Three Ways to Live Joyfully in Life’s Tensions

Date

Nov 16, 2020

Categories

Parenting
Anxiety

Why can’t life be a relaxing, sunny day at the beach?

Home life has a way of arousing tensions, doesn’t it? From granular tensions such as whose day is it to clean the kitchen, to who gets to go the store with Mom, or which movie to watch; to moderate tensions such as which car to buy, or how to get through a disagreement with a spouse; to the most serious tensions job choice, whether or not to get married, or what house to buy. Ironically, I think we struggle more from the daily granular tensions than we do from the serious ones. Someone; a spouse, a child, a mother-in-law: people could be or will be upset with whatever we decide to do which makes any choice seem unacceptable leaving us indecisive.

Almost every decision we face places us in the crosshairs of complex and conflicting forces which raise tension, stress, and the wry if not resigned reflection, “Why can’t this be easier? Why does life have to be so hard!”

Inner and relational tensions come from living in a fallen world. But there are three positive sides to life’s tensions that I want to encourage you with today.

  1. Tension provides an opportunity to look at life from a godly perspective so that we can have joy. If we’re honest, we struggle to always remember God in our decisions, especially the most granular. Life happen so fast and we easily succumb to habit, whim, or someone else’s “wishes” er hmm, demands. If everything went the way we wanted, then we would have no need for God.

As Christians, we are sojourners, exiles, aliens because our real home is in heaven. Our primary allegiance to God is always challenged. If we’re living right, there’s a sense in which we should always feel tension on some level. Tension is a reminder that we need to look at situations from God’s perspective. As the Author of Life, he alone can tell us how to live joyfully in a sinful world.

  1. God is showing how dependent we are on him so that we can rest. As created beings, we all need outside help: God’s “help”. As The Creator and sustainer of life, we absolutely need God’s wisdom, understanding and guidance in all things. The rugged individualism that we prize in America exalts independence and self-reliance. In proper context and balance, there is value in these qualities. However, our flesh seeks to make these qualities ultimate and we easily carry these qualities over into other parts of our lives such as our spiritual walk and relationships often with devastating consequences.

All spheres of life require ultimate dependence upon God and his word. Tension is an accountability tool that calls us to examine what or who we are depending on. We can rejoice that God is a rewarder of those who seek, and hence depend, on him. When we depend on him, we can rest, even in distressing situations.

  1. God wants us to exercise our faith to apply his promises. In some cases, especially major decisions, we might cry out, “I want to do God’s will!” While commendable, God’s will is often not an easy decision that is made with complete clarity on all the factors involved—or the certainty of an ideal outcome. Seeking to make the right decision can also be a reflection of our own idolatry. We do not know the future, only God does.

Romans 8:29 tells us what the will of God is: conformity to the image of his son, Jesus Christ. Previously in verse 28, we read that God uses “all things” which includes good and bad, to accomplish his will. Life seems to teach us that we learn more from the situations that run the gamut from unpleasant to misery. They are opportunities to exercise our faith without which it is impossible to please God and to access the precious promises he gives us for life that carry us through tension.

Not every day can be a day at the beach. I’ve heard it said, “Live joyfully in the tension.” We can do that when we look at tensions from a godly perspective, accept that each tension reminds us our place a dependent creatures, and that each tension is an opportunity to exercise our faith.

Doing those three things may not make yours a day at the beach, but it will help you navigate the seas of life with resilient hope and the unwavering confidence that gives us peace and draws us closer to God.

Three Essential Truths we Need to Tell our Kids–Now!

Date

May 6, 2020

Categories

Parenting

Anxiety

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10

As the virus causes great collateral damage and casts an ominous pal on the future, what should we be teaching our children? Try these three things (at least).

First, God is Sovereign (in Control)

Genesis begins with: “In the beginning, God.” God has always existed. He created the world by speaking it into existence. He sovereignly rules over his creation (Col. 1:16-17). He directs every detail of our lives. God knew 10,000 years ago we would be dealing with Coronavirus today and he is firmly in control of exactly how all of this is going to play out. All of this should bring us great comfort and peace.

Second, God is Using This Crisis to do Good in Our Lives

Because God is sovereign, he uses all things—including the things that we most dislike, suffering for example—for our good (Rom. 8:28-30; 2 Cor. 4:17). This includes everything from mild anxiety about food shortages to significant distress about losing a job or retirement savings. God can use it all for good.

Third, God is Love

Our children need to be reminded that God loves us especially at a time when there is so much fear. Nothing shall separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:35-39). God’s love is demonstrated in all that he has done to redeem us. This includes the new identity we receive in his son, Jesus Christ.

That God loves us so much that he sent his son to die for us and then sent his Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts and never leave us, provides assurance of his love. His love has not waned one iota even with current events.

Hope For The Fearful

These three truths about God are important for us and our children as Christians. But that’s not all. We are called to give an answer for the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15). How do we do that if we are as fearful as everyone else? By intentionally focusing on these three truths—now—we strengthen our children’s faith in God and equip them to share him with others who are caught in the tsunami of fear caused by the virus and its ripple effects.

Practical Help Teaching These Truths

Mention of these truths in informal conversation can be reinforced by gathering the family together and teaching them, too. I have prepared a simple 14 day study that you can do with your family on these truths.

