I’ve found that often in Christian sub-cultures we equate suffering with being holy when in fact we should realize that suffering is a method God uses to grow us in holiness. Although everyone has a different opinion of what it means to suffer, what is disheartening is the number of believers who use periods of difficulty as a reason to complain or have a negative attitude. Many of us even use accountability or small group time to vent or grumble. Despite what the world tells us, when we are having problems with our spouse, job, kids, finances, or even our health, we still do not have a reason to complain. Our circumstances or even the people around us should not be our ultimate concern; instead, we need to recognize that the problem lies with our own perspective. When we fail to have an eternal perspective, we are much more likely to find things to complain about. When we realize what Christ has done for us and what we have been saved from, we are much more likely to be content and rejoice in what God is doing in our life and in the lives of others.
Any of you who are mothers of young children (or have ever been in that season of life) understand how sanctifying motherhood can be. Dealing with picky eaters, skipped naps, tantrums in the grocery store, explosive dirty diapers, and a messy house that was clean five minutes ago can all drive us absolutely bonkers. These situations and more reveal so much sin hiding in our hearts. According to scripture the mouth speaks from the overflow of our heart (Luke 6:46). If we are complaining about something, it reveals discontentment and failure on our part to remember the gospel in that moment.
This brings me to my main point. Over the past few months or so I’ve been trying to grow in thankfulness and rejoice over how I see God at work, specifically in my children. After spending a lot of time in prayer and in God’s word, I realized that much of my negativity came from comparing my kids to other children their age. When talking to other moms it is easy to begin complaining about how our kids are not living up to our expectations. We forget that they are not perfect. We forget that many of them don’t have a personal relationship with Christ. We forget that they may not be led by the Holy Spirit. We forget they are young and do not have the life experiences or wisdom we have obtained. We forget that they are just children. Sadly, in some mommy groups, we even try to “one up” one another with stories of how hard our day has been because of some trial regarding our children. Often, we may look at our friends’ children and assume they sleep better, eat better, and obey better than our own kids. This comparison only adds to our disappointment in our own children, discontentment with where God has us, and eventually results in a negative and grumbly attitude.
Whether it comes from our desire to gain sympathy, a desire to simply “fit in” or relate with others, or even to avoid looking prideful because we don’t want to boast in our child’s accomplishments, we can easily find ourselves speaking negatively about our children. When I realized this, I was convicted about changing my perspective and even some of my habits.
First, I needed to remember that my children have not yet professed faith in Christ and I should not hold them to the standard of someone whose heart has been transformed. In addition, I needed to recall a lesson that Ginger Plowman taught me in her book Don’t Make Me Count to Three. She said that we have to use wisdom and patience to discern if our children are acting in childishness or foolishness. Our children are going to act like children and we need to demonstrate grace to them even when those moments inconvenience us.
Practically, I knew I needed to start with speaking positively of my children to others. Now, you would be a fool to believe that I have perfected this. In fact, I have a LONG way to go. However, it has been so freeing to rejoice in the ways God is developing my little ones instead of complaining about how imperfect they are.
Unfortunately, because of the Christian sub-culture I had referred to earlier, this may not be received well by those around you (at least for a little while). When I point out evidences of grace in the lives of my children, I’m almost certain that some women feel I am just being prideful. I can tell by their response and sometimes even the comments they make that they are judging me and assuming that I am boasting in what I have accomplished with my children. In these moments I must remember James 1:16-17 which says “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” I must remember my goal is to honor God and praise him for his mighty works. We are called to boast in Christ and I should not feel guilt over this, no matter how it is perceived by others.
This is where I have to check my own heart. My fear of man tempts me to jump right back into my habit of pointing out my kids’ failures for the sake of being perceived as humble. I have to realize that this is false humility. In these moments I must cling to truth. Pointing out evidences of grace and giving God credit for the things He is doing or has blessed us with is much more honoring to God than the pursuit of false humility. In these moments I must only concern myself with what Christ thinks of me, not what others think of me and not what I think of myself! In Timothy Keller’s book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness he says,
“Wouldn’t you like to be the skater who wins the silver, and yet is thrilled about those three triple jumps that the gold medal winner did? To love it the way you love a sunrise? Just to love the fact that it was done? For it not to matter whether it was their success or your success. Not to care if they did it or you did it. You are as happy that they did it as if you had done it yourself- because you are just so happy to see it.”
When we recognize this we can stop comparing ourselves (or our children) to others and we are freed up to truly enjoy how God is working in the lives around us!
In conclusion, I want to challenge you to think about what comes most naturally to you. Do you complain frequently about your circumstances or your children? If so, do you need to change your perspective? Do you rejoice over your children’s successes? If so, is the motivation to highlight them, yourself, or God? Do you assuming the best about others or are you adding to the judgmental and critical sub-culture I have referred to? Finally, what practical steps can you take to honor the Lord with your lips and be a grace-filled communication pioneer?
Make sure to check out the follow up post here.
Make sure to check out the follow up post here.