It is easy to feel that you are a patient person… until you have children. It is easy to be patient when there is little trying our patience; it is hard to be patient when someone little is trying our patience!
Children give us the opportunity to see ourselves in a whole new light. All of a sudden when our patience is tested repeatedly daily, we realize that we are not the vast reservoir of patience we thought we were. We are not as calm or as gentle as we thought we were either.
This is easily observable in moms during supper preparation – It has been a long day, our offspring have continually “pushed our buttons” and now supper preparation is under way. At this point a member of the junior set “helps mommy” by carrying plates of spaghetti to the table – one at a forty-five degree angle. The spaghetti slides onto the floor, the oblivious child walks through it and smears it across the kitchen floor…mom YELLS…and dad chooses that moment to walk though the door.
But here’s the real clincher. Dad comforts the crying child, looks at mom and makes a comment like, “You need to learn to be a little more patient.” Dad is not trying to be mean or accusing, he just doesn’t realize that this is not an encouraging comment.
This is not an uncommon scenario. The players change, the circumstances are altered, but the result is the same. Mom feels like a lousy mom. She knows she lost control; she is ashamed and saddened that she hurt her child; and she feels like a failure. She is acutely aware that she disappointed God, her husband and her child. Have you “been there, done that?” I have. And I’ve had many women cry on my shoulder and ask for counsel because of this very issue.
Does the Bible have answers for “real life” situations like these? Are there ways we can encourage one another? The Bible ALWAYS has an answer; and encouraging one another is precisely why God places us in fellowship with others. Here is some help I have received from the Bible:
- Sin Is Always Wrong
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. James 1: 13- 15
We never have an excuse to sin – circumstances don’t make us sin. Following the evil inclination of our fallen nature is the cause of our sin. Losing patience is never right. There may be times when it is understandable but it is never right. Situations that push us to our limit – a fussy child, a poor night’s sleep, a monthly cycle – may challenge our desire to live godly lives but they do not make us sin. They are not excuses for sin; rather, they are mirrors of our hearts.
- God Will Forgive the Offenses of the Repentant
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1: 9
Rather than excuse our sin, we need to confess our sin and thank God for showing us where we need to yield to His fatherly discipline. We need to realize that we have a fresh chance to begin again.
- Ask God For Help
For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. 2 Chronicles 16:9a
King Asa of Judah used the silver and gold from the treasuries of the temple to purchase the aid of Ben-Hadad, king of Aram, against King Baasha of Israel. Hanani reprimanded Asa for relying on the king of Aram rather than on the Lord. God had delivered Judah from larger armies. He had proved faithful and mighty in the past, yet Asa turned to a weaker power than God. (2 Chron. 16:1-9)
We often do the same thing – we turn to man rather than to God. Rather than depending on God’s power and help, we think that our determination to improve will give us victory. Instead of facing the difficult moments of the difficult days with a prayer on our lips, humbly acknowledging our weakness before God, and a plea and a reliance on His strength, we attempt to battle through without calling on God. All of our good determinations are a weak substitute for the power of the Almighty God. We need to realize that God is on our side. He is eager to help us; He is actively involved in working for our sanctification.
Ultimately, what is needed is a heart change, a growth in grace. However, while God is at work on the heart, there are some practical things husbands can do to encourage their wives and there are practical ways in which women can release the pressure that builds during the day. Is this lack of faith? I rather think it is wisdom. If you know you are weak, it is wise to avoid situations in which you are most vulnerable. For example, when a man in the work place chooses not to put himself in a situation where he is frequently working alone with an attractive woman, this is not lack of faith and dependency on God, it is using God-given wisdom.
What Can Dad Do
- Pray for your spouse. You may have married a wonderful woman but she is still a fallen creature and she needs your prayers.
- Encourage your spouse. Dealing with young children all day long is not an easy job. Chances are when you witness your wife’s “explosion,” it is the culmination of many instances that have tried her patience. She may have handled the first sixteen with unusual grace. By number seventeen, she may have become “testy”… and you happened to walk in at the end of the day on number twenty! Rather than admonish her by pointing out her sin, it would be helpful to come alongside her and help her to grow.
How much different the above kitchen scenario would turn out if you reacted like this: Gather your child and your wife in your arms and say, “It looks like you have both had a hard day and now it is time for me to help. I know it is unpleasant to be yelled at. I also know that it is difficult to be patient after a long day. We don’t want our family to be marked by yelling. We want it to be marked by how we depend on God to help us when things are hard. Can I pray for you both? Then we can work together to clean up this spaghetti mess.”
These are empowering words that point to God. When David has done this for me, I feel supported, encouraged to grow and humbled before God, not defeated.
- Give your wife a break when you are home. She needs you to take initiative in dealing with discipline issues, enforcing bedtime, etc. In one large family at Bethlehem, the dad completely takes over the bedtime routine for all the children as a way to serve his wife. Little things like this offer support and encouragement as well as a needed break.
- Help your wife carve out a realistic plan for her devotional life.
What Mom Can Do For Herself
- Pray for yourself and pray for your child(ren)…continually, all day long.
- Be sure you are spiritually armed for the day. Do whatever you need to do to preserve your time with God.
- Take a break. You may not be able to take a “day off” but when you feel your negative emotions rising, you can walk into another room, take a deep breath, pray for yourself and your child, and reappear with your emotions under control.
- Set aside your busyness and focus on your child. Sometimes we snap at kids because we are trying to get too much accomplished. Often it is more efficient (and certainly more pleasant) to set aside our task and concentrate on our child for a time.
- Effectively discipline. Nip things in the bud so they don’t build all day long. Put an end to moodiness (i.e. gently say, “You need to go in another room and ask God to help you with your attitude. You may come back when you can be pleasant.”)
- Plan ahead and plan strategically. Know your limitations and don’t place yourself in situations you cannot handle. (i.e. set out Sunday clothes on Saturday night) Some situations are a recipe for disaster (letting a small child paint while you are baking a cake and taking care of a baby). Lower your expectations and change the schedule.
- Keep your sense of humor. Humor can carry us through the most difficult situations.
- Put things in perspective. If I make a wonderful dinner of baked chicken, Italian salad, fried rice, broccoli au gratin, chocolate pie, and burn the rolls, I have not made a lousy dinner. I have made a wonderful dinner and burned the rolls. Realize that you are not a lousy mom because you are a fallen sinner. You may be a great mom with opportunities to grow in grace.
- Remember that you are not alone. Pray with other young moms. Encourage one another. Remember that you are loved by a body of believers who care about the outcome of your faith.