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Ask Jani: Self-Contempt vs. Soul Rest, Encouraging Children to be a part of Family Ministry

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Episode Synopsis

Jani and Heidi discuss questions from listeners including how to find deep soul rest when things aren’t going your way, and ideas to encourage your children to have a positive attitude toward being part of a ministry family.

Audio Transcript

Heidi: Hello, everyone. Welcome to our podcast today. We are doing an “Ask Jani” today, which are some of my favorite series that we get to do because it’s just fun to sit down and drink tea together and think about life and think about the Lord, and I just love spending this time with you, Jani.

Jani: Oh, and I love it too, Heidi, and and we can encourage our listeners if any of them have questions to send in. Can you remind them? Our website address?

Heidi: Yes, we love getting your questions and slowly but surely working through them. So if you have any “Ask Jani” questions, you can go to our website at www.herestoresmysoul.org to write them in there.

Jani: Great.

Heidi: So you ready to just jump right in?

Alright, let’s!

Question 1: “Why Am I So Hard On Myself?”

Alright, so we have two questions on two different subjects today. But I think we have time to go through both. So here’s the first one, Jani, this is a good one:

“Why am I so hard on myself when situations don’t go the way I want?”

Jani: Oh my…which is a lot of life, isn’t it?

Heidi: Yeah, especially as women, we have that in our hearts. I feel like as women, we can be so hard on ourselves.

Jani: Yes, yes. We think what we’d like our life to be, and we think God wants it to be that way as well. Whether its, “We want to be married,” or “We want to work,” or “We don’t want to work, we want to be home.” Or, “We want to have children. We don’t want to have so many children.” You know, whatever it is we try to figure out what we’d like our life to be like, and then we pray about it and it seems to be working and something happens and it falls apart, and we’re hard on ourselves.

Heidi: Or even like we do something and we think, “Oh, why did I make that mistake? Why did I say that thing to that friend? Why is this project that I’m working so hard on not coming together? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I __? Why don’t I have it in me to do this well?”

Jani: Yes, yes. That’s so good. Heidi.

Answer: A False Belief System

I think in my own life—you interact with me on this, Heidi, and tell me if you think I’m wrong—for me, it’s a false belief system. When I go all the way down—when I’m spiraling down into self-contempt—it goes one of two ways: either it’s self-contempt, or it becomes God-contempt. So, let’s talk about those two ways.

PART 1: Self-Contempt / Self-Hatred

First of all that’s self-contempt—sometimes even I call it “self-hatred” when it gets really bad. When I’m struggling with self-contempt, it’s the area of power that I’m trying to deal with. I’m trying to control something, and I can’t. And it’s making me very sad, and frustrated and angry, and I wonder, “Why? Why can’t I?” I want something to go a certain way and I work hard toward it believing it’s right and good and it doesn’t come about, and somehow I have failed. It’s my fault and I don’t understand God’s sovereignty. I don’t get that he is the one over it all in the first place. James 4:6 says that,

“God opposes the proud but he gives grace to the humble. “

James 4:6

And so when I’m struggling, when I’m hard on myself about something not working out, I ask myself, “Is this pride ruling here in my heart? That I had a way forward that God doesn’t seem to be embracing?” And that makes me sad and mad? And I wonder what’s wrong with myself? Why can’t I figure it out?

But when I humble myself before him and say, “Lord, I’m sorry. I thought we were doing this the right way, but obviously we’re not and I must be at fault. Please grace me with your spirit.” Then I’m better able to stop hating myself.

Heidi: That’s good, Jani. The kids and I were studying about weakness yesterday, and this came to mind as you were talking. God especially uses us sometimes in our weakest areas, because it’s when we’re weak and when we’re struggling, that his power can be more abundant. I think of that verse in 2 Corinthians that says,

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 12:9

And I have to remind myself of that when I’m working so hard at something, and it’s just not coming together like I want it to. And I think, “I’m just a failure.” Like, I don’t have it in me. I have to stop and kind of reframe that thought and say, “Okay, Lord, I feel really weak in this area. But I know that in my weakness, you can be strong. So come help me, I need your help.” And it’s good to stay in that humble place before the Lord.

Jani: Yeah, I love that.

“Can someone please explain the Sovereignty of God?!”

I think when we’re struggling with this self-contempt or self-hatred, we’re trying to figure out how the world works. How does this world work that I find myself in? And when we’re blaming ourselves, really what we want is soul rest; we want to feel okay, deep down inside. We want to stop the finger pointing even at ourselves.

