In early spring, a gardener begins the back-breaking work of plowing the garden. She breaks up the hard soil, getting blisters on her hands from the tiller. She prepares the ground to receive the seed, places the seed in the ground, covers it over with dirt, waters it, and then must wait. But the waiting is not passive waiting, its is hard work. Day by day, she waters, she pulls weeds, she checks for insects, and other pests. She has to deal with a late frost by carefully covering her plants and praying that they survive. She has to deal with droughts and scorching hot days. In this time of labor, she does not see much initial yield on her investment. Each day she comes to check on the plant, it barely seems to have grown.
She is tempted to give up. She knows her neighbors all go to the grocery store and can get similar vegetables pretty cheap. Maybe her husband has not taken much interest into the garden or has been too busy to help. She gives up a lot of the time she hoped to spend elsewhere. When she goes out into the hot sun, she wonders if progress is being made. She is tempted to resent it. But eventually through perseverance and what seemed like forever but was actually just a few months, the plant blossoms. Then comes the initial fruit. It is not much but it is sweet.
As late summer and early fall approach, the tender shoot she cared for as little seedling begins to produce an abundance of vegetables, so fresh and delightful nothing at the grocery store can dare compare. The meals she prepares with these fruits are so delicious that everyone praises her cooking. She has enough of a harvest to share with others. When winter rolls around and she grabs a jar of canned vegetables that she had grown and serves them to her family, she takes a bite and thinks to herself how glad she is that the did not give up before the harvest. The cold weather keeping her inside makes her look back with great fondness on that hot summer day where she on her hands and knees carefully weeded around that tiny shoot of a plant that never seemed like it would grow. How could she have ever complained about that time out in the sun doing the work of a gardener.
Proverbs 15:1-4 A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, But the mouth of fools spouts folly. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, Watching the evil and the good. A soothing tongue is a tree of life, But perversion in it crushes the spirit.
As you read through the book of proverbs, there are several themes that appear over and over again. You can see one theme take shape in the four verses above. The book of proverbs teaches us that a wise person diligently seeks wisdom and as they grow in wisdom, wisdom will flow from them. Wisdom will fill their heart and then flow outwardly through their speech. In other words, a wise person will guard their speech. Their speech will be like a tree of life. Whereas the fool in the book of proverbs loves to spout off about what they don’t know and uses their words carelessly or harmfully. This same theme is picked up in what is often called the Proverbs of the New Testament, James 1: 19-20 This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
There is much to say about how this applies to you specifically as women. What immediately may come to mind is how the scriptures say that godly women have a chaste and respectful demeanor with their husbands that reveals an imperishable quality of a gentile and quite spirit which is precious in the sight of God (1 Peter 1) as opposed to a brash and loud nagging spirit that is associated with the foolish harlot in scripture. It is pretty obvious from all the instruction in the New Testament that women should cultivate a gentle and quite spirit and that Satan, the world, and your flesh will fight against this.
Today I want to specifically apply this instruction to you as you discipline, instruct, and care for your children. As a mother, you must remember that a soothing tongue is a tree of life. Your words in the lives of your children will have a major impact. When you get frustrated with your sons or daughters, how you speak to them will either move them to life or push them to death. The words of a mother are powerful. I can still remember things that my mother has said to me at different points of my life that God has used to mold and shape me. Your words mothers are power and can be either good for building up or tearing down.
When you are frustrated, you are going to be tempted to say things like “why do you always do that” or “you are a troublemaker” or “why are you being such a ….” You are going to be tempted in your frustration to lash out. When you say something like “you always” or “you never” you are communicating more than just your frustrations, you are say to your child to them that they won’t ever succeed in that particular situation. This is tearing down rather than building up. Furthermore, saying they never obey is a lie. Clearly, your child has obeyed at least once before. It would be much better to say something like “Son you have disobeyed by doing _______ and this is the consequence. I think you can do better in the future.” Now you are thinking, sure I should say something like that but you try doing that when your children have frustrated you. And I do know what is like to be frustrated. But we must remember what the book of James tells us. The anger of man (yes, women you are included here) does not achieve the righteousness of God.
With that in mind, let me give you some things that might be helpful when you are in this circumstance. The first thing is to get prepared before you are in the moment. As Mark Cox says we sweat more in training so we bleed less in battle. We have to be prepared. Jesus said it this way in Matthew 12 “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Your mouth speaks from what is stored up in the heart. That is what you are preparing with is what will come out. This is why I said at the beginning, the wise person is filled with wisdom and then flows forth with wisdom. Therefore, the first piece of advice I have for you is that you be constantly filling your heart with wisdom. Preparation for dealing with frustrations looks like:
1. Being in God’s word. Meditating on and memorizing verses like Proverbs 15:1-4.
2. Be praying that God will give you strength when dealing with your children. Before the children wake up, say a prayer for them. If one of them is the one you most struggle with losing patience, make sure to pray for them often. Cultivate a love and even a pity for them.
3. Pray with the children when they wake up in the morning and throughout the day. If one is having a difficult day obeying, sit them down and pray with them.
4. Make a list of what you will say when disobedience or even childishness happens. Don’t be caught off guard and just wing it. You know the times and circumstances that are most likely to happen. Make a list even if its just in your mind of how you will react and what you will say. Write down some of the things you are tempted to say and then reword them to be words of exhortation. When you make your list, make sure to include some godly rebukes. A rebuke is a good thing scripture teaches. But a rebuke is founded on truth and has a purpose other than venting your frustrations.
My second exhortation is that you make sure that you are disciplining on the first time. Don’t wait till you are at the end of your rope to discipline. Gently correct the first time there is disobedience. This is hard for you to do because you are not usually frustrated the first time and so you will be tempted to let it slide. But know that when you let the disobedience slide by without correction and discipline, you are not being fair to yourself or to your child. You are setting yourself up for failure.
My last exhortation for you is this: You are not alone. We have a gracious heavenly Father who loves to give his children the Holy Spirit. He has also given you church family that loves you. Where you have failed here and we all have, we must repent and seek the forgiveness of God. We must pray for his enabling to do better. We also must not be afraid to reach out to each other for encouragement, accountability and help. If you are at your wits end with a child or anyone else, send a text to one of the other women. Don’t be ashamed to get help or advice. The church exists for a purpose and we are to carry each other’s burden.
Now the application I have made today as been aimed at you mothers with young children but this same application can apply to those of you with older children or who don’t have children at home. You still need to guard your words and speech when you are dealing with your husband, people in the church, your neighborhood, or wherever you are. Your gentle and quite spirit is precious to God and it will be used by God to win others to the kingdom. Older women you need to be checking in on the younger women who have young children. You know what it is like to be in their shoes. They need you to teach them to love their children. You who have wisdom need to pour that out to those who need it.