Revive Our Hearts Podcast

God's Provision for Children

Leslie Basham: Holly Elliff says, “Don’t be quick to assume God doesn’t want you to have children.”

Holly Elliff: I do think we’re seeing a large number of Christian (committed Christian) couples who are saying, “We will not have children so that we can be more free to minister.”

First of all, I would love to be able to sit down with them across the table and do for them what someone did for us, which is simply to challenge us to pick up God's Word, putting aside what we know in our culture, but to simply get to the truth of God’s Word and say, “What does God say about this area?”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s Tuesday, July 8.

Have you ever felt limited in the size of your family—by the size of your budget or your ability to parent? Today Nancy will continue our conversation with a pastor’s wife and mother of eight, Holly Elliff. She’s seen God’s faithful provision time and again. Let’s listen.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We’ve been talking this week with one of my very special friends, a dear prayer partner. Her name is Holly Elliff. Holly is a pastor’s wife. She and Bill are the parents of eight children.

We’ve been talking this week about a difficult and controversial subject, but we believe such an important one, and that is this whole matter of childbearing. Holly, welcome back to Revive Our Hearts.

Holly: Thanks.

Nancy: You’ve been telling us something of your story and how after the birth of your fourth child, thinking at that point that your quiver was probably going to be full, how the Lord challenged you to go to the Word and to evaluate, based on the Scripture, not based on the culture around you, why it was that you’d come to that conclusion and what it was that was the Lord’s viewpoint on children and on childbearing and on these practical issues of life.

Holly, it’s been interesting to me to hear you say a couple of times that you were doing what God called you to do. You’re talking there about the bearing and nurturing of life. I so appreciate hearing that perspective because I think so many women in our culture have lost sight of the biblical viewpoint that God has given to women, a distinctive call to be bearers and nurturers of life.

I think about Paul saying to Timothy in 1 Timothy chapter 5 that the younger widows, he’s speaking of particularly, were to marry, to bear children, to keep house. He’s talking about not just widows but the role and the calling of women, that a huge part of their purpose in life is to be helpers to their husbands and bearers and nurturers of children.

In fact, he goes so far as to say in a passage that admittedly is complex, but in chapter 2 of 1 Timothy, that women, in some sense, are saved through child bearing. We know from the rest of Scripture he’s not talking about their eternal salvation, but in that same passage he talks about Timothy being saved through preaching.

I think what he’s saying is Timothy’s God-given role is to be a preacher, and that he would demonstrate his salvation and his perseverance and his faith through doing what God had called him to do. Likewise, women generally are called by God to give birth to children, to rear up children who have a heart for God and that in so doing they demonstrate the genuineness of their profession of faith, that they demonstrate they are committed and submitted to God’s will and plan for their lives.

Holly, I guess what concerns me is that so many women today are making choices that they are making for some of the reasons that you described, which really do in many cases come back to “What do I want? What’s best for me?” Reasons that are selfish, rather than saying, “Why did God put me here on this earth? What was God’s purpose in creating me? How can I best fulfill that purpose?”

As you read through the Old Testament, it’s so exciting to see that God is the giver of life. He’s the Creator of life. A big part of God’s means of taking the redemptive story and Gospel to the world is through the willingness of godly parents to have a godly seed, to raise up children who will take the Gospel to the world.

One of the concerns is that this world is so violent; it’s so evil. “I don’t want to bring children into this kind of a world.”

There’s an understandable fear that I think many mothers have as they look at the world around us today. But the challenge, I think, for women of God is to not give in to that fear but to accept this calling to bring forth children into the world and to trust that God is going to use those children to be a light, to be salt, to be different, to be difference-makers and to be the ones who deal with the issues facing the world and take the light of Christ’s Gospel into the world.

So really, the problems we’re concerned about, in part God’s way of addressing those issues is to say, “Women, are you willing, and couples, are you willing to bring forth children into this world who will be part of God’s solution, part of God’s means of taking the Gospel into this very dark world?”

I know you, Holly. I’ve known you for a lot of years. I think you’re a remarkable woman. I thought that when you had fewer children, and I really think it now.

