One of the advantages to my season of life is that I have a little more time to reflect and think. When I was raising my kids, I was so swamped in the “daily-ness” of life that I couldn’t pull back long enough to look at the big picture.
Like simmering a pot of soup to reduce the liquid, my years have condensed the necessary ingredients for married women to just a few. Time has helped me realize there are three essentials for every “M.R.S.” No matter what your marriage stage—newlyweds, young children or teenagers constantly interrupting (or both), or if you’re in the empty nest with grandkids all over the country like I am—we share some common needs.
Essential #1: Be in God’s Word.
This was supremely challenging for me when I was raising my children. Though my goal was to read the Bible regularly, I felt very frustrated and defeated much of the time. My kids would interrupt, or I’d try to get up early to read the Bible only to find a child up earlier.
Then I tried nap time. But at least one child wouldn’t go to sleep like he or she was supposed to, or another would be sick or teething. Or I’d be so tired that I couldn’t focus, which was often the case.
Once my children were older and finally all in school, I was able to be in control of my time … a little more. My husband, Dennis, and I were pushing 20 years of marriage then. I understood as never before how important it is for me to be in God’s Word for myself instead of depending on second-hand information from sermons, or books I was reading, or even from friends who talked about what they were learning. As I finally began to consistently read and study the Bible, I realized that God could speak to me … He wanted to speak to me!
As a result, I promised myself that I would be in regular, serious, inductive Bible study until I breathed my last breath. I have learned that if I don’t have the accountability of a class and an assignment that has to be done on a weekly basis, it’s too easy for me to put it off.
This may be a new thought for you: I believe God wants us women to be theologians. Have you ever thought of yourself as a theologian? Probably not. But theology is simply the study of God—knowing who He is. When we study God’s Word, we get to know Him personally and develop a relationship with Him. Therefore, we understand better why He does what He does.
Once I heard John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, say this: “Wimpy theology makes wimpy women.” I want to be a strong woman. I want my strength to come from a one-on-one relationship with God.
I discovered why strong theology is so important in 2008 when our granddaughter, Molly, died after seven days of life. During that week in the hospital with my daughter and son-in-law, I found myself reading the Bible constantly to find what was true in a terribly difficult circumstance.
Over and over I read Psalm 139:15-16a, which says, “My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance.”
God was in control. This was not a mistake. He knit Molly’s body together in my daughter’s womb. He made her the way He wanted to make her.
This Psalm goes on to say in verse 16, “in your book were written … the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Even though that week was very painful, we were confident that God formed Molly. He knew the number of her days, and her life had a purpose even though it was short.
God’s Word was our anchor during that week. God’s Word became our strength. It is the only thing that will make us strong in the storms of life.
Essential #2: Be a helper to your husband.
In Genesis, when God created Eve, He told Adam that He was making a helper for him. Before the Fall—before sin made a mess of marriage—God declared that woman was to be the helper.
It is interesting to note that helper is also part of the job description of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told the disciples, “And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth …” (John 14:16-17).
Here’s an interesting exercise: As you read the Bible, look for passages about the Holy Spirit in the New Testament and ask yourself, “How can I help my husband in a similar way?”
You can never be the Holy Spirit in your husband’s life, of course. But it is possible to find inspiration in the descriptions of what the Spirit does in our lives. For example, in the verse I just quoted Jesus said the Spirit will “be with you forever.”
As Christians, it gives us a great sense of security to know that the Holy Spirit will be with us forever. Likewise, if your husband knows that you will be with him forever—no matter what he does, no matter how bad things get—it provides great security for him, too.
Jesus also said that the Holy Spirit would “bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” He was speaking of how the Spirit would, in a supernatural way, help believers remember His words after His death and resurrection. In a similar way, I think that you can remind your husband of the truth of Christ and of God’s Word.
Romans 8:26 tells us that “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. … but the Spirit himself intercedes for us …” I think one of the great callings of wives is to intercede and pray for our husbands. Praying for our husbands—for all they are facing and all that God has called them to do—is one of the greatest gifts we can give them in our role as helper.
Essential #3: Be a world-changer.
No matter where you are, no matter what your age, the Christian life should be permeated with purpose. Jesus didn’t just save us so we could be happy and have sweet families. He rescued us from meaninglessness, from futility, to give us a life of great purpose and great calling.
Ephesians 2:10 says, “We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” We need to discover what those good works are and walk in them.
If you are raising children, I want to say that you are a world-changer. You are raising young men and young women who God can use for great purposes.
It’s good to remember this when you feel like your life is consumed with the never-ending demands of children—especially when they are young. Recently I was talking with a young man in our office who said his wife “feels like she’s failing” because of their struggles with a strong-willed daughter. Every day, he said, their daughter “comes up with a new way to disobey, and a new way to push back, and a new way to break the rules. It feels like all we do is discipline this child.”
“Oh, I understand,” I said. “I had one like that.” Part of raising our kids is continually training and disciplining them in the hope that they will develop godly character and someday walk with Christ. Keep your ultimate goal in mind.
As your children grow older, one of the best things you can do as a world-changer is to start taking them on mission trips. You can start with serving in your own city, and then look for an opportunity to take them on an international mission trip.
It was life-changing for my kids to go with Dennis and me to Russia and visit orphanages where the kids had absolutely nothing. They saw God at work in another part of the world, and they saw God work through them to encourage others.
And if you are in the empty nest, there are still many opportunities to be a world-changer. You will still spend time with your adult children and your grandchildren, but you probably will have time for some other activity—some other kind of ministry. There are so many opportunities to help at your church or in your community.
One of the best ways to be a world-changer during this season is to mentor younger women. There are women who are a few years behind you who would love nothing more than to have coffee with you once a month and talk and ask you questions. It doesn’t matter that you’ve made lots of mistakes. I fact, the younger women will feel so much better when you tell them some of your stories of failure.
During the empty nest years there is a temptation to use your extra time just to do the things you’ve always wanted to do. My challenge is to invest this time for eternity; look for a way to reach out to other people.
The next 10 years
One of the commitments I made recently was to act as if I only have 10 more years to live. I want to make sure that I maximize the next 10 years and determine where I can make the biggest impact. I’m asking God, “What do You want me to focus on during the next 10 years?”
Years ago I heard a little phrase that goes like this: “Only one life, ’twill soon be passed. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” It’s a good reminder that we need to be living our lives for the Kingdom, especially in this day, in this generation—when so much is going on around us.
I want to encourage you to be a woman of the Word, to be a helper to your husband, and to be a world-changer where God has put you today. And be open to whatever calling He might have on your life.
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