Week Twenty, Day One
A Relationship Skill That Grows A Happy Heart
Most of the questions I receive from WSO students are on the subject of marriage, of course. But a close second, is the amount of questions I receive about the struggle of having a happy heart. Struggling with worry and discouragement and learning to replace it with gratefulness and contentment is one of the biggest learning curves in any woman’s life. Today we will discuss another relationship skill related to your mental/emotional health and that is the concept of not being easily offended.
A few days ago I was corrected by someone I admire. I remember thinking, “What? Really? You think I’m bad at that?” I stewed around a bit, thinking how actually, this was a weakness in them, not me. I thought, “I don’t do that wrong. Actually, you have a big problem with X instead.”
Then I found David and gave him my sob story of how this person wrongly accused me of X. I stomped around in my pride, telling him how I had been falsely accused. Why, this was unfair of them to say. This was not true. I am not guilty of this, I said. He let me huff and puff.
Finally, however, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, “Don’t be offended. Be humble. Take correction.” Friend, this will never be easy to do!
Remember, addicts are easily offended. They say to themselves, “No one treats me right. No one shows up for me. No one understands or appreciates me. Poor me!” Addicts have huge self-pity issues (“I have it so hard”), they have grandiosity (“I need to be treated like a big shot and have high treatment”), and they are easily offended (“Wow, that person is a jerk for saying/doing that”).
The gulf between the treatment we want and the perceived treatment we get (which is where we become offended) is painful. That’s why addicts need to medicate with a mood changer (porn, food, gambling, alcohol, etc.). The real antidote, dear Friend, is humility! Humility is not needing to be treated like a big shot because you know what a worm you really are. You know your calling is to serve, not to be served. And humility is not-being-offended because we are to focus on how we give and love, not on how we’re given to and loved. Humility tells us our calling is to do good to those who mistreat us. We are to act like…tah-dah…JESUS!!
I have mentioned before that when offenses from others come your way, you have two options with which to react. You can be a brick wall and let the offense hit hard. (See my first reaction above. Embarrassing.) This is the norm. Or, you can choose a mature response, and be steam, letting the offense pass through. Yes, you notice the offense, but you let it pass through. This is one of the most helpful relationship skills you will ever learn. You need it for navigating life with your husband, your adult children, your friends, your mother-in-law, your daughter-in-law, the people at work, the people at your child’s school, your neighbors, the people at church, etc. Learn to not be offended. Bury the weaknesses of others in the cemetery in your back yard.
I do this much better than I used to, but I am still not where I need to be. Opportunities abound for me to be steam (ha ha, abound) and opportunities abound for you, too. It takes a lot of humility to say to yourself, “Maybe I am right, and maybe they are wrong. But, maybe they are right and maybe I am wrong. Nevertheless, I am going to let it go and I am going to forgive them.” Be steam. Be humble. Receive correction. Let it go.
This relationship skill of “not being offended” is essential if you want a happy heart. People who are always offended don’t experience the emotional freedom that comes with overlooking. Only the most emotionally mature can overlook the offenses of others. OLAT, remember? (OverLook A Transgression) “The discretion of a man delays his anger; and it is his glory to overlook a transgression” (Proverbs 19: 11).
Here’s one more tip for the advanced learner: When you feel unjustly criticized, look for the smidgeon of truth in the accusation. There is usually one there. Ask God what He wants you to hear.
Here is an example: Since my husband and one of my sons have an auto-immune disease, often they cannot eat the food that is served when we go to events. Therefore, I frequently volunteer to bring them extra food. Recently, this annoyed an upcoming hostess (who is a relative). When I asked if I could bring some extra food, she insinuated that this was “indeed rude” but that I could do it. I thought about that and at first, was extremely annoyed at her lack of consideration for my husband and son. I was upset that she didn’t want her beautiful dinner party to get messed up with my Tupperware of extra food. But after thinking about it, I realized she had gone to a great deal of effort to have her beautiful party and I (truthfully) wasn’t concerned about the beauty of her party at all, merely the comfort of my husband and son. Not being concerned about her was the hard true part that God wanted me to hear. I was only looking out for my interests: my husband and son. Honestly, I need to be a witness to her. I need to demonstrate care for her agenda, even though I repeatedly don’t agree with it. Here’s where the double standards come in again: God wants me to forgive her for not considering my agenda, and He wants me to move toward her with love and care. Friend, this is only possible with the Spirit of Christ. Loving difficult people is one of the hardest jobs on the planet.
