Marriage: Is it too late for mine? In this frank article, Julie Ganschow says when God’s involved, nothing is impossible. . even when husbands move on or wives check out. Julie is listed here on our Heart2Heart Counseling Directory. Her article appeared first here and is reprinted with permision.
“Is it too late to save my marriage?”
I have been asked this question over and over in the counseling office. And I hesitate to say that “too late” applies to a marriage that involves a Christian, and especially two Christians. I also hesitate because that implies that God is not able to change them.
When God is involved, nothing is impossible!
There’s Hope. . .Always
When troubles persist even in a “Christian” marriage, damage continues to mount and love grows cold. The actions of love cease to exist as withholding of affection, attention, and serving each other become commonplace. Bitterness and resentment often grow between the couple. And distance becomes preferable.
This is where things usually are by the time the couple comes for biblical counseling.
I want to encourage you by reminding you nothing is impossible when God is involved. This is true even if your husband has left you, moved out, or moved on. When people are willing to do what God asks of them in spite of how they feel great things happen!
Maybe You’ve Checked Out
That being said, some women reach that certain point emotionally where they just give up and refuse to believe anything will ever change. I call it “rounding the corner.” When this happens it is very rare for her to return to the marriage. Her heart hardens. She refuses to cooperate anymore in counseling, or to give her husband another opportunity to change and get it right.
Sometimes it is because he has promised for months or years to change and nothing lasting has happened. Sometimes she finds someone else. And other times she is just without hope anymore.
All of these are sad, and even sinful responses a person can have to someone else’s sin. That may sound harsh to you, but I speak from the perspective that God is able to do more than we ask or imagine according to His will.
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It is not God’s will that two people who make a covenant before Him to be husband and wife . . .decide they don’t want to be married anymore.
Change Begins in the Heart
Christian woman, if you want to save your marriage, begin by becoming husband-oriented.
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Eph. 5:22-24 gives us some instructions about our role in the marriage with respect to submission.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
But how many women have ceased complaining and arguing but are unsubmissive in their hearts? Many I fear!
Women who are not husband-oriented are as much a problem as husbands who are not wife-oriented! Many women have become so supremely selfish! In counseling I hear about “my career”, “my private time”, “my time for the spa” (or shopping or fill in the blank). With this attitude, soon the couple leads separate lives.
Make a New Commitment
If this describes you totally or even remotely, then it is time to make a new commitment to become a “new person.” Yes. . .1 + 1 = 1
If you have lived for years or even months independently as a couple, it is going to take some work from both of you to change this. You will need to commit to change, change of the heart. But there is hope.
Sharing Hope with Your Heart,
Grandparents who parent their grandchildren need hope and help. Are you parentining your grands? Are you counseling a grandmom or grandpa who is emotionally exhausted? Guest writer Linda Jabobs was a single mom who learned firsthand the emotional and support needs of broken families. She has assisted countless single-parent families and their children.
Grandparents who parent their grandchildren come in all ages, shapes, sizes, and colors. Some are healthy. Others aren’t. Some are financially stable. Others live on a fixed income. Many are married. And many are single. And some are in second and third marriages. But no matter the age, health condition, marital status, or finances, raising grandchildren is emotionally tough.
To help you and your church minister well to emotionally exhausted grandparents, we’ll look at reasons why parenting grandchildren is so emotionally taxing, emotional challenges faced by grandparents who raise their grandchildren, and ten ways your church can help.
Parenting Grandchildren: Emotionally Exhausting!
1. They weren’t prepared for the responsibility
Grandparents may not have had time to prepare for the arrival of the grandchildren. This in itself causes stress, as the grandparents are trying to figure out how they feel about taking on the responsibility of the grandchildren. After all, they are used to spoiling the grandchildren and seeing them only on short visits.
Now the grandchildren will not be leaving, and the grandparents will be on duty 24/7 every day of the year. And there will be no more sending the grandkids home when grandma and grandpa get exhausted and want some peace and quiet.
