And how do you deal with the discouragement and self-condemnation if you don’t do everything you planned to do? This is a repeated problem for me. I make this very detailed list of things that I “should” do, and then start out doing them, but get so discouraged when I don’t seem to be making any headway and then condemn myself for not doing ALL that I had set out for myself to do. See, even now it is the hated SELF that is being dealt with. Do you have any advice for me as to what may be the best direction for me to take in order to be a godly wife and mother who serves her family with joy as serving the Lord, but without condemnation over my failures? I would appreciate any encouragement you may have.
I have begun answering this last part the question many times; I wrote many different versions then deleted them all. The problem, my friends, is that I am still struggling with this myself!
Those words jump out at me each time I read this question. How do I continue on without self-condemnation?
As I look around the house, I see dog toys before my front door; trash under the coffee table; grime on the kitchen chairs; math papers ungraded; books scattered across the house; fingerprints on every window; laundry spilling over the basket … My spirit screams at me “You loser! You are BEHIND! What is wrong with you? Why can’t you get your house in order?” And when a child misbehaves (particularly in front of public), the voices grow louder, often accompanied by gut-wrenching feelings of inadequacy. “Who do you think you are, anyway? Look at your ill-behaved, naked-footed, grimy-faced brood running rampant over the neighborhood! What will the community think?” *sigh* I can feel my blood boiling and my arms and legs aching as I type this, even.
That is just my own flesh-voice that yells, SCREAMS accusation within. If I hear a breath of actual criticism, or even catch a sidewise curt glance in my direction, the screams become a cacophony of wailing against my works and worth. My spirit becomes useless; my physical self even weaker. “Why bother? What is the use? Is it even worth it?”
My friends – and I know so many of you face the same screams within – I have come to understand that these voices of the flesh are the spiritual battle we face each moment. Our flesh does not want us to continue on in the great work we must do – rearing our children and upholding our husbands. When we become incapacitated through fear, discouragement, and disability, the enemy has won the victory.
A huge part of my battle has been discerning what is the real priority right now. It is not academics (*gasp!*). It is not a clean house (yipee!). It is not music or money or fame or fortune. Knowing what God wants me to focus on immediately – being a wife to my husband and training my children to be the next generation (husbands, wives, fathers, mothers) has greatly simplified and crystalized my focus.
Who is he that condemneth? Shall Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, Who is even at the right hand of God, Who also maketh intercession for us? What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
~ Romans 8: 34-37
When the voices grow too loud, there are some steps I must take to quiet my spirit before God (Ps. 46:10)
Spend more time in the Word. It seems counter-intuitive when my to-do list is extra-long, my schedule is over-crammed, and my family is clamoring for attention, but that is exactly when I need God the most. I have learned the hard way that if I don’t get away with Him daily for big chunks of time when the going gets tough, things will get tougher until I do. (Ps 27:14) On the flip side, God will teach me peace and serenity during these hours with Him that will endue me with the strength I need to overcome in Him; without Him I can do nothing.
Pray without ceasing. After morning prayer, I must never stop praying through my day. I pray aloud in the shower, I pray while I am exercising, I pray about my errands, I pray when my children are quarreling (they don’t continue long!), I pray before discipline sessions, I pray before teaching, I pray while cooking (God has provided manna, too!). The unsaved call this “meditation” and try to achieve it by some mystical means. I have seen the God of heaven work wonders before my children and I at home … and quiet my fearing soul, too.
Don’t get distracted. That is the hardest part. “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it!” I wander all over the place: wander over the internet; wander through my house; wander through a book; wander through the library; wander through the grocery. Time and attention get away from me, then I feel pressure. There goes my gut again! I then pray, tell God I am sorry, and allow Him to lead His child back along.
Seek godly counsel. This is also tricky. I have had Christian counsellors in the past who placed more of a burden on me and thus on my family (Eph 4:14). It is so important to search the Scripture carefully to be certain the counsellor is teaching the whole doctrine of God and has the best of the counsellee in mind. Godly counsel will help a woman objectively evaluate her life from God’s perspective, give her hope for overcoming the enemy’s snares, and avoid dependance on any person or subjective standard.
Renew the mind. Discouragement comes from within; this is where the flesh and the devil attack us because we women are vulnerable there. Constantly fighting back with the Sword of the Spirit will insure victory.
Let us, friends, renew our minds and regain our strength in Him Who is our all in all. Letting nothing be done through strife or vainglory, taking every thought captive to Christ, and walking always in His Spirit, then we will make our way prosperous, and then we shall have good success.