By / Nov 29
By / Nov 21

Several years ago, I received an e-mail from a concerned mother and pastor’s wife who had recently discovered her 12-year-old daughter was cutting. The discovery came as a complete shock to the mother who said it was out of character for her daughter to engage in such a risky behavior. She was a straight-A student and involved in extracurricular activities. In addition to having two loving and engaged parents in the home, she also had many close friends and was involved in her church youth group.

The mother went on to share that after several counseling sessions, the root of the problem had been discovered. They had recently allowed their daughter to use a popular social media app with some time limitations and protective boundaries in place. She was required to keep her account private and give her mother her login information so her mother could monitor her activity from time to time. Even so, the mother didn’t notice any unusual activity that might have triggered her daughter’s cutting.

And that was the problem. There were no comments that implied bullying. Nor was there any contact from a stranger making inappropriate requests. Her daughter confessed to the counselor that she began cutting herself because she felt worthless when she compared herself to everyone else’s highlight reel. The triggers weren’t obvious, but at the same time, they were out in the open for all to see.

Her daughter struggled to understand why some of her friends’ pictures got more likes than her pictures. Or why some of the girls she thought were her friends didn’t mutually follow her back. She was stressed over pictures of girls who she perceived to be prettier and more fashionable and had the comments and likes from the popular boys to prove it, or the pictures of some of her friends hanging out together, without her. She began to obsess over perfectly timed posts with witty status updates that might garner her more likes and followers, but it never seemed to be enough. The more time she spent on the app, the more worthless she felt.

So, what’s a parent to do? How can we help our daughters reject the culture’s shallow standards for defining worth and raise them to see themselves through God’s eyes?

Here are three things we can do to help:

  1. Take an honest assessment of the messages you are sending in your own home when it comes to worth. Do you put an unhealthy focus on outer appearance, body image, name brands or fashion? Are talents, awards and achievements emphasized in your home more than character qualities? Do you allow extra curricular activities to be a priority over church and other faith-based activities? What has a greater influence on you: what others think or what God thinks (or what his Word says)? The truth is, we’ve all been guilty of basing our worth on the world’s standards and for most of us, it will be a constant, life-long struggle to reject the lie. By admitting to our own vulnerability to define our worth according to the culture’s standards, we meet our daughters on common ground and are able to fight the battle together.
  2. Take advantage of teachable moments. Your daughter will be bombarded day in and day out with messages that support the culture’s shallow definitions of worth. Whether it’s the lyrics to her favorite song, an ad encouraging her to cultivate her sex appeal for male attention or the steady stream of her friends’ and classmates’ seemingly perfect pictures and posts on social media, there will be no shortage of opportunities to point out the lies and remind her where true worth can be found.
  3. Tell her where true worth can be found. Make a list of scripture verses that will help encourage your daughter to base her identity in Christ and refer to them on a consistent basis. (*See below for verses to help jumpstart your effort.) Commit to memorize some of the verses together or post them in key places to serve as a daily reminder (the bathroom mirror, her locker or as the background on her phone or tablet). Encourage one another with the verses when either one of you are exposed to messages that run contrary to God’s standards regarding true worth and value.

It is impossible to protect our daughters completely from being exposed to the culture’s damaging lies regarding worth. However, it is wise to draw boundaries that would help limit their exposure to situations they aren’t emotionally ready to handle. If we are faithful to teach them where true worth can be found and model a commitment to those truths both in our homes, as well as our own lives, our daughters will be less likely to look to the world when it comes to defining their worth.

Verses that encourage worth in Christ: Psalm 139:14; 1 Samuel 16:7; Proverbs 31:30; 1 Peter 3:3-4; 1 Timothy 4:8; Genesis 1:27; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 John 3:1-2; Colossians 3:1-3; Romans 12:2; Ephesians 2:8-9; Galatians 1:10; John 12:43; Colossians 3:23; Galatians 2:20

By / Apr 28

It’s a strange thing, marrying and bearing a child in your mid-thirties. I’m every inch a wife and mother, but the single girl I used to be is never far out of reach.