Learning not to be offended will definitely make you easier to live with. But this will also allow you to enjoy your own internal landscape more. You live minute by minute with yourself; learn to live in such a way that you can enjoy yourself. You have one single, short life on earth. Learn to live it with a robustly happy heart.
Week Twenty, Day Two
To begin this section, let me say that Christian women are in no way exempt from having alcohol problems. No one sets out saying that they are going to become an alcoholic or have alcohol issues. No, it is a gradual thing, like a canoe that is in water with soft undercurrents and is soon on the other side of the river. Alcohol, like sugar and drugs, can immediately change your mood, and therefore, it is commonly over-used.
Jesus turned water into wine. Yes, maybe those beverages weren’t as strong as they are now, but they did contain alcohol. This is proven by John 2:10 which says, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink.” Unquestionably, Jesus turned water into alcohol.
The problem is, of course, when people drink too much alcohol. The Bible does not tell us how much wine one can drink but it does give a principle that I think is helpful for Christians who choose to drink. It is this: “Do not get drunk on wine…Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). It’s very clear that we are not to get drunk. Getting drunk is crossing the line. But what is drunk? Where exactly is that line? I think the Scripture tells us. If you are drinking so much that you cannot simultaneously be filled with the Spirit, then it is too much.
If you go to OpenBible.info and click on the Topical Bible tab, you can search for Drinking Alcohol and find 80 verses on drinking alcohol. This is a good Bible study if you or someone you know is having trouble with alcohol.
The government has set standards for how much alcohol can be in your blood if you are driving. And different health organizations have given different standards on how much alcohol one can consume without it impairing your health. Most health websites say that women can handle one five-ounce glass of wine a day and it not impact their health in a negative way. But some health experts insist that only three glasses of wine a week are allowed for optimum health. Scripturally, we don’t have exact rules or limits on how much you can drink except “don’t get drunk” and “don’t cause your brother to fall.” (“It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.” Romans 14:21).
Again, I am not going to give specific rules, but I want to give you a strong warning on the dangers of alcohol. Besides the terrible consequences that, of course, result from driving while intoxicated, alcohol can ruin your marriage if you drink too much. Alcohol decreases your self-control. Excess alcohol loosens your tongue and it is probable that you will say harmful things that you will later regret.
Christians are adamant about their position on alcohol on both sides of the fence. Martin Luther’s wife brewed her own beer. C.S. Lewis drank. However, Charles Spurgeon said, “Next to the preaching of the Gospel, the most necessary thing to be done in England is to induce our people to become abstainers.” Whatever your conviction is, just know that if you are having trouble with alcohol, it is time to “throw off the sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Friends, excess alcohol ruins homes. Be very careful with your alcohol. Do not let alcohol master you.
Week Twenty, Day Three
Important Parenting Concept #1
There are two main concepts about parenting that I want to discuss in this section and the next. The first principle in parenting to understand is that it is imperative for couples to have harmony in the marriage or else the children suffer.
You will certainly have conflict in your marriage and you will most likely have conflict in regards to parenting. This is why I beseech couples to go to as many Christian parenting seminars, listen to as many DVD’s, etc. as they can. The more teaching you hear together, the more you will be on the same page. Being on the same page in parenting is crucial because parents need to provide a united front. Find the style the two of you can best agree on. But in the end, you will still have conflict in your marriage about parenting and about life in general. How you respond to that conflict, dear Wife, is incredibly important in parenting!
