on Empty, pgs. 15-16)

You may thinking, “Stop complaining. That’s nothing.”

And, you’d be right.

“Suffering, even in its mildest forms – inconvenience, delay, disappointment, discomfort, or anything that is not in harmony with our whims and preferences – we will not tolerate. We even reject and deny it.” (A Path Through Suffering, pg. 13)

We do not like to suffer. We avoid it when we can…except in the cases when, as a result of our own sinful stupidity, we run headlong into it.

But, I say that all that to say this…I am just weary. Physically, mentally…and yes. Spiritually.

I love what Gloria Furman says in her new book, Missional Motherhood (I am quoting from a much larger section, and, I hope, doing justice to the original context. But, I would encourage you to read the entire section, or even the whole book, for yourself.):

“Things that are part of our design – our need for others in community, our physical limitations, being embodied in an “earthly tent,” and our lack of knowledge – are not failures. We have no need to repent of those things, for this is the way God designed us. God has no need to repent of making us this way, because he reserves the right to create in whatever way his holy will desires. Moms don’t need to be redeemed out of their God-given design. But here is another place where we have to “use our words” very carefully. We must be very, very hesitant to name something sin. If it is sin, it requires atonement. But we often place worldly blunders on the same level as unholy sins….The eternal Son of God did not go to the cross and suffer crucifixion and the wrath of God to atone for a moms inability to accomplish everything she wants to do in a day…..Before we call upon the great doctrine of justification by faith alone to redeem us out of our so-called calamity, or before we herald the massive truth that we are counted righteous in Christ by faith in him, we ought to consider the nature of our need….If that neediness is owing to your sin, that vile rebellion against your Maker, then you repent….But if your neediness is simply because you are a human being (i.e., not omniscient, not omnipresent, not omnipotent, not God), then you have reason to rejoice.” (Missional Motherhood, pgs. 124-125, bold mine)

Rejoice?

In weakness? In weariness? In suffering?

Yes.

And, more than that, we can be thankful for it.

“Who can be grateful for pain? Only those who see beyond to the ineffable mercy, tender and severe, which is silently at work.” (A Path Through Suffering, pg. 56)

It is a gift.

It is a gift because it teaches us about the character of God. As discipline, it confirms God’s love for us, and our position as His child. It tests, strengthens, and refines our faith. It produces endurance, character, and hope. And, it is a condition of discipleship.

If we are to follow Christ, we must expect to suffer.

“He accepted suffering. He willingly laid down His life. He poured out His very soul unto death. Shall not we, His servants, tread the same pathway?” Pg. 39

But, perhaps, just maybe, our troubles, our inconveniences, our sufferings are not for us.

Lilias Trotter, in her book, Parables of the Cross, wrote “God may use…the things that He has wrought in us, for the blessings of souls unknown to us….” (as quoted in Elisabeth Elliot’s A Path Through Suffering, pg. 15)

It has been unintentional (on my part), but many of the books I have been reading recently have had a providentially similar theme. Suffering.

In her book, Running on Empty, Barbra Bancroft says,

“Ministry brings suffering into our lives. It is the hardest gift for us to accept from God. None of us enjoys suffering and it is one aspect of ministry we are always trying to avoid. God brings his gift of suffering and our response is to begin negotiating for a different one. We want to return this gift for one we think would better meet our needs. This is why Paul’s description of himself in Philippians 3 is so startling. We are attracted and repelled by it. We want his passion for Christ. We identify with his desire to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, but to share in the fellowship of his suffering is frightening.” (pg. 15)

Now, I don’t think for a moment that our church, or my husband’s vocation has been the source of the difficulties, trials, and yes, genuine suffering that we have faced in recent days.

Quite the opposite. Our church family has been a source of help, encouragement, strength, and comfort in all of this.

But, it is true that ministry brings suffering. It has a cost. Our family, our marriage, our children, our parenting, our faults, our sins, our quirks, our sufferings…our lives are all put on constant display. And, we are willing to live in that proverbial fishbowl for the sake of others.

“For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” 1 Corinthians 4:15-16 (ESV)

Paul prayed three times that God would remove his “thorn in the flesh,” his “messenger from Satan.” (See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

“God said no to Paul’s plea because He was to bring forth, for the sake of the rest of us, the beautiful flower of acceptance, a gift of grace, enough for his need. But that flower was to bloom, not in spite of, but because of the thorn…Could he know the millions who would be cheered and comforted by his example of quiet acceptance of a painful thing which he knew God could have removed? No, he couldn’t.” (A Path Through Suffering, pg. 45)

Maybe our troubles, our inconveniences, our trials, our sufferings are not for us at all. Maybe they are put in our life for the spiritual benefit of someone else.

We do not know. And, frankly, it isn’t for us to know.

“Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10)

“We may take heart from the suffering of Job. Suffering was the necessary proof of the reality of his faith – to us, as to his contemporaries and his enemy Satan (his and ours). The suffering of our Savior proved the reality of His love for His Father. The world still needs to be shown that there are those who, no matter what the circumstances, will, for love of Him, do exactly what God commands. The end He has in view is a glorious one. We can fully count on that…” (A Path Through Suffering, pg. 53)

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 1 Corinthians 4:17-18 (ESV)

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