2. They didn’t want the responsibility
A step-grandparent explained it this way.
We just found out my husband’s son has had his kids taken away from him. The state called and wants us to bring these kids to live with us. The grandchildren have been in a drug-infested home and have been neglected. Since meth [methamphetamine] was found in the home, the kids can’t bring anything with them. Everything they owned, even their blankets, has been confiscated.
Here’s the deal, I raised my kids in a Christian home. I’m sorry his ex-wife didn’t raise his kids that way. I raised my kids to be good parents. I didn’t marry him to raise his grandkids. To be honest with you, I am angry because I don’t want to have to raise little children that I don’t know and to which I have no emotional attachment.
This step-grandparent, like many step-grandparents, has a lot of emotional issues to overcome if she and her husband are going to provide an emotionally and spiritually healthy home environment. But step-grandparents aren’t the only ones who feel as if their grandchildren have been forced upon them.
Many grandparents parenting again have shared that it is a lonely existence. Most of their friends fall by the wayside because the grandparents now have a different lifestyle. They don’t have as much free time to do the things they used to do with their friends. Many will have to resign from positions in your church because of time restraints. So tell them you understand and it’s okay, as they are now ministering to their own family. God will bless them.
3. The grandchildren have experienced trauma
Trauma and loss affect many of these little ones. Even after the grandparents are able to help the children get control of their behavior and have provided a stable home life, issues can crop up. Here is one grandfather’s story:
My son divorced his first wife. He remarried and brought my grandson into the new marriage. His new wife never treated my grandson well. My son cut off all contact with us, and we didn’t see our grandson for years. One day I was driving past an elementary school and I thought I saw my grandson on the playground. I called Child Protective Services, identified myself, and found out my grandson had been taken away from my son. They didn’t have my contact information, so I had never been contacted.
After several months of wrangling, I was able to bring my grandson home with me. He had experienced some horrific abuse over the years. He was run over by a truck. He had been burned and admitted to the ICU at one point. I was so overwrought at what this precious child had experienced.
One day at school his grandson had gotten so out of control that the school called the grandfather to pick up his grandson. The teacher said that the child had been happy when he came to the classroom, but within a few minutes he began screaming and started throwing things. She said they had an exciting day planned and were celebrating Mexican heritage and had salsa and chips for the kids.
What the teacher didn’t know was that when the child was three years old, the stepmom had punished him repeatedly by pouring Tabasco sauce on his tongue. When the child smelled the Tabasco sauce, his mind went back to the trauma and child abuse, and he flipped out. Now the grandparents had to again grieve what had happened to their grandson when he was younger.
The Emotional Toll of Parenting Grandchildren
One of the issues that makes grandparenting these kids difficult is the emotional toll. There is always a reason grandchildren have to live with the grandparents. Many times the reason brings great stress to the grandparents. Here are emotional issues grandparents may encounter when grandchildren are thrust upon them:
- Grieving the loss of their own child or the divorce of their adult child
- Parental failure and guilt: They may experience guilt that somehow the divorce, or whatever situation resulted in the parent not being able to parent the child, was their fault because they weren’t model parents themselves
- Having to put their wants, such as retirement, on hold
- Resentment at not wanting to parent full time again
- How to cope with caring for a child at my age
- How to deal with being both a grandparent and a parent to the child
- Just wanting to be the “fun” grandparent who gets to send the child home at the end of the day
And There’s the Emotional Price
We can also add to the emotional price of raising grandchildren the following:
- Loss of their dreams for their own child
- They may feel overwhelmed with all of the responsibilities
- They may feel sad/depressed
- Some grandparents will feel extreme anger at their own child for not being a better parent to the grandchildren
- Some will be embarrassed about their family’s situation; they may not want to talk about it or let others know they are struggling
- Many have problems concentrating, organizing, and problem solving due to the extreme stress parenting at their age brings
- Some elderly will just not want to adapt to this new family structure and will feel extreme stress at feeling like they have to provide for their grandchildren
- Relationships with other family members may be affected
10 Ways Your Church Can Help
There are many ways the church can assist grandparents who are overwhelmed and struggling emotionally. Here are some ideas that you and/or a care ministry leader could offer and do, or ask other lay leaders to put into place.