I remember being large with child when I heard the all-too-familiar cliché declared in a group setting: “Parenting is the most sanctifying thing in the world.” I knew their words were well intentioned, but my heart sank as I looked around at dear friends who were single, widowed, and barren. Did this stir up grief in them as it once did in me?

To a single girl, the idea that you’ve supposedly fallen behind in the natural progression of life and that you’re also lacking in maturity and sanctification—is painful at best.

On the other hand, as a young mom I now understand why this idea came about. When you’ve gone without sleep, showers, and social interaction for too long, you grope for ways to make sense of your new reality. Everything about you has been surrendered for the sake of another, so this must be the pinnacle of sanctification, right?

My single friends will quickly agree that they can’t relate to my day full of sacrificial love for my family. I no longer have time to linger at a coffee shop with my Bible and journal, buy a cute new outfit at-will, make fun travel plans, complete any one task from beginning to end, or set a predictable agenda for my day.

But I no longer have to sacrifice in the way my single friends do either: I won't go to bed alone tonight, cry over my unfulfilled passions, work a demanding full-time job to support myself, solitarily juggle all the details and demands of daily life, or feel like an anomaly at a table of all couples.

While his methods vary, God is always committed to maturing and sanctifying his children. But his primary instrument is not our age or stage-of-life—it’s his Spirit and Word at work within us.

Scripture is rich with examples of this. Here are just three:

1. Loving and serving others matures us.

Ephesians 4:11-16 tells us that when we give our lives to serve the Body of Christ, seek unity with one another, and speak truth in love, we mature into adulthood and “grow up in every way” into the fullness of Christ. Then we are no longer children, tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine.

Am I serving in community? Am I forgiving those who wrong me? Am I speaking the truth in love to those around me? These actions that spring from a heart full of the Spirit are what grow us up in God—whether you are a mom of four, a wife with no children, or a single woman.

2. Pressing on to know Christ matures us.

Philippians 3 says that those who are mature should think this way: We put no confidence in the flesh; we don’t have a righteousness of our own that comes from the law. We count all our gain as loss compared to knowing Christ. We want to know him and the power of his resurrection and share in his sufferings and death and resurrection. We haven’t attained to all of this, but we press on to do so.

Am I trusting in my looks, talents, or life experiences? Am I boasting in what I have and what I do? Am I trying to avoid suffering and chase after creature comforts instead? If so, then I may have a maturity problem—regardless of my marital or maternal status.

3. Meditating on the Word matures us.

Psalm 119:99 says, “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditations.” (See also John 17:17.)

Are my thoughts marinating in Scripture? On a moment-to-moment basis, do I think more about me or more about God? You can be a single woman who is so ingrained in the Word that your life oozes selfless love. And you can be a mom who treats your children as hindrances to your own pursuits. It’s easy for me to point the finger at other moms, but I am guilty of this on a daily basis. There are moments every day when, more than anything else, I want my son to serve my needs so that I can accomplish my cleaning, writing, cooking, correspondence, or “ministry” goals.

Has motherhood turned my world upside-down? Oh, yes. Has it brought me more joy and fulfillment than I could possibly have imagined? Absolutely, yes. Am I more mature and sanctified now that I’m a mom? Only inasmuch as I’ve lived and loved out of an overflow of God’s Word at work in me. Where I’ve lived for myself, there’s plenty of maturing left to do.

And where there is desperate need for maturing (as there is in all of us), there is a faithful God who is working in love to complete the good work He began in the first place—and that’s true for every season of life we find ourselves in.

How are you pursuing maturity in Christ in this particular season of your life?

By / Feb 28

Hello, this is Questions & Ethics, and this is Russell Moore broadcasting here from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. This is a program where every week we take a question that you have about something going on your life, in your church, in your family, your neighborhood, and talk about it.

