Article Nov 4, 2015

A word to the wise: Rooting our counsel in truth

When my son was only a few months old, I had a mother of four walk by me and say, “Oh, I remember the days of only one child. Enjoy it—you have it so easy!”

She was right, you know. Mothering one child is enjoyable, and it is much easier than taking care of four small children as she was. But she was also wrong. Enjoyment doesn’t come merely from having only one child. And “easy” wasn’t what I was feeling that particular day: I was in the throes of postpartum depression, suffering from serious health issues, surviving on three hours of sleep every night, and learning to be a mom for the very first time.

During my 14 years of singleness, I had more than one married woman tell me, “Once I surrendered my singleness to the Lord and was completely content, God brought my husband along the very next day!” (Why was it always the very next day?) Was contentment a destination or a daily choice? Moreover, was perfect contentment supposed to win me the prize of marriage?  

Over the years, I’ve heard a myriad of people say, “Parenting is the most sanctifying thing in the world.” What does this mean then for those who are single or barren? What happened to Jesus’ statement in John 17 that God’s Word is what sanctifies us? Do parents have a corner on the market of spiritual maturity?

A better word

It would be easy for me to resent such misguided comments, except for the fact that I’ve been guilty of similar words myself. When we’re hurting, self-absorbed or simply wanting to validate our season of life, it’s easy to think and speak “extra-biblically.” We offer commentary and advice that’s rooted in our own experiences or emotions, not in the Word of God.

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Prov. 2:6).

“[A wife of noble character] speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue” (Prov. 31:26).

Where does wisdom come from? The Lord. So if I want to speak with wisdom, if I want faithful instruction on the tip of my tongue, I go to the Lord, the source of all wisdom. Sure, I can draw from my own life lessons and share my experiences, but “apart from the Lord, I have no good thing.” My Word-less words have no power of their own. But his Word? His Word is:

“perfect, refreshing the soul

trustworthy, making wise the simple

right, giving joy to the heart

radiant, giving light to the eyes" (Psalm 19).

If I really want to refresh a friend’s soul, give joy to their heart, and light to their eyes, I’ll be slow to dish out my own advice and quick to direct the conversation toward the beautiful, life-giving truths of the Word.

For example, instead of comparing plights with a friend and telling her, “You have it so easy!” I might focus on the goodness of God I see in her life. Or I can steer the conversation away from the differences and focus on what we share in common in Christ.

Or, instead of telling a single girl to be perfectly content so that God will reward her with a husband, I might share how I learned to cling to Isaiah 54 (“your Maker is your husband”) and 1 Thessalonians 5:24 (“the One who calls you is faithful, and he will do it”).

God’s Word will never return empty; it will always accomplish what God desires. It’s alive and active, piercing to the joints and marrow of our souls. And if we could speak with that kind of wisdom, then it would be said of us, “Faithful instruction is on their tongue.”