Look for these grandparents in your congregation.
If anyone hears about people taking in their grandchildren, make sure a lay leader reaches out to them who is willing to walk alongside them and keep abreast of their emotional struggles and concerns.
Have a care ministry leader or other lay leader pray with them.
This, combined with step one, will go a long way in letting the grandparents know they are valued and remembered.
especially in the case of a single grandparent. Ask other people in the congregation, perhaps a family with children the same ages as the grandchildren, to take the kids for a Saturday or for a weekend.
Organize a fishing trip…
for the grandpa to go on with other men his age, and encourage other women to invite the grandma to a day at a spa. Provide free child care.
Provide parenting classes or resources for parenting traumatized children.
Give tips or classes on new technologies.
Find a parent with children the same ages…
to help the grandparents get the grandchildren registered in school and purchase school supplies. Elderly grandparents may simply not know what some items on a school list are.
Teach or provide resources to your lay leadership about the effects of trauma on children.
Teach lay leaders how to mentor and love these grandparents and grandchildren.
When you speak on parenting, be sure to address and affirm grandparents who parent their grandchildren.
Helpful Scripture for Grandparents
Here are some examples of Scriptures that can be passed on to the grandparents (emphasis added):
- Psalm 103:17 “But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children …” (ESV)
- Proverbs 17:6 “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.” (ESV)
- Psalm 145:4 “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.” (ESV)
- Psalm 78:4b “… we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done.”
Grandparents can make a huge difference in stopping generational divorce and other issues such as addictions and poor life-living choices. Churches can walk alongside the grandparent-headed families and help them succeed.
Linda’s post first appeared on CareLeader.org, October 6, 2016, here.
Counseling Hope to Your Heart,
EMOTIONAL ADULTERY: It can happen to anyone. Me. You. Him.
Emotional adultery is, in the words of my radio show guest Paula Friedrichsen, giving your heart to a man who is not your husband and doing everything “but the sex.” Listen to the podcast of my interview with Paula on my show “The Sisterhood of Beautiful Warriors”? Here’s the link to the podcast.
How Emotional Adultery Begins
Author of The Man You Always Wanted Is the One You Already Have, Paula shares a redemption story of recommitting to her marriage after a too-close, emotionally intertwined relationship with her pastor. Her inappropriate relationship began the usual way. Innocently. She first buddied up to the pastor and his wife.
Then she starting playing with fire. For you who’ve been there, you get it:
a gentle touch on the shoulder
a little flirting
Through her trial, and a series of unwise choices, Paula found triumph and forged a stronger relationship with her husband and with Christ. Indeed she discovered,
It’s only as I am found in Christ that I can be content in my relationship with my husband.
5 Stages of Emotional Adultery
As you listen to the podcast, you may notice five things.
1. UNGUARDED HEART: Paula did not plan to become emotionally involved with a male friend. And she didn’t turn to Christ when tempted.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
2. LIFE GOING WEL: Paula had at the time (and has now) a good marriage.
3. FALLOUT! But the emotional adultery caused pain and confusion to Paula, her husband, the congregation, and no doubt the pastor and his wife. Just as Paula was asked to leave the church, so was the pastor.
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Satan confuses, God brings order.
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For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. (1 Corinthians 14:32)
4. FORGIVENESS: Deeply hurt, Paula’s husband forgave her, noting that it would have been more difficult had she given away her body too. However, it took 10 years for her husband to forgive the pastor. His hurt was deep.
5. GOD IS FAITHFUL! Despite these terribly difficult circumstances, God proved faithful. And here are three examples:
Now Paula says of her husband,
He’s predictable, proverbial, and prone to leaving his dirty clothes in a pile beside the laundry basket. He’s the big lug lying next to you every night–and believe it or not, he is your Prince Charming!
