A Merry Heart and a Joyful Mom

We are right smack in the middle of the school year, which could mean we are struggling with negative thoughts about finishing school up. Personally, I have also just had one of the most exciting days of my life. With that combination, I wanted this Mom’s Corner to be uplifting. I would like to look at several Scriptures that could encourage and lighten our hearts.

Proverbs 23:7 tells us, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he . . . .” While this verse, in context, is speaking negatively, I believe we can apply it in the positive as well. What about, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine . . .” (Proverbs 17:22)? Our thoughts, in some measure, determine the emotions that are a part of our heart reactions to things.

On Nathan’s wedding day, I had a choice to make. I could dwell on my personal sadness of having a son, whom I have loved dearly for twenty-five years and who has lived with us all that time, marry and leave home. I could also choose to think about the joy and delight he would experience on his wedding day and as he began his new life with his bride.

When I put my thoughts on Nathan and his happiness, it made my heart merry. That was truly good medicine, because I was able to go through the whole wedding ceremony without shedding a tear. I always cry at weddings! I didn’t think it was possible to make it through any wedding without tears, and certainly not my own son’s!

Proverbs 15:15 says, “. . . he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.” Sometimes a merry heart is simply a by-product of feeling happy. Then it is easy; we just act the way we feel. When I am getting ready for my read-aloud time with the children, my heart is merry. I naturally love these moments each day, looking forward to them with anticipation.

Other times I must choose to have a merry heart. I have discovered, in the midst of discouragement, depression, and negativism, that I can make a choice to have a merry heart. It is never easy, though. As is true with each day, it becomes even more important that I am having daily time with the Lord reading His Word and that I am communing with Him in prayer. While I must make the choice about where my thoughts will be, He is the One Who accomplishes the work. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). This grows out of the intimacy of my relationship with Jesus Christ.

There are certain times of the month I wake up feeling entirely different than I do on other days. I don’t want to face the day at all, but I must. At that point I have a choice to make. Will I act according to my feelings, or will I put on a merry heart that I don’t feel? It begins with a heart that cries out to the Lord for help, acknowledging dependence on Him. The Lord’s grace is sufficient: “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

When I feel irritable, unhappy, surly, tense, or on edge, I can acknowledge to the Lord the negative emotions I am having. I can pray for His enabling to overcome them. Then I can also choose to walk out of my bedroom greeting my family with a happy voice, while cheerfully loving and hugging my family members—even though I don’t feel a bit sweet or loving.

I am not being a hypocrite if I act happy when I am not feeling that way. James 1:2 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.” Scripture tells me that I am to count my troubles as joy; this is obedience.

I remember once hearing a godly man say, “Obedience isn’t hard when we are doing something we like and want to do. However, when to be obedient means going against our feelings, then we see true obedience.”

I can’t “count it all joy” if I am crying, angry, irritated, frustrated, or feeling sorry for myself. This joy does not come from a heart that thinks about and focuses on its troubles. This joy comes from a merry heart—one that is able to rest in the Lord knowing He is in charge of everything that happens to me.

Our joy develops from what comes out of our mouths. “A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!” (Proverbs 15:23). When I have given a sweet, loving response to a question one of my children has asked me, my heart is happy. However, when I am short or irritable with that child, my heart condemns me.

Here again, my joy comes directly from the choices I am making. Will I decide to follow Christ’s way, allowing the fruit of the Spirit to guide my lips? Will I give in to my selfishness, finding instead that, “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:20)?

“He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD” (Psalms 113:9). I was reminded of this verse while Sarah and I were reading A Woman After God’s Own Heart, by Elizabeth George.

Elizabeth George shared several ways that she incorporated being a “joyful mother of children” into her home when her children were young. One of these was to use the positive words “I love” for every good aspect of their lives. She told her children that she loved praying for them, praying with them, going for walks with them, family dinners, family devotions, the Lord’s Day, and much more.

Don’t our happy, positive words demonstrate a joyful spirit? Even if we aren’t feeling joyful, won’t they move us in the right direction if we speak them anyway? If these kinds of words are a part of our daily habit of conversation, it will be much easier to say them when we are not actually feeling them.

Let me repeat for you one more time these verses that have to do with a merry heart and joy. Please don’t skip over them, but read them carefully.

“He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD” (Psalms 113:9).

“. . . he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast” (Proverbs 15:15).

“A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!” (Proverbs 15:23).

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine . . .” (Proverbs 17:22).

If you don’t have a merry heart or joy, please start by talking to the Lord about it and asking Him for His help. May each of us make the choice to have a merry heart and be filled with joy! May we all truly be joyful mothers of children!

Aspects of Being a Good Leader – Part 4

(To read the first parts of this series, please see this link.) The Thursday night prior to Nathan and Melanie’s wedding, we had a “friends of the groom” fellowship. At one point in the evening, two brothers in the Lord were discussing a bit of their common past, while several of us were listening.

They are both West Point graduates and were reminiscing about some of their experiences there. In particular, they were sharing several of their more distressing situations. One told how on occasion he was given orders to do things that were impossible. The one giving the order knew it was impossible but did it to hone the young cadet’s obedience. Both brothers confessed they had wanted to quit many times, but they would not allow themselves to do so. Isn’t it interesting that the military believes that to be a good leader, you must be obedient?