This week’s question comes in about an issue that I think a lot of people have to wrestle with pretty consistently, and that is when it comes to attending and going to weddings, should I go to a wedding? Should I participate in a wedding? And this comes from a mom who is writing in about her daughter, and she says, “My daughter is an atheist. She is living with an atheist, and she now plans to marry him.” And the mom wants to know, should I allow my other daughter to be in the wedding as a bridesmaid? Should I support the wedding financially? Should I go to the wedding? I want to honor God, but I still want to be a mom.

Okay, that is a really good question and I think one that we ought to spend some time thinking about. I remember several years ago I was serving a church, and I had a lady who came up to me after the service, and she whispered, and she said, “Could you pray for my daughter. She has gone to college, and she has become an atheist.” And I said, “Why are you whispering?” And she said, “I don’t want anyone to overhear me, because then they will know that I am the mom of that atheist girl.” And as I started talking to her it became clear, she thought somehow that that would make people think that she has done something shameful in her own parenting.

That’s crazy. We have got to eliminate that within the church. Throughout the Bible, you have family after family after family—it’s hard for me to think of a family in the scripture that doesn’t have a prodigal somewhere in the family. So we don’t say that because a child is going through some rebellion that that means that the parents are deficient. Not at all! And also we need to recognize that parents love their children, and families are to stay together, and we are to maintain those avenues of connection with our children as much as possible and to provide a means for those prodigals to come home. And prodigals do come home. These rebellious times don’t always last forever. And sometimes you have someone who is just going through a time of questioning, a time of confusion. Keep those avenues open.

I would also say that I understand why the mom is concerned about this, because the scripture tells us that a believer is not to marry an unbeliever. We should not be unequally yoked, as the Apostle Paul puts it. But that’s not what’s going on here. Instead you have a professing unbeliever marrying a professing unbeliever. Marriage is something that the scripture tells us is a creation ordinance given to all people; Genesis, chapter 2, “It is for this reason that a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” That’s not only true for Christians. That’s true for all people. So marriage is a good thing for everybody, including for atheists.

It seems to me that in this situation, you have a couple who are doing the right thing: not living together, but instead committing themselves to one another and marrying. If, Mom, you don’t have any other objection to this guy other than his atheism, and if your daughter is an atheist too, I would see this as a creation ordinance, and I would not have one qualm at all in going to that wedding, in having the sister serve as a bridesmaid. I wouldn’t have any problem financially contributing to that wedding.

Now, I think it’s a different story when it comes to the church officiating the wedding. I wouldn’t do the wedding for a couple of atheists. I wouldn’t officiate as a pastor, because I think that signifies the accountability of the couple to the church. That couple doesn’t have an accountability to the church; they are not under the I Corinthians 5 discipline of the church. But as a civil ordinance, getting married, I would go.

Now, if you have some reason to think that this man is harmful or abusive or dangerous, then no, you put your foot down, and you go to the matt for this. But if your only problem with him is that he’s an atheist, I would go. I would be kind, and I would seek to continue to share the gospel with your daughter and with your new son-in-law as time goes on. I would recognize that marriage is a good thing that God has given to all people.

And I also would just really encourage all of those parents out there who are going through a situation with your children—parents of atheist children; parents of agnostic children; parents of children who are going through times of moral rebellion, not just intellectual confusion or questioning or whatever—don’t be ashamed of your kids. Don’t cut off connection with your kids. Remain in contact. Love your children, and don’t be worried about what people are going to think about you. This is not about you; this is about loving the children God has given to you.

What’s a question that you have? Maybe you are reading through the Bible and a question comes up to you or something that is happening in your neighborhood or in your church; maybe something you are talking about in a Bible study or community group that you are wondering about, or something that is coming up in your workplace or your family. Just let me know. Send me an email at [email protected] or on twitter with the hashtag #askrdm, and we will take the question up here on Questions & Ethics.