Children learn how to submit to and follow God by watching their mothers submit to and follow their father. Children naturally rebel; that’s in their DNA. They must have a model to see submission and they see it when mothers respond rightly to the father. Resisting your husband’s leadership is incredibly unwise if you want your children to follow Christ. Your husband will not be a perfect leader. But when you can still respond with honor and respect, your children will learn how to respond with honor and respect to the Lord when things don’t go their way. Yes, of course, you can give your husband your thoughts and input. Of course, you can respectfully appeal. But your husband is the head of your home, and if you resist his leadership, you will eventually see children who resist the leadership of the Lord.
David and I have struggled in agreeing on several areas in our marriage and we probably struggled with the area of parenting more than any other. We didn’t struggle much when the kids were little, but more when they became teenagers. If I could do one thing over in my marriage, it would be to not have had such an independent spirit during a few years of my marriage. I would have been more submissive to David’s leadership.
The very best gift you can give your children is to love the Lord with all your heart. Then secondly, the best gift you can give them is to honor, respect, and submit to their dad. Resentment, annoyance, and disrespect towards your husband is a terrible environment for your kids. Don’t underestimate the importance of how you treat your husband as far as the impact it will have on rearing your kids. As I’ve said many times, kids see how the Believer submits to the Lord as they watch Mom submit to Dad. And kids see how the Lord provides and protects as they watch Dad take care of Mom. Marriage could not be more important in parenting!
You have been given the role of wife to build your house (Proverbs 14:1). You have been given an incredible power of influence. But remember, there are negative consequences in your children if you have a contentious spirit. Harmony in the marriage is ultimately obtained by a wife not resisting the leadership of her husband. Your willingness to ultimately submit to your husband’s leadership could not be more important.
Yes, go to parenting seminars. And yes, order Love and Logic DVD’s and get the yelling out of your house. But in the end, children watch the marriage and learn about submitting to God from how their mothers submit to their fathers.
See more in Day Four.
Week Twenty, Day Four
Important Parenting Concept #2
The second important concept I want to discuss as far as parenting is if you want to have a general idea how your children are going to turn out, remember that apples fall from apple trees. Oranges don’t fall from apple trees. Bananas don’t fall from apple trees. Like begets like.
When our kids were little, I read almost every parenting book I could on kids. I decided if I could get enough knowledge, then I could produce awesome kids. I soaked up books such as Ferber’s How To Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problem. I lived by Ezzo’s materials on Baby management and Toddler management. Later, I thought if I homeschooled, I could control their environment and they would all love Jesus and be perfect little soldiers for Him.
Friends, none of this was bad. However, whether you homeschool or not, whether you have Santa Claus or not, whether you go to church on Wednesday nights or not, whether you count to three or demand first-time obedience, whether you spank or have time-out, whether you do any of a million other random things, the bottom line is your kids will generally turn out like you.
If you love and serve others with a pure heart, your children will. If you are critical and judgmental, they will be too. If you love the Word, they will. If you struggle with the love of money or sexual lusts, so will they. If you love missions, they will. If you love the poor, they will. If you are hospitable, they will be. If you tell lies, they will lie too. If you cheat, they will cheat. If you slander others, they will. If you are sarcastic, they will be, too. If you are depressed, then they will struggle with depression. If honoring Jesus Christ is the most important thing in your life, then honoring Him will probably be the most important thing in your children’s lives, too. This is not an exact science, of course, but it has much general truth.
Let me tell you what messes up your home, Friend. One word. SIN. That’s right, one little word. It shows itself in anger, selfishness, underhanded business deals, racial prejudice, prescription drug addiction, rebellion to authority, ungratefulness, judging others, a harsh tongue, no concern for the least of these, and a million other different scenarios.
Yes, read all the parenting books and go to all the conferences. I’ve counseled you to do this numerous times. But the very best parenting advice is to surrender your life to the Lord, submit to your husband, die to self, read your Bible, prayer earnestly, and get involved with other believers in community. That’s the real parenting advice because children learn what they see lived.