Questions to Ponder
- If you’ve been tempted to fall for a man who isn’t your husband, what are one or two ways you escaped giving in?
- Perhaps you had an emotional affair. If a friend were headed down that path, what godly advice would you give her?
- If you need counseling to overcome emotional adultery or other difficulty, please contact me for a free 15-minute phone consult. I offer biblical counseling in person and by Skype worldwide.
Counseling Hope to Your Heart,
Christians wives have two top complaints in marriage. And both concern the lack of male leadership in the home. See guest writer Julie Ganschow’s page here on our Heart2Heart Counselor Directory. Her article appeared first here and is reprinted with permission. (Edited for lenth. –LAM)
Looking for a female biblical counselor? Go here.
Want to be listed on Heart2Heart Counselor Directory? Check this out.
Common complaints from Christian wives include the following:
Many of these wives share the same qualities. They are Bible literate, faithful church attendees, and clearly love the Lord. Some are willing to be honest with themselves and recognize their culpability in their marital problems.
But the majority believe the husband is mostly at fault.
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These women focus on all the things the husband does wrong. And they find it very hard to examine themselves on a deep enough level for a biblical conviction to be produced over their own sin.
Isn’t it far too easy for us to rationalize and justify our own sinful responses toward our husbands? Especially when we let our feelings lead us?
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9
Why Husbands Fail
Poor, or lacking, male leadership happens for a couple of reasons:
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1) He doesn’t know how to lead, or
2) He’s given up.
Both are problematic, and both are fixable.
Top Complaint #1: My Husband Won’t Lead
Men are by nature leaders. They are wired to take charge, protect, supervise, and lead. Our current culture does not encourage men to develop these skills. In fact, our culture seems determined to emasculate men. An unfortunate reality is there are more than eight million boys being raised without fathers. Their moms love them and do their best. However, a boy will not learn how to be a man from his mom, as much as she tries to instill those qualities in her son.
We biblical counselors routinely find men that don’t know how to lead and are embarrassed to admit it. The good news is a man can learn how to develop biblical leadership skills and habits through individual discipleship with another man. This kind of relationship will help equip him in the areas of being a godly man and husband.
Top Complaint #2: My Husband Has Given Up
The second complaint is more damaging than the first complaint. It grows from the wife undermining or getting in the way of her husband’s leadership.
Ladies, here is where you need to get honest with yourselves!
Are you undercutting or disagreeing with nearly every decision he makes? Have you stepped in to be the leader because “someone has to lead this family”? Have you given him the message that he doesn’t lead “right”? Do you disagree with the direction he wants to take you and the family? Have you delivered the message that you do not trust him or his leadership?
Husbands are easily discouraged by wives who won’t follow or who question their leadership.
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They quickly learn that they are not allowed to make decisions for the family by themselves. In these circumstances, often the man says his wife is undermining him and that she criticizes him when she doesn’t agree with his decisions. He says his wife belittles him and always has plenty of reasons why his ideas and plans are insufficient or won’t work.
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 1 Corinthians 11:13
In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 1 Peter 3:1-2
Finding a Solution
When a woman fails in submission, the husband eventually gives up attempting to lead.
To correct this pattern, the wife must first be convicted that she is guilty of these things. Then she would confess to God and her husband that she has usurped his authority and disobeyed God’s Word regarding submission in marriage (Ephesians 5:21-33; 1 Peter 1:3-7; Titus 2:5).
She also must cease her attempts to lead her husband. This is tough when she has little confidence in his decisions or when he is a weak leader. However, she must remember that it to God she ultimately submits and it is God who is leading her family.
A faithful wife will let her husband know she has input to offer in a situation and ask him if he wants to hear it. A wise man will accept his wife’s counsel, and take it into consideration when making a decision. When he does not, she must entrust herself to God and believe our sovereign God has the situation in His hand.