I know the hardest experience that I faced in my younger years, was trying to figure out how sovereignty worked in my life.

Some of you know (Heidi, you know this story) we moved to Scotland, for Ray to do his PhD. We sold everything—our home, our car, our appliances, everything but Ray’s library and my piano—and we moved to Scotland with three little kids. And we invested our money with a Christian investor whom we had been watching the last several months and who many of our friends were invested in as well. And two years into our program there, he went belly up, unfortunately.

And I really started blaming myself. I had self-contempt. “Why did I encourage Ray to invest all our money there?” And “God, you let us. If you’re sovereign over that, you know, we’re stuck here now. Ray can’t work, he’s on a student visa, it was the month our fourth child was born (we have a family of six we have to feed). I don’t know how we’re gonna make it.”

Well, we did. We made it there for two years, I have no idea we move back to America with 35 cents in our pocket, but we’re fine, we made it. But for some reason I was blaming myself. I really get that. And the Lord had to bring me to a place where I didn’t find my soul rest in how things turned out but rather in God alone.

My life verse is from Psalm 62:1:

“My soul finds rest in God alone.”

Psalm 62:1

Not in how my circumstances turn out, not in if I can be good enough, strong enough, smart enough, rich enough, whatever, to accomplish what I think I’m supposed to do. But my soul finds her rest in God alone.

So I had a false belief system, and I think sometimes, when we’re hard on ourselves, that’s why.

PART 2: God-Contempt / Lack of Trust

A second part of that false belief system, is that we don’t really believe in God’s goodness. Either God is not kind enough or loving enough, or wise enough, sometimes or just plain good enough to me personally, to give me what I think I need.

Heidi: Or that he’s not trustworthy. I think sometimes as we struggle, it’s like, “Can I really trust that God knows what’s best for our family?” Because in my mind, I mean, I remember wrestling through this with the Lord when I was diagnosed with cancer: “How could he, in his sovereignty allow this to happen?” I would never, as a parent, allow my child to walk through that. And I have to believe that he didn’t want me to have cancer, but he allowed it to happen in his sovereignty. Can I really trust that he loves me? Can I really trust that he knows what’s best for our family, and that he’s going to use this story?

Jani: Yeah, and that he’s really good in it, that somehow he will bring good out of that awful cancer. Here you were with three little ones, and really almost a newborn.

Heidi: Yeah, a newborn. And yet I just clung to that verse.

Jani: Yes, Heidi, you’ve reminded me of Romans 8:28. a lot and it says this,

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:28

All things!

Heidi: Oh, I love that verse. And so in those hard days when we wonder about the Lord’s goodness, or when we struggle trusting Him, that’s such a sweet one to hang on to. God promises he’s going to make good out of this and I don’t know how, but he does.

Jani: Yeah, that’s so good, Heidi.

So, when we’re hard on ourselves, because situations aren’t going the way we want them to, or we think that they ought, and we’re struggling with God’s goodness, I would encourage you to go to the Word just as Heidi has told us. Think of verses like Romans 8:28 and ask yourself, “Is what I’m thinking about myself, is this what God is saying about me, or is this a lie from our enemy? Is this something from Satan?”

Are you being hard on yourself because you can’t trust God more? Well, that’s okay. He gets that. So if you’re in a situation where you you can’t trust God, at least thank him for this opportunity to learn how to trust him in it. And I would encourage you to find a promise in his scripture. Go to the Psalms, go to Isaiah. Isaiah 41 is one of my favorite passages in the whole Bible. I love how he says in verses 9 and 10,

“You are my servant,
I have chosen you and not cast you off”;
fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:9-10

Find a promise and cling to it, and hold God accountable to fulfilling his promise. He is a promise keeper, not a promise breaker. “Lord, I’m just going to meditate on that part. I will uphold you. You need to uphold me in this you need to uphold my heart, Lord.” Or, “I will help you.” You need to help me through this, Lord, please, you promised you would keep your promise to me. So when you’re hard on yourself, don’t stay there. Go to God. Let him restore your soul.

Heidi: That’s so good, Jani, and so helpful. It’s something that we all struggle with.

Question 2: “How do I encourage my Children to be a part of family ministry?”

Here is one more question that we have for today. This is from a mom that does work in ministry and she says,

“Jani, what advice do you have to mothers who work in church ministry? I want my girls to do ministry alongside me and not just watch me to do ministry, I desire for them to grow up to love having been a part of the ministry and not resent it.”