I can just imagine some women if they could know you thinking, “Well, you’re just a superwoman. You can handle having all those children.” You do seem like a pretty calm person. Of course, I don’t live in your home. I don’t know. Are things just always calm at the Elliff household?

Holly: There are a lot of words I would use to describe the Elliff household. “Calm” would not be one of them. I don’t know if it’s because I was a speech pathologist or what, but all of our children basically were born talking. They are all talkers. They are all lively children. Half of them are boys. It is never calm.

Nancy: I’m the oldest of seven children. I can think back to times around our dinner table when I would look around and realize that everyone was talking loudly at the same time. I have no idea who was listening, but we were all talking loudly at the same time.

You’d see these old TV programs with people with lots of children and they all just spoke one at a time and it was all so picture perfect. Our family just didn’t look that way. It sounds like yours doesn’t either.

Holly: I have known a family whose children sat in little chairs and never spoke unless they were spoken to. I wish I could say that’s what mine is like, but it is not.

Nancy: So if someone is saying you’ve just got exceptional ability to handle this kind of pressure but another woman says, who’s got three toddlers right now, “I just could not face that kind of pressure. I couldn’t deal with it. I’m not like you, Holly Elliff.”

Holly: Well, I would remind her that I did not start out with eight children. I had one at a time. We actually thought twins would be kind of fun but God never chose to give us twins. So we have received our children one at a time.

What I have found is that with those children comes corresponding grace to nurture those children, to love those children. I am not saying by any means that that is always easy or that I do not struggle with the realities of laundry and food and dishes.

We have home schooled for many years. I remember sitting down with Billy one night and saying, “Okay, I can do school and laundry, or I can cook and do school, or I can clean the house and do school or laundry. Which ones would you like for me to actually get accomplished because there is no way I can do all of these things.”

So we really did talk about what things were going to be the most important to us. I really was a little bit of a perfectionist in the early days of my married life. That has so far gone out the window that I am just grateful now if everyone has clean underwear and if towels get folded.

I have had to release areas that could no longer be the priority in my life, ask the Lord constantly for wisdom. I’m so grateful for James 1. The funny thing is I memorized that in college, not knowing why I would need it later.

Nancy: What part of James 1?

Holly: James 1:2-5 where it says,

When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your life don’t resent those things as intruders but welcome them as friends. Realize they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. Let that process go on until you become mature and complete and lacking in nothing. And if along the way if any of you lacks wisdom he has only to ask of God who gives to all men generously without making them feel foolish or guilty.

I cannot tell you how many times I have stood in my laundry room with the door closed, reminding God that He has promised me wisdom, that He has promised to give me what I need when I need it as I raise my children.

But what I say to that mother of three, has this been simple or easy? No.

Nancy: I’m so glad that you’ve shared with us that you’ve had to make some choices and that you don’t do everything.

I think one of the things I’ve watched as I have had some friends with many children and some of them home schooling and at a season of life that’s very challenging. I’ve watched some of those women really end up looking very frazzled and continually frustrated because they are trying to do everything in this season of life.

You’re saying that that mom doesn’t have to do everything, that everything doesn’t have the same priority.

Holly: I do think God can give wisdom on what really matters.

I was talking with a young wife the other day on the phone and she said, “My husband is so frustrated because I have a new baby and I can’t get everything done.”

I said, “I want you to ask him what are the two things that he really wants done, and then you make a commitment to get those two things done.”

She came back the next day and she said, “Okay, he wants food and he wants to be able to see the countertops in the kitchen. That really bugs him when the kitchen is dirty.”

I said, “Okay, you focus on those two things. If you can get more done, that’s great.” If you are a student of your husband enough that you know what his hot buttons are, then you can meet those needs.

My husband could care less if we eat peanut butter and jelly for dinner. If when he comes home he can sit down in his recliner and my children look mostly normal—they’re clothed. I did call home yesterday at one point and found out that my three youngest had a mattress in the front yard of my neighbor and were sliding down the mattress into the street.