On a Personal Note
I have learned these lessons the hard way. When I determined to do things my way, I disrespected my husband by my actions and my attitudes. A lack of unity resulted. I learned two important things: men will not tolerate being emasculated by their wives, and you cannot expect to usurp his authority without consequences.
Truth: “It is better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.” Proverbs 21:19
Sharing Hope with Your Heart,
Laughter heals! In this uplifting post, which appeared first here, Dr Donna Hart, PhD, shares how having fun and laughing are not only good for you but also pleases God. Donna is listed on our Heart2Heart Counselor Directory.
At a family gathering over the holidays, I enjoyed good food, good friends, and. . .laughter. In a conversation with the family matriarch, affectionately called “Memaw” by her grandchildren, she commented about the embroidered decorations on her sweatshirt and the effects of their strategic placement.
We started to laugh about the private joke between us. And we couldn’t stop laughing. The tears streamed down my face as others around us to start to laugh with us. I cannot remember the last time I laughed that hard. Something about that laughter gave my heart such joy and companionableness.
Are You Too Serious?
Christians have a long-standing reputation for being serious-minded people who are not prone to humor, laughter, or play. In early church history in America, the Puritans did much to cement this reputation of serious piety. They spent long hours in church and rigorous hours in daily Bible study and prayer. They are also known for their restrictions against music, dancing, and bright colors. Holiness seemed to be likened to judgment, suffering, and severity.
But John Wesley recognized the danger of taking this serious attitude to the extreme when he said: “Sour Godliness is the devil’s religion.” And Martin Luther is quoted in Is There Fun After Paul?: A Theology of Clowning:
If you’re not allowed to laugh in heaven, then I don’t want to go there.
Even though we eagerly bring joy, laughter, and good humor into our family lives, often we hesitate to bring the same qualities into our relationship with God. Are we worried that God does not have a sense of humor? If we want to bring laughter and play into our relationship with God, will we need to expand our view of His attributes to include laughter and fun?
Seeing Comedy in Life
To move in this direction, let’s define what a “sense of humor” means. It is a perspective on life that has the ability to see the comic in creation, humanity, and the ability to laugh at ourselves. Human relationships do not survive well without the ability to have a sense of humor.
We are all too familiar with how struggles and communication barriers block our ability to know and be known to each other. When we can step back and see the humor in our predicaments, it softens our hearts to move forward toward each other.
The same principle applies to our relationship with God. If all of our prayers are solemn, serious, and focused only on weighty matters of importance, we will miss opportunities for light and playful prayers.
Tears and laughter are often linked in the Bible. Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time to weep and a time to laugh (3:4). Luke 6:21 offers the promise of laughter when he writes “…Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” It is difficult not to love someone when you are laughing with them. Have you experienced the love that comes from shared laughter?
Laugh Well, Live Better
When we laugh together, we build relationships; we build sympathy for each other, and we become kindred spirits. Good humor and laughter depend on solid trusting relationships. We cannot command laughter nor can we dictate trust.
But we can be willing to seize the funny moments to laugh out loud when least expected, find humor in our own situations. We can share laughter with others and discover love. And we can delight in God and experience God’s unconditional love for us.
If we believe that God will laugh at us if we share our joys and excitements, then we will remain silent for fear of being ridiculed. However, if we can learn the joy of laughter that comes from the love of laughing with someone finding humor in human experiences, we will then learn to laugh with God.
Help for Your Laughter
If you have been hurt by laughter in the past, and this prevents you from laughing now, write a prayer to God about your specific need. As you write your prayer, detail the hurt you have experienced and how the memories still hurt. Be willing to ask God for what you need to heal these hurts. (You might want to try this journal.–Ed.)
Also think about the places in life where you would love to receive the gift of laughter. Pour out your heart and longings to God, for He will not scorn, mock, or belittle you. You can rest in confidence God will not laugh at you.
Counseling Hearts to Hope,
Reaching a child’s heart for Christ is something every Christian mom and grandma desires, right? This honest post by guest writer Barbara Reaoch appeared first here and is used by permission.