Research has shown that the number one predictor of whether children follow their childhood faith is if they are close to a warm and nurturing father. Many of you have husbands who are not very relational, and when the kids get to be teenagers and more difficult, your husband will retreat. Instead of bashing him for his lack of fatherly involvement, tell him good things the children say about him. Tell the children good things the father says about them. Suggest outings where the father has one-on-one time with each child. Don’t begrudge this work. You are the wife, you are the relational one, and you are the one who is called to build your house. Massage the relationships with your teens and your husband. As I’ve said before, when there is tension in the marriage, the wife tries to pull the children to herself to hurt her husband. This is the most selfish thing you could ever do to your children! They need a close relationship with Dad!
One other piece of parenting advice is necessary. In the secular atheism worldview, your children will be confronted with the teaching of evolution. It is imperative that you learn apologetics and teach your children these truths. Otherwise, they will be confronted with the (false!) New Atheist thinking (like Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, etc.) and will not have answers to deal with their fallacious teachings. There are many, many good books. I like Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace, as well as Man, Myth, Messiah, by Rice Brooks. Also, my favorite resource is an amazing DVD called Evolution’s Achilles Heel to help you understand the impossibility of evolution. Many young people are leaving the church as they have not been trained in apologetics. Don’t let this happen to your children.
(Just FYI, my next book is going to be on apologetics. It will be the story of two young non-Christian twenty-year olds, the lies they believe, and what happens when they are confronted with the truth about evolution, transitional fossils, DNA, the age of the Earth, etc. You can write me at JulieNGordon2012@gmail.com if you’d like to be notified when it will be released.)
To summarize, nothing is more important to you on Earth than your precious children. God has such awesome instruction for us in His Word!
Week Twenty, Day Five
Handling Your Husband’s Sin Nature
Wives, we are fixers. We want our nests to be clean, beautiful, and tidy. The first element we observe that needs tidying up is the husband. We think our husbands don’t lead like they should, they don’t desire God like we wish they would, and they don’t do a hundred other behaviors that we classify as things good Christian men should do.
But shock-a-roo. Did you know that you have been given power from the Lord to help your husband grow in his relationship with Him? That’s right. God wants to use you to reach your husband. No, it is not a Bible study to take him through. It is not a course at your church.
Peter, who was in the inner circle of the disciples and walked with Jesus while He was on Earth, has given wives a strategy. You don’t have to read a million books or go to counseling to figure this out. In one paragraph, Peter tells wives—whose husbands are disobedient to Scripture—what to do. Are you ready for the game plan?
Peter says when your husband sees “the purity and reverence of your life,” your husband will be “won over without words” (1 Peter 3). God’s plan is not that you tell your husband to change, it’s that you change yourself! That’s how God uses wives to pull their husbands to Himself. It’s the influence wives have over their husbands when wives’ lives are full of purity and reverence. Swim around in that thought for a while. God wants you to confess and repent of anything that is not pure. (What are you doing, saying, or thinking that you shouldn’t be?) And God wants you to live with reverence. My definition of reverence is “respect on speed.” God gave wives a blueprint to deal with husbands whose hearts are not turned to Him!
The funny part is next. Peter knows and addresses the two methods that women employ to try to change their husbands. The first approach, as I mentioned in the prior paragraph, is words. This is the number one choice by all women (you already know this, right?)
Choice number two is that women try to win influence with their beauty! Yes, beauty does captivate men’s hearts. And women know that and therefore, they care a great deal about beauty. But Peter takes it a step further and talks about true beauty. He defines this beauty as “the inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” Thank goodness there is one kind of beauty that doesn’t fade, because even the Elizabeth Taylors of the world have beauty that fades. Peter then takes this a step further, and says how the holy women of the past used to make themselves beautiful. Oh dear, here it is again. Take a deep breath. They were submissive to their husbands.
I wish I could tell you that after twenty or thirty years, you will be completely in sync with your husband and will never have to worry about resisting his leadership again. Last night (!) as we were falling asleep, my husband let me know that he didn’t like the way I handled a situation with a child. I told him why I was right and we went to sleep. This morning, while I was having my quiet time, the Lord nudged me. “You are resisting the leadership of your husband.” I admit, I hate these moments. Hate. Hate. Hate. So when my husband got up, I had to go and say those horrible words I hate to say: “I was wrong. Will you please forgive me?” Those words will never be easy for me to say. Submitting to my husband’s leadership will never be easy. But I know it is the path of blessing. I know it is God’s plan for the home to thrive.