So just because I have been doing this for many years does not mean it always happens perfectly. But you know, my life is real. What I have found in the midst of my very real life is that God truly is who He says He is and that He really is sufficient.

Nancy: Holly, let me back up a minute to a woman who called you recently, the young mother. I think it’s so great that as a young mother there was a woman she could call and could say, “This is hard. I’m struggling. Could you give me some counsel?”

I don’t know if you yet consider yourself an older woman. I’m not sure at what point we qualify. But you’re certainly older than that woman. And really you’re providing practical encouragement and assurance and counsel for her just out of your life experience. You’re fulfilling your God-given responsibility as an older woman to be teaching younger women.

Speak to the younger women about the importance of having an older woman in their life that they can call and who can provide that kind of encouragement for them.

Holly: Well, I really would encourage young moms especially when you have several toddlers and a busy husband . . . Motherhood can be a very lonely place when you are home all day with those children and no one is speaking coherent English to you. You do start feeling like your brain is mush, like you could not have an intelligent conversation if somebody was there to talk to.

What I find is that our society tends to isolate us and that if we are not careful we really do miss a lot of the benefit that God’s Word says we are to have through older women teaching younger women.

Nancy: Of course, now we don’t have the extended family, the aunts and the grandmothers. So women do tend to be more isolated.

Holly: Right, and we do tend to go in our houses, close our doors. I would encourage those women to look for a role model in their church or in a Bible study they’re in, to look for a godly older mother. It doesn’t have to be a lot older, but somebody just further down the road than you are who can encourage you toward godliness, who can encourage you and remind you of the truth.

Many times we know the truth in our head but there are moments when we’re so overwhelmed with our circumstances, we just need somebody to hold our arms up a little bit like Aaron and Hur did.

Nancy: Maybe just somebody to say, “You’re going to make it.”

Holly: And somebody to just remind us that every day will not feel like this day does. If today has been crazy, tomorrow won’t be quite as crazy perhaps, and that God really is still on His throne and knows what my life is like and has provision for it.

Nancy: It’s kind of easy sitting here in this studio to talk about those things. But I’m thinking about some of the questions that those who’ve been listening to this program may be asking. For example the woman who says, “We just can’t afford to have any more children. My husband doesn’t have a great income, and I can’t work full time because I’m taking care of these children. How are we going to afford having all these kids?”

Holly: Obviously, this area is very counter-culture. Our culture is so centered on materialism, on what we need.

Nancy: Or think we need.

Holly: Or think we need, or what we want. What we have found as we have raised our children on a pastor’s salary—my husband does have a secure income and we’re very grateful for that. But even so, our kids do not have everything they want.

Really, when you look in Scripture at what God says are needs, there are very few things that we actually need. There are many things we want.

So what we tell our kids is, “If there’s something you really want, then you ask God to provide that for you.” There’s nothing wrong with our children seeing God as the provider of the good things that we have.

We are not people who started putting away money with our first child to finance college educations. So we really have had to trust God.

Billy encouraged our older children to start praying for God to provide a certain amount of money. Totally unexpectedly we got a letter in the mail from an aunt who never had children of her own, recently went to be with the Lord, and provided the money we need for our son to go to college—and totally out of the blue.

It was so wonderful to be able to go to our children and say, “Look at this. This is an avenue we never even dreamed existed.” A woman who lived very simply but chose to do this.

God has illustrated to our children time and time again that when there are genuine needs there, He will meet those needs. It is very contrary to Scripture to assume that God would give us children and then not give us the ability to provide basic needs for those children.

Nancy: Holly, listening to that story I’m reminded of the fact that those who don’t have children, either because they’re single or because, as married couples, God has not blessed them with children, that we’re a community, we’re a Body.

We’re a family and there are roles that those of us who don’t have children can have in being an encouragement and a help, perhaps in the financial area as that aunt was. Perhaps in help with time, with encouraging those mothers who have their hands full with all those children.

This is a way that the Body can be a Body and encourage each other.

Let me raise another question that I hear sometimes. How old were you with your last child?

Holly: I was 43 when I had Jessica.

Nancy: Did you get some people saying to you, “After 40, there’s a higher risk of . . . ”?

