The Gaping Hole in ‘This Is Us’

There’s a reason we love This Is Us. It’s heartwarming and heartbreaking, capturing the many facets of family life and the ripple effects of loss. We laugh. We cry. We resonate and see ourselves in the characters.

We applaud it—but as much as we do, This Is Us should give us pause.

Millions of Americans, my husband and I included, have tuned in to watch the smash hit. We’ve recommended the show to friends, enjoying its compelling storyline and relatively clean content. Yet, for all the values the show explores, This Is Us is strikingly devoid of religion.

Christians shouldn’t be surprised by this. It’s a secular show created for an American culture where the primary “religion” is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, interwoven with relativism and moralism. But we should take careful note of the gaping, godless hole in This Is Us. We can enjoy the show and be thankful for its themes, while still recognizing the absence of ultimate truth.

When Family Is Everything

Rebecca and Jack Pearson (Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia), along with their three kids, Kevin, Randall, and Kate, are the picture of an all-American family. They love, they fight, they strive for harmony, and they deal with the disappointment of dreams deferred. Jack is portrayed as a model father-figure, involved and nurturing, yet tough as nails. He’s a humble guy-next-door who owns up to his mistakes while attempting to lead his family in what’s right.

While we should applaud the unique way This Is Us upholds family values (a rarity on television these days), we should be concerned about the degree to which it does. Jack’s family is his saving grace, his identity. “You are the love of my life,” he says to his wife, “and our kids are our everything.”

But what happens when a man puts his wife and kids on a pedestal, elevating them to the height of gods? We see the repercussions mainly in Kevin, Randall, and Kate in their adult years: At the root, their hardest battles revolve around their dad, the one who practically worshipped them, and the one they worshipped. Their identities are wrapped up in their father. And (spoiler alert!), as we see after Jack’s unexpected death, to lose the person you worship is to lose some part of yourself.

No human being can be or supply what only God can in Christ; to expect our family to fulfill us is a dead-end road. While family is a wonderful gift and can be a place of safety and security, it was never intended to be our “everything.” It simply can’t be.

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On Mothering with Chronic Pain

Since being diagnosed with Lyme disease about four years ago, my body has been in a daily wrestling match with chronic pain. Some days are easier than others, but my pains are usually present in some degree. Though we have every reason to believe the Lyme is gone (praise God for modern medicine!), as my husband and I often say, “The war is won, but the city is ravaged.”

The disease left me weak, and my body has rebuilding to do.

Two years ago, my Lyme doctor gave us clearance to try to conceive. This clearance came after years of strong warnings against conception because the risks were too high. We rejoiced at this good news: My immune system was strong enough, and my body was healed enough, to try to have a child!

Yet—  

I didn’t know if I could be a mom. In fact, I shrunk back at the possibility. When we were contemplating our newfound freedom to pursue children, the thought struck fear in my heart: There’s no way I can be a mom. I can hardly manage our home or do my job without pain, let alone care for another human life.

How would I carry a baby, or hoist a car seat? How would I be able to keep up with an active child? Although the thought of growing our family biologically was incredibly exciting—the idea of motherhood paralyzed me.

Since that season two years ago, we’ve welcomed our daughter into our family. God, in his kindness, has provided all that I’ve needed to carry her, deliver her, and mother her in these early months. My health is significantly improved and I’ve found ways to manage my pain, but it hasn’t gone away; the addition of the literal, physical load of a baby has only presented new challenges and with them, new opportunities to trust God and mother in his strength.

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God’s Grace in the Face of Lyme

Today is World Lyme Day and marks the beginning of Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Friends at Revive Our Hearts asked me, along with Sarah Walton, Leanna Shepard, and Katie Laitkep, to share our stories related to Lyme, some practical tips for ministering to those with the disease, and some of our favorite resources on suffering and hope:


Q: Would you be willing to share a brief testimony about how God is working His grace in you through fighting Lyme?