After watching marriages and families for thirty years, I can promise you that until you get this principle of submission right, your family will never flourish. You can be gorgeous, witty, hospitable, and able to do it all with your hands tied behind your back. But until you lay down this clamoring to be in charge, until you lay down your anger and your strong will, you will never be the beautiful woman that God desires. God created women to be help-meets and yes, our husbands need us to help them think. But ultimately, your husband is the head of your home, and your insistence on doing things your way will harm your marriage and definitely, your children (as they learn how to follow Christ as they see you follow your husband).
I don’t understand it completely, but something happens in the heavenlies when a wife has a gentle and quiet spirit and can learn to submit to the leadership of her husband. A wife’s gentle and quiet spirit plows a husband’s heart to soften it so God can work in it. This is God’s plan for reaching stubborn men. I know you’d rather give him a lecture but that is not the divine method. Believe me, I’ve been looking for another method for 30 years and there’s not one.
Friends, I didn’t write the rules; I am only the herald, telling you what the rules say. This is the only path of blessing for women. Don’t neglect this pot of gold. The world thinks this is ridiculous hogwash. But in fact, it is the most fabulous piece of advice that any woman could ever hear. God created the family. God created marriage. We are richly blessed if we hear His still small voice and obey.
As I linger in Your presence this morning, I feel the pressure of You telling me about some thoughts and actions in me that You don’t like. Honestly, this guilt is an unpleasant feeling. Your Holy Spirit is pressing in on me, God.
The person I present to the world is vastly different from the person that You and I know lives in the secret places in my heart.
And so, for the zillionth time, Lord, I come to the cross with my wretchedness in my backpack. What do I do with this heavy burden?
You tell me to lay down my backpack of sin. Just lay it down. You paid for that ugliness, therefore I don’t have to. I get to lay it down and get a free bath for my soul.
Your Word says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). You are handing out forgiveness. It’s almost hard to accept because it seems unfair, that I get to walk away free and not pay for the filth and junk buried in my heart.
But actually, there is a price. There is a condition. And that condition is that I become Your bond slave. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14). I now have an obligation to follow and obey You. Yes, I get to be free of my backpack of sin, but getting freedom from my sin comes with a condition. Repentance is part of the condition. I don’t get to believe, be cleansed from my sin, and then hold on to my sin. Repentance is turning from the sin that Your Spirit has highlighted in my conscience.
So I tell you, Lord Jesus, I turn. I know the “sin that so easily entangles” and I repent. I lay down the sin. There are doctors that can help cure illness; there are teachers that can help us learn; and there are brilliant people who can help us think about government and social issues. But there is only One that can forgive sin, and He is not a man. It is You, the Creator of all. I believe it. Therefore, I will repent and lay down this sin that You have asked me to give to You.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
In Jesus name,
- How do you handle correction? Have you basically overcome self-pity or are you still struggling? Are you easily offended by others?___________________________________________________________
- What are your thoughts on alcohol? Do you think this area could possibly be a stumbling block for you? Explain.
- How did you react to the idea that your children will basically submit to the Lord by watching you submit to your husband? Explain.
- Since apples fall from apple trees, what character trait do you need to change so that your children will not “be like that”?___________________________________________________________
- Are you a “blamer” or someone who takes responsibility for how things turn out?___________________________________________________________
- What are your thoughts about the idea that you are God’s instrument to woo your husband toward Him with your gentle and quiet spirit? What are your thoughts on submission? Explain.
Friend, as you and I fight the struggles of life (and there are many!), remember that the best weapon you have is prayer. Prayer is where God shows you your sin. Prayer is where chains are broken. Prayer was how Jesus talked to His Father to hear His will and it is how we are to talk to our Father and hear His marching orders. You will have many trials in life and prayer is how we conquer.
Become a woman of prayer. Schedule your prayer like you schedule your exercise or your family’s meals. Be a woman who lets the Spirit of God cleanse you in prayer. How impossible it is to be the woman God wants you to be without prayer.