Holly: Actually, it is amazing what I had even Christian physicians say to me. One doctor was compelled to read me this long list of things that could happen when you had children into your 40’s. At the end of that list I said to him—and this was someone I knew fairly well—but I challenged him as he dealt with women, not to place fears in their heart that God did not put there, that man has put there, and that if they are trusting God to give them their children and God allows them to get pregnant at 40 or 43 or 45 . . .

I was not the oldest mother on the floor. There was a woman there who was 46 and having twins when I had Jessica. So I felt really good about that, that I was not the oldest mother there.

What I have found is that we really have adopted or accepted a great deal of the world’s philosophy in this whole area and that it’s really very simple in Scripture if we will just look at the truth of God’s Word and trust Him.

Nancy: Okay, help the woman who says, “I want to have more children but my husband isn’t for that. He’s not open to that.” How do you encourage that woman?

Holly: I talked with a young gal in our church a couple of weeks ago who has one child. Her husband has decided that’s all they can afford. She desperately wants more children. I encouraged her first of all to go to her husband and make an appeal and share her heart honestly with him.

Scripture says we can always ask God to give us the desires of our heart and then leave the outcome to Him. So I encouraged her to go to her husband and share her heart honestly and then if her husband still feels very strongly about this, then it becomes an issue that she takes up with the Lord who is her intercessor.

If she goes before Christ she can continue to tell Him the desire of her heart and even to ask Him to change her husband’s heart because she’s praying something that’s in accord with Scripture. She’s not praying outside God’s will. She’s praying about something that God loves. So she has the freedom to go before God and say, “This is something I desire. Would You allow me to have more children?”

Nancy: I read an article recently in a major Christian women’s magazine by a woman who was a married woman in her thirties who was explaining why she and her husband have chosen childlessness.

She said when she was thirteen years old, she looked around and, for various reasons including all the evil in the world and she saw these moms with all these kids and they seemed so trapped. She just came to the conclusion that she did not want children.

Now as a Christian woman she’s writing an article in a major publication telling why choosing childlessness may be God’s plan for some women.

Do you find that there are younger women today thinking more this way? Is there a trend in this?

Holly: Well, I do think for about thirty years that we have been listening to voices other than Scripture to give us our philosophy in this area. I think it is real challenging for Christians to say, “Where did I get my beliefs in this area? Why do I believe this? Is it biblical?”

I was astounded to look back on my own life and realize that I had not even considered, “Is this biblical?” up until the point where we began to be challenged by God to do that. I do think in talking with my daughters and their friends and their married friends, we’re seeing a large number of Christian (committed Christian) couples who are saying, “We will not have children so that we can be more free to minister.”

Nancy: What do you say to that?

Holly: First of all, I would love to be able to sit down with them across the table and do for them what someone did for us, which is simply to challenge us to pick up God's Word and to examine it, in light of Scripture, putting aside what we know in our culture, but to simply get to the truth of God’s Word and say, “What does God say about this area? Is there any way I can justify what I believe biblically?”

If I can’t—as a Christian if I cannot prove what I believe biblically, then there is a problem with my belief system.

Nancy: So we’re really coming back to what we’ve been saying all week and that is, in this area as in every area of life as the children of God, we must go to the Scripture, let the Word of God be our ultimate authority and then surrender ourselves to His sovereign plan and will in our lives, to embrace what He says about children, about our role as women and how our lives are to center around marriage and family and why that is part of His redemptive purpose in this world.

As we surrender to that plan, God may or may not have marriage for us. And the woman who surrenders her child bearing to the Lord, He may or may not give her more children. He may not give her any children.

So the key issue becomes, “Do I really trust God to make those decisions for my life?” In spite of my fears or things I may not understand, am I really willing to let Him be the Lord?

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been talking with Holly Elliff, mother of eight, about God’s provision—His provision of time, of patience and of money. They’ve been talking about a true counter-cultural subject—allowing God to determine the size of your family.

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Are you modeling biblical femininity to your kids? They may be watching more than you realize. Hear about that tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 

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