Jani: Wow. So here’s a mom in ministry with two daughters. What a good question. We don’t want our ministries to drive our kids away from the Lord. We want our ministry to welcome them in.

I would say a couple things.

TIP: “Is your ministry a joy to you?”

First of all, is your ministry a joy to you? Does it fulfill you? Your daughters will see that. They will catch your attitude. Share with them the fun things about it, the good things. Psalm 100 talks about serving the Lord “with gladness,” not with grudges and “Oh boy, here I have to go to work”. That speaks of an eager, happy heart, a feeling of privilege and delight. Your girls will see that.

TIP: Ministry Is Always An Invitation

Remember, also that ministry is always an invitation. I mean, even on our podcast, Heidi, we’re inviting listeners, I mean, we could work hard on this, send it out and it’s an invitation people can receive it or reject it.

If you’re serving at a church, you’ve been invited to serve there. If you’re teaching a Bible study, most often you’re asked by someone to teach. Some of you may have decided just to gather some around and teach, but oftentimes, ministry is an invitation. So invite your daughters in, give them the freedom to decline. Teach them that ministry is an invitation.

Think of Jesus. He said, “Come to me.” He opened wide his arms and invited his disciples in. Treat your daughters in that way by inviting them in and invitation can always be declined. Don’t insist on them serving with you.

TIP: Balance Your Ministry With The Rest Of Your Life

Thirdly, I would say to balance your ministry with the rest of your life. Remember to keep the Sabbath. Scripture says, “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.” So take one day, at least, each week that is all theirs, all family, no ministry! Turn off your phone, turn off your computer, don’t check it. And if at all possible give yourself to the Lord and to your kids those days so they don’t sense that your job is 24/7, 365 days.

Heidi: And I might also add, Jani, for the pastor’s wives that are listening as I’ve seen you and Ray do ministry, you would choose a Sabbath day that’s different than Sunday, correct?

Jani: Correct. Yes. Those of you in ministry you’re probably busiest on Sundays. We would choose Mondays, some pastors choose Fridays. But yes, that’s a very good point.

TIP: Make Your Kids Your First Priority

Finally, I just want to encourage you: make your kids your first priority. If they are struggling, then ask the Lord if he’s using that as a sign that you should resign from this ministry and find a different job, or stay at home with them.

You see, you’re building a legacy. What legacy do you want: a ministry or a family? I think of the book of Judges in chapter 2. After Moses into the book of Joshua, there was such a smooth transition because Moses discipled Joshua, and he had him around all the time. When Moses dies, the book of Joshua just picks up and the children of Israel go on. After Joshua dies, what’s the next book in the Bible? Judges, where everyone did what was right in their own eyes. I believe because Joshua didn’t train anyone after him. Judges 2:10, puts it this way,

“There arose another generation after them that did not know the Lord.”

Judges 2:10

So for this ministry mom, I would encourage you, if your ministry is hindering your daughter’s walk with the Lord, stop it. Give your kids Jesus before you give others Jesus.

Heidi: That’s so good, Jani. I’d say that there have even been times for me as my kids have gotten just a touch older, that I’ve had ministry opportunities that I kind of have to pray about it and some years, I have to take a seat back. Like this year, I’m not leading a discipleship group. I could just sense that my kids needed me at home, that we’re busy and other things. Mike is leading a discipleship group this year and we thought, “You know what, we can’t do both and do both well, and keep our hearts at home.”

So always trying to keep a pulse on if things in the family feel a little rough. Or if things start to feel tense, “What can we change? What can we do?” And while it is hard to take years where I say, “I’m not going to serve in that way this year,”—and it’s so hard because I feel like the Lord made me to—trusting in his wisdom, and trusting that I really I want to give my kids my best.

Jani: Yes, that’s so good, Heidi. Well, we hope our little frail minds…

Heidi: …our full-of-weakness selves…

Jani: …yes, our little words—have been restorative to your souls in the ways where you gang up on your own heart and soul and are hard on yourself, or where you’re in ministry and you long for your kids to love the Lord wholeheartedly and want to serve him well. May God guide you, bless you. We thank you for listening. May He restore your souls.

Thank You

Thank you for joining us today. This podcast is generously funded through Renewal Ministries. If you would like to discover more about Jani and Ray’s ministry or make a donation, visit their website at renewalministries.com. If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at herestoresmysoul.org.

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He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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