When I was asked to lead the Children’s Division at Bible Study Fellowship, I knew it was a great privilege. But how naïve and prideful I was to think my experience qualified me for the job. Teaching the Bible to women was good preparation, for sure, but I was unaware of the pitfalls in teaching the Bible to children.
Sadly, I was not clear about the difference between moralistic behaviorism and gospel-centered application.
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It seemed easy to say, “Stop sinning and start obeying.” Discipline issues were equally simplistic: “Stop acting like that and start behaving.” Kids need to learn obedience, right? And we need kids to obey for our own sanity. I was inclined to twist the beauty of the gospel of grace into a subtle deception called moralism. I needed to learn three things:
1. Moralism cannot reach a child’s heart.
It’s not hard to use Bible characters to teach a moral lesson. With the Bible character as the subject of the lesson, we can teach kids that they need to be righteous like Noah, faithful like Moses, and obedient like Abraham. Kids figure that if they live like these heroes of the faith they will earn God’s love.
But when we try to make kids into good rule-keepers, they decide one of two things. Either with pride in their hearts, they believe they have earned God’s favor. Or they see they will never be able to keep the rules and conclude there’s no use trying.
Truth: Moralism can only produce pride and fear in the heart of a child.
Moralism ends up making children think their relationship with God depends on them. If they are good enough, they win. If they blow it, they lose. Moralistic teaching breaks down when we read that Noah gets drunk, Moses gets angry, and Abraham lies. We may try to hide the fact that each of these guys struggled with sin, but the Bible doesn’t. God never says that good behavior is a prerequisite for His love.
2. Manipulation cannot reach a child’s heart.
If we simply want kids to obey, manipulation usually works. Kids respond to, “I can’t believe you would do that after what we just learned about Jesus.”
Or “You should be ashamed of the way you are acting.”
Or “Look at those people—you know the ones who ________ (insert the sin of your choice).” As if to say, “You better never be like them.”
Even worse, we use God to manipulate. “God is not pleased with you when you do that.” “It makes Jesus sad when you act like that.” “If you want God to be pleased with you, you will read the Bible, go to church, and obey your parents.”
We can easily manipulate kids because God has wired them to want to please us. Their behavior may change temporarily, but we are damaging their hearts. The only lasting and effective life changes happen from the inside.
No matter how hard kids work to keep clean on the surface, as they see their sin, they will think God can’t possibly love them. We twist the gospel when we imply that God’s favor depends on their behavior. Life changes are real when they come from the heart.
3. We reach a child’s heart for Christ through the gospel.
The gospel is the most important truth for us to teach a child. Paul emphasizes this in 1 Corinthians 15:3–4:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
Gospel-centered teaching says our behavior can never be good enough to make us right with God. Before we deserve it, God reaches out to us in grace and mercy. He forgives those who turn from sin and trust in Jesus. We receive His mercy instead of punishment for sin because God’s justice was met through the death of His dearly loved Son on the cross.
Jesus’ resurrection power gives us a new heart, a new mind, and new desires to live for God.
Gospel-centered teaching says God uses people who are weak and broken. Bible characters are imperfect. God did not choose Noah, Moses, and Abraham because of their character but because of His grace. God knows who we are. His love for us doesn’t change when we fail. His plan and His promises prevail in spite of our imperfections.
Truth: God reaches a child’s heart with the truth of the gospel.
Moralism and manipulation harden a child’s heart. But the gospel is God’s message of love and grace that transforms the heart of a child. Gospel-centered teaching wasn’t just for the Bible Study Fellowship children’s program. Something happened in my own heart as I became more amazed with the truth of God’s love and grace.
Joy and freedom are found in the discovery that God uses our weakness for His glory. He uses our brokenness to reveal His grace. This is a message of hope, not only for our children but for us all. As messed up as your life may be, there is hope. The gospel tells us this is true. To teach the truth of the gospel is to reach a child’s heart for Christ.
Counseling Hope to Your Heart,