 

Listen

Erich and his wife Stacy have 11 children with one in heaven. In this sermon, he shares about the loss of his son and how God used Romans 8:28-29 in the healing process for his family.

Romans 8:28-30, A Sermon on Suffering

by Erich Pratt

Teaching These Truths

Mention of these truths in informal conversation can be reinforced by gathering the family together and teaching them, too. I have prepared a simple 14 day study that you can do with your family on these truths. Sign-up for our newsletter to access the PDF!

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Four Ways to Make your Home a Refuge from Fear

Date

Nov 16, 2020

Categories

Parenting
Anxiety

If I were a fly on the wall in your kitchen, or if I scrolled through your texts, what would I learn about how you’re handling the news these days? Banter over the news might sound less like afternoon tea with the Queen and more like a barroom brawl.

It is easy for frustration over what we cannot control (namely, most news) to degenerate into fear. Fear is a powerful tool of the enemy of our souls. As parents, we are concerned for our children that disturbing news not lead to fear.

In these contentious and uncertain days, how do we keep from allowing fear to rule us? Following are four ideas.

First, restrain “conversation” about fearful news.

Note that I did not say to not talk about the news. These days our children often know the news before we do, and we must talk about it with them. Isn’t it hard at times to find the line between righteous indignation and angry outbursts? At times, it feels justified to just vent. Afterall, I should be able to say exactly what I think in my own home. Right?

Overwhelmingly negative emotions are often a warning about where our confidence really is. I am not suggesting that a right response is easy. It is a struggle as we all know. By being mindful and restraining discussion when needed, we model the godly leadership our children need and set up the second way we can stop fear from gripping our homes.

Remind your family where our confidence is.

In writing to persecuted Christians, the writer of Hebrews says in 10:23. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” These believers were enduring far, far worse things than any bad news we have heard. The encouragement is to hold fast to Christ! We are not alone. God is with us. He is our confidence through to the end.

As the temperature rises, stop, and say something that breaks the emotional vortex and turns our attention back to God. “Wow, I am really struggling here. I/we need to remember that God is in control of all this.” Or “God is our refuge and strength.”

This morning as the conversation turned again to the news, I reminded my myself and my teenage son, that we are sojourners here on this earth. This is not our home. In the moment, it can be hard to say these things. My failure to say these things usually comes when I fear that saying them will sound preachy or out of touch. I have to be honest with myself and realize I also need to hear what I’m about to say. I will tell my kids, “I need to hear this too. I need you to help me remember what is true.” These are things we should be saying anyway! It is part of speaking the truth to one another in love.

Read the Word of God together.

The Word of God endures forever. It is unchanging Truth. It equips us for every good work. It is powerful. In it we find the accounts of many who have gone before us and overcome fearful challenges by faith in its promises.

Perfect love casts out fear. The word testifies to the perfect love of God. When we read it together out loud it brings calm to distressing situations. Developing a pattern of reading the word as a family prepares us for obedient living—especially in the next news cycle.

There are many Psalms that talk about God being our refuge. Over the next week, consider reading the following: Psalms 34, 62, 71, 91, 118, 142, 144 to your family. Each of these Psalms provide mental rest and emotional peace in the face of fear.

Pray for the salvation of our enemies.

It helps reorient our thinking away from people we don’t like by praying for them. This requires us to first remember our own place. We are sinners saved by grace. We need grace as much as the people we would otherwise hate in our hearts. Our sin is no less odious in God’s eyes and we have done nothing to earn anything but his judgement. Yet, we are undeserving recipients of his mercy and grace. This realization humbles us and fills us with compassion.

Last week there was a news article about a state law that would make it legal to deny care to babies that survived abortion. As I scrolled down and read the comments one particularly stood out to me:

…BABY KILLERS, DEMONIC, GOVERNMENT WORSHIPPING MARXISTS, AT LEAST WE WILL BE FREE OF THESE SOUL-LESS MONSTERS WHEN WE ARE ACCEPTED BY GOD’S GRACE INTO HEAVEN (All caps in the original post).

Certainly, a law like this is wrong and stirs righteous anger! But it’s hard to find anything redemptive in that comment. Its bitter and self-righteous. No grace there. Only judgement. God commands us to pray for our enemies. When we are humbled by our own debt and the mercy we have received, we see them differently and then we pray. Isn’t it harder to disparage someone we are praying for?

In many cases, they are afraid although that fear is masked by hostility. They act the way they do because they have no hope or feel that what their hope is in is being threatened.

This more than any other thing has helped me when I’ve wanted to stew or vent my frustrations about others. Would that I always remembered this. Pray for our enemies to come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I doubt that’s a newsflash. But are we doing it?

Remember who we are.

Because we are objects of mercy, we can be messengers of the hope we have in Christ. We will lose opportunities to bring that message of hope if we allow our conversations at home to be driven by frustration and fear. Hope is needed everywhere, beginning in our homes! Speaking hopefully in our home equips our children to be ambassadors of hope to their friends.

Bad news will continue. But praise be to God that we have an eternal hope in Christ! Do we really believe that? Does it impact how we discuss bad news? It must so our homes will be refuges from fear.

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