Sarah Walton

Fourteen years ago, I said “I do” with stars in my eyes and great expectations for what was to come. Little did I know that those rose-colored glasses would soon shatter and the painful road of chronic illness, special needs, and long-suffering would become my reality. From a young age, our eldest son began displaying behavior that was defiant and destructive and has caused a decade of confusion and chaos in our home. Countless doctors, tests, and evaluations seemed to leave doctors shaking their heads.

Along with that, my own health grew worse, and after I finally received a diagnosis of Lyme Disease, it became increasingly clear that all four of my children’s symptoms were the result of Lyme Disease being passed down from me. This was no longer just my battle—it was a family battle. As my son’s disorder continued to overwhelm our family, confusion and hurt began to grow in our other children, and our marriage began to suffer under the weight of it all.

I was on a scary journey that it seemed no one else could relate to. As the struggles intensified, I found myself pulling away from those I cared about, staying home, and pushing down the stress and emotional turmoil building within me. In the confusion, fear, and uncertain future, I felt utterly alone.

But over these lonely and painful years I have discovered within me a thankfulness for the hard road I have been given to travel. Walking it has brought me a greater understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ and to know Him not only as my Savior, but my comfort, sustainer, hope, and strength. There’s something about having our worldly comforts stripped away that allows us to begin to experience the true depth, length, and height of His love for us. Christ has walked the road to Calvary so that I would never have to walk any road apart from Him.

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10 Great Resources for New Moms

I became a mom to our beautiful baby girl last year.

Newborns are precious and wonderful. But the challenges that accompany them? Hard and wearying (though completely worth it). I quickly learned that a-lack-of-solid-sleep plus not-knowing-what-I’m-doing equals an emotional rollercoaster and therefore a great need to be well-resourced and rooted in God’s eternal truth.  

The following books, podcasts, and other resources greatly encouraged me through the season of new motherhood. Here are 10 suggestions to both nourish your soul and equip you as you get acquainted with your newborn:

1. Risen Motherhood

Risen Motherhood exists to encourage, equip and challenge moms to apply the gospel to their everyday lives. A 15-20 minute podcast started by two young moms, Risen Motherhood is delightful and practical. I love listening to this podcast when I’m driving, nursing, or picking up around the house. Between the co-hosts, Emily and Laura, there are eight kids, lots of momma-experience, and a great love for Jesus. The best parts of the podcast are their humility (they never claim to have it all together) and practical application of the gospel to motherhood and parenting.

2. New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional

Paul Tripp’s one-page daily devotional readings are full of street-level application of God’s grace. As new moms, we need the timeless realities of God’s Word to give us perspective when we’re tired, discouraged, bored, and frustrated. Tripp excels at helping his readers view all of life through the finished work of Jesus Christ: In him, we are approved by God, filled with the Spirit, freed from sin’s bondage and lies, and helped by his grace. I always come away from the day’s reading grasping more clearly how God desires to transform my heart, and this encourages me as I begin another day with my baby.

3. Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood: An Eleven-Week Devotional Bible Study

Author Melissa Kruger clearly had moms in mind as she wrote this Bible study. Not only is the content directed and relevant to moms of any stage, the format of her book is excellent for new moms: She includes each Bible passage within the book and space for journaling, meaning no extra tools to remember! I’ve been so helped by her ability to draw out biblical truth in a fresh way, and so comforted to know many moms have walked this road before me. Most of all, I’m reminded of how near God is to me through his Son, and that I can ask him to help me glorify and enjoy him each day of motherhood.

4. New Baby Survival Guide: Bite-Sized Bible Reading for New Mothers

The description for this book reads, “A new baby is a wonderful gift from the Lord, bringing great joy but also sleepless nights, constant laundry and, sometimes, total exhaustion. It can be hard to read your Bible and pray. These bite-sized Bible readings from the book of Psalms are designed for you to dip into and be refreshed by the Lord.” The authors Cassie Martin and Sarah Smart edify through their compact study of several Psalms and entertain through real-life anecdotes (I laughed out loud multiple times). I enjoyed reading each day’s passage and praying the closing prayers with our daughter.