Our neighbor, who is a city police officer, had just finished his dinner break when he walked across the ice-covered street to comment on Nathan and Melanie’s wedding the previous Saturday. He said he appreciated being invited and how much it meant to him. I told him we weren’t sure whether to invite him. Because of his busy schedule, we were concerned the wedding invitation might be an imposition. He said that he loves watching our children grow up, and when he is old, he wouldn’t miss one of their weddings even if he had to be pushed in a wheelchair. He went on to say how he takes great pleasure in our children, as he is involved with children every day who don’t know how to obey.

Not only do the lives of those in the military depend on their ability to be obedient, but our children’s lives do as well. I doubt anyone would question the truth of that statement. However, how aware are we that the lives of those in our family are greatly affected by our ability to obey as well. Drive at speeds exceeding the law, and your family is in danger. If you choose to cheat the government and lie about your taxes, you may go to jail—now that will affect your ability to provide your family with food and housing! If a dad won’t obey his boss, he is at risk of losing his job. Men love their freedom, but often the family suffers consequences if Dad doesn’t obey those he should.

It is impossible for a dad to be a good leader if he isn’t obedient. First, his family knows he is a hypocrite if they see Dad being disobedient while he tells his family to obey him. He may get away with it for a while, but he will eventually lose his children.

Saved dads are both children and soldiers. We are children of God and soldiers of Christ. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:16-17). “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:3-4).

It was no accident that the Holy Spirit led Paul to refer to those saved as both children and soldiers. There should be no doubt about the importance of obedience in our lives as we endeavor to lead our families. However, do you also get the feeling that obedience is a “dirty” word in Christian circles these days? Begin talking about obedience, and freedom fighters will start crying, “Legalism, legalism!” I hear much talk about freedom in Christ and very little about obedience. Has political correctness neutered God’s Word in the church?

Those who are saved are to obey the Lord Jesus and His Word. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). “And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it” (Luke 8:21).

Just to be certain there is no misunderstanding, obedience does not earn us salvation in any way, shape, or form. It is, however, evidence of our salvation and love for the Lord. The verses just read confirm that obedience gives evidence of our being saved. The point that the freedom fighters miss is that we obey because we love the Lord Jesus. We don’t obey to earn salvation, but we obey out of love for our Lord. The One Who is our Model and Lord was obedient unto death, and He expects our obedience (Luke 17:10). Jesus said in John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” That is really very simple, isn’t it? Those who love Him little, obey little.

A father’s level of obedience will affect how he leads his family and how his family follows him. First, Christ said obedience reveals one’s love. If we love Christ, we will obey Him, but if we don’t obey Christ, we reveal our love for ourselves. The family knows Dad better than anyone, and as soon as they know anything about Scripture, they are looking to see if Dad is obedient. If Dad isn’t obedient, he will be seen as a hypocrite, and his family will not want to follow what he says. They will tend to follow his example.

A father’s obedience to Christ gives the family confidence in his decisions. They will see that Dad makes decisions based on his obedience to his Lord and Scripture. They will respect Dad as a man of God.

Unfortunately, the disobedient dad’s family will not have confidence in his decisions. Dad’s self-love will cause the family to suspect his motives when he makes decisions. Selfish decisions are easy targets for whining, complaining, and arguing against. If the family member can make Dad miserable enough, then selfishly, Dad may reverse the decision to give himself a little peace.

Obedience makes leading a family much easier than disobedience. Decisions based on the Bible and God’s direction are pointless to attack, as those assaults would have to be directed toward God. It changes the whole attitude in the home.

Obedience will protect your family from sin. In Exodus 24, Moses, Joshua, and the elders went up Mount Sinai as the Lord instructed them. God told the elders to wait at one place while Moses and Joshua climbed higher. Then Moses left Joshua alone and completed the climb to the Lord.

Moses was with the Lord for forty days! I find that absolutely incredible. There is so much more I would like to know about that time. They weren’t told to bring any food, and we can only assume that God intended to somehow sustain them for that long. Moses fasted the entire time and so did Joshua.

But what about the elders? “And he said unto the elders, Tarry ye here for us, until we come again unto you: and, behold, Aaron and Hur are with you: if any man have any matters to do, let him come unto them” (Exodus 24:14). The elders were told clearly to wait for their return. Yet they did not obey (Joshua did obey and look how God later used him). As a result they turned to idolatry by worshipping the golden calf, were immoral, and many were slain. There are tremendous blessings with obedience and chastening with disobedience.

It is likely that many reading this Corner are experiencing discipline from the Lord as a result of disobedience and thereby causing the whole family to suffer. Brothers, repent of the disobedience and wrong choices, and God will pour out His blessings.

Each of us dads, who is a child of God, must take the Bible seriously and obey Him out of love for the Lord Jesus. May we say, “Lord, I will do whatever You tell me to, when You tell me to do it.”

May each of us pick up our Bibles and prayerfully read them every morning as we begin our days. Then we should obediently apply the lessons to our lives daily. It will make leading our families so much easier, and it will cause each of us to strive to keep our lives clean and pleasing to the Lord.

“These things I command you, that ye love one another” (John 15:17). “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Ephesians 1:4).