5. Mom Enough: The Fearless Mother’s Heart and Hope

“This short book by eight women explores the daily trials and worries of motherhood….The paradox of this book is the secret power of godly mothering. Becoming mom enough comes as a result of answering the question, ‘Are you mom enough?’ with a firm no. Who knew the answer no could actually be empowering when our strength is rooted in Christ? These short readings on Christ-centered mothering are the perfect length for nursing sessions or naps and will deeply encourage your heart.

Read the rest of the article at iBelieve.

Trust God With the Spiritual Gifts He Gives

Do you trust God in the area of spiritual gifts?

While talking to my brothers and sisters at church or scrolling social media, I want what other people have—specifically, their spiritual gifts, opportunities, and influence. I hear about that wonderful ministry event she spoke at, or I see how widely she’s influencing other believers, and I think, How did those doors open for her? Why haven’t I had that chance?

Or in moments of total pride: What she’s doing isn’t as neat as what I just got to do.

Five Truths to Help You Trust God

In our sinful state, our hearts wander into covetousness, comparison, and criticism when it comes to the gifts God gives his people. Instead of seeing what God has graciously given—our spiritual gifts, opportunities, and influence—we often fixate on what he hasn’t given us.

But we can trust God with the gifts he gives. Because of Christ, we’re free to celebrate the diverse spiritual gifts within his body and rest in what God has given each of us. This is the better way—and Paul draws it out for us in 1 Corinthians 12. Here, he gives us five truths that will help us trust God as he distributes spiritual gifts.

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The Holy Spirit Is Not Pixie Dust

The following is a book review of Supernatural Power for Everyday People: Experiencing God’s Extraordinary Spirit in Your Ordinary Life by Jared Wilson. (Thomas Nelson (2018). 207 pp. $16.99.)

Jared Wilson always seems to get me.

Whenever I read his books, I feel like he’s in the room, responding to my questions and thoughts. His writing is that accessible and enjoyable, and his latest book, Supernatural Power for Everyday People: Experiencing God’s Extraordinary Spirit in Your Ordinary Life, is no exception.

Life-Altering Reality

jared-wilson-supernatural-power-everday-peopleWilson’s 10-chapter book on the Holy Spirit focuses on the many ways the third person of the Trinity works in believers, changing us and ultimately pointing us to Jesus Christ. Wilson—director of content strategy at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and TGC blogger—begins by introducing us to Bill, a fictional, everyday guy with a normal routine. But Bill’s issue—and ours—is that he feels as though “there must be something more to life, but he’s not sure what that could be” (xiii). His life lacks power.

Wilson returns to Bill as the book progresses, using his fictional life as an illustration for ours. Bill desperately needs supernatural power—the Spirit’s presence, guidance, strength, counsel, and comfort—as do we. Wilson is “firmly convinced that too many Christians spend most of their lives trying to carry out their everyday routines in their own strength” (xv).

I couldn’t agree more. How many of us are trying to live our days—today, even—in our own power? How many of us need “a peek behind the curtain to the reality of [our] inner lives” (xvi)? Wilson draws back the proverbial curtain, revealing our need for the Holy Spirit and exposing our oft-mistaken understanding of what his power looks like in practice.

Spiritual Reality Explained

Wilson clears away unnecessary mysticism as he explains spiritual realities. He does this in The Imperfect Disciple with the concept of discipleship, and he does it in Supernatural Power for Everyday People with the person and work of the Holy Spirit:

The bottom line is this: the Holy Spirit can’t be pumped and scooped. He can’t be slung around, gathered up, or dispensed. He’s not pixie dust. There’s no such thing as the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit is not a thing at all, but the very presence of the personal God himself—with us, in us, and around us. (29)

I’ve often wondered what it looks like to walk by the Spirit, as God’s Word commands. Does it mean heeding God’s promptings, or a “still, small voice,” as Christians often say? Does it mean recognizing my sin, confessing it, and walking in holiness? Maybe. But Wilson’s explanation was profoundly simple: “‘Walking by the Spirit’ must entail fixation on Christ” (44). To walk by the Spirit is to keep my eyes on Jesus, which can only happen by his supernatural power.

Mysterious? Yes. Mystical? Not at all.

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Turn My Eyes from Looking at Worthless Things

The eyes are the lamp of the body. It becomes what they behold.

Lured by desire and the passions of the flesh, the eyes look upon secret loves too dark for anyone but their Creator to fully see and know. Prone to wander, how they feel it—the pull to gaze upon worthless things…   

Worthless Vanity

She rolls out of bed and gets ready for the day, wrestling through outfits, but finally choosing the deep blue shirt. People say it compliments her eyes. Her friend, the mirror, is also her greatest foe, faithfully awaiting her gaze and reflecting what she wants to see—but only after it condemns her, only after she heeds its brutal, silent critiques.

Do people see how hard she’s working to maintain her figure and erase her years? And if they did, would it matter?

Would the mirror be any gentler, any kinder to her?

Worthless Attention

The bright screen bores itself into his brain. A constant barrage of entertainment, his phone never leaves his sight or lacks for his attention. He fears missing out—yet he doesn’t hear the flesh-and-blood voices around him when they call his name.

A like outweighs a life.

But it’s never enough; the attention feels like an endless black hole. He’s not even sure who he is anymore since he can change his reality at the touch of a button, with the swipe of a screen—  

He’s got others fooled. He’s even got himself fooled.

Or does he?

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A Better Mom Is a Broken Mom

“Lord, help us sleep tonight so we can be better parents tomorrow for our daughter.”

I’ve prayed this prayer often lately. Not long ago, we had our first child, and sleep has become a challenge. But sleep isn’t the only thing that’s been difficult these days: I long to take a hot shower without having to rush, to read a book without being interrupted, and for some semblance of a routine.

Basically, I want to be in control. And when things don’t go my way, I struggle. I struggle because sleep makes me a better mom, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it?

Or does it?

These practicalities — sleep, showers, quiet — certainly aren’t evil in themselves; they’re good gifts from a Father who knows precisely when I need them. They’re gifts I should desire. But I often think these gifts by themselves will make me a better mom — a stronger, happier, more confident mom. For my daughter. For my husband. For God.

But my Heavenly Father knows there’s something better for me in himself, that “better” equals broken. It equals humility. Because brokenness — a vulnerable, desperate heart of dependence on Jesus — is what actually makes me a better mom.

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Four Steps to Answering Hard Questions

Meet any 3-year-old, and you’ll quickly learn their favorite question—“Why?”

You’d think such a simple question would have an easy answer, but this isn’t always the case. How much more difficult are questions from adults about complex biblical truths and the mysterious ways of our great God?

Whether your primary ministry is small group leadership, discipling other women, meeting with unbelievers, or facilitating events within your church, rest assured, you will be asked some hard questions. How will you handle them? How can you keep God’s Word central and exercise wisdom as you do?

The hard questions our women ask challenge and encourage us to apply Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.” Consider the following four steps, keeping this verse in mind:

1. Discern

Is this person genuinely curious, or do they want to stir conflict?

Your first step is to discern the motivation behind the question. While many hard questions will come from hearts of genuine curiosity, confusion, or conviction, some may cause conflict, whether the question-poser realizes it or not. As a leader, try to discern if the woman asking the question intends this, or if she’s unaware this could be the result.

Let’s say you lead a small group, and you’re discussing God’s plan for marriage according to Genesis 1 and Ephesians 4. One woman asks, “So do you think Christians who get legally married to a same-sex spouse go to hell?”

Before responding, exercise the “wisdom” of Colossians 3:16 and discern the heart behind her question:

  • Does she have a family member or friend in this situation whom she loves and wants to see safe in Christ?
  • Is she actually asking about the Bible’s authority on marriage?
  • Or does she simply want to stir conflict within the group through a controversial topic?

If it’s conflict she’s seeking, it’s best to acknowledge her question for later discussion and move on from it. If it’s genuine curiosity, then feel the freedom to proceed to the next step.

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