Integrating Compassion with the Wisdom of God’s Word


The purpose of Aunt Dara’s Christian Advice Column is to glorify God by addressing human needs with compassion and the wisdom of God’s word.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Should He Accept Employment at a Casino?

Dear Aunt Dara,

Last summer I was unexpectedly laid off.  While I have been working at a minimum wage job for the last 6 weeks the bills are getting harder and harder to pay.  I recently applied for a job as a security guard for $15 per hour, but when they called me for an interview my wife was very upset to hear that I could be working for a casino.  She feels very strongly against gambling and only wants me to take a job if it is honoring to God.  There is another even higher paying job that I am waiting to hear back from, but until I actually get an offer I am viewing all such possibilities as birds in the bush.  I want to provide for my family and I also want my wife and God to be happy.  I had the interview at the casino and I should hear back from them in the next few days (if they decide that they want to hire me).  Even if I get that call I would still have to take a test to confirm that I have the right knowledge and attitude to be a security guard.  I'm reasonably sure that I could pass any such test, but I wonder if I should possibly fail it on purpose to avoid having my wife get upset.  What should I do?  

Employment Dilemma

Dear Employment Dilemma,

First of all, thank you for trusting me with your issue.  I know how hard it is to lose a job and try to support a family with an inadequate income.  I pray that you are able to get a stable, well-paying job soon.  This I do know: God will provide for our needs and He will take care of us even when things don't look like they are going to work out.

As for your situation with the security guard job, I realize that you don't want to upset your wife.  I'm sure that she understands that you want to provide for your family and that your present job is not meeting your needs.  However, you said that you want her and God to be happy with your decision.  Forget for a moment what you and your wife want and ask yourself what you think God wants you to do?  Accepting a job as a security guard means that even though you would not be gambling, you would be working in that environment.  Do you think that you could do that and still honor God and still maintain your Christian influence on others?  You might want to prayerfully study Romans chapter 14 and First Thessalonians 5:22 before making your decision.  In any case, I don't think that you should deliberately fail the test for this job.  You should trust God and do your best on the exam.  However, please consider that God may be testing you by allowing you to have this opportunity just to see what you decide to do.  Regardless, trust God that if having this job is not His will for you, there will be a better job for you in the future.

To share an example with you, I knew a family in which the husband was laid off from his job six times in 10 years.  When he was laid off the first time, the wife got a temporary minimum wage job and he stayed home with the children (who were 3 and 5 years old) and drew unemployment while looking for another job.  They had a modest savings account that they had to use because the wife’s income and the husband’s unemployment would not cover their bills.  Finally after months of that arrangement, their savings account balance was $0, he had received his last unemployment check, and it was the last day of her temporary job when his workplace called him and told him that he was returning to work on Monday.  That taught them a tremendous lesson that helped them to weather the next five lay-offs.  So, trust me on this—if you trust God and put Him first in your life, He will take care of you and your family.

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Landlord Won’t Do Home Repairs

Dear Aunt Dara,

My husband and I are a newlywed couple having trouble with our landlord.  We go to the same church as the landlord and his family and he seemed like a friend to my husband because they used to work together.  We moved into his rental house in June right after our marriage.  When I moved in I completely understood that this house was a fixer-upper.  I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal because I was growing up my father would do the occasional fix-up on our house and it never interfered with our everyday lives.  In other words, we never had to move out in order for our house to be finished.  I have never seen anyone work on our house like our landlord does.  He takes way too much time to finish something that should only last a day, and then takes weeks or months before coming back and working on something else.  He's also always been trying to pick on my husband for certain things.  For instance, my husband mowed the lawn and it wasn’t to the liking of any of our neighbors or the landlord.  The landlord called my husband and chewed him out so loudly that it sounded to me like the landlord was in the room with us.  My husband confronted him because we thought he owed us an apology because there was no reason for him to come unglued like that.  The landlord yelled at him again saying, "IF YOU'RE LOOKING FOR AN APOLOGY, YOU'RE NOT GETTING ONE!"  After insulting the way my husband does the lawn while he was mowing it, he went on to complain about his wife and daughter, calling them horrible names.  He only does this around my husband.  He acts like the perfect example of a Christian man around me.

I've wanted to confront him for months about his treatment of us because now he's resorted to lying to us about when he's going to work on the house.  They've had some medical problems come up with their daughter, and I fully accept that he won’t do anything to the house until after the new year (no matter how many times he lies and tells us that he will get to it soon).  However, I want a schedule and absolutely NO LYING about when he's coming over.  I have no idea how I'm going to do this, but something has to be done.  I'm better at writing things than I am about saying them, because when I try to say them, I get nervous and start crying and then you can’t understand what I'm saying.

This all seemed to start when my husband and I made enough money to get ahead on our rent (which I think is way too high considering the state he's left the house in) and my husband smiled and joked and said, "I don’t owe you for 9 weeks," which is a good thing, but our landlord seemed to take it as an insult.  Now my husband rarely goes and talks to him.  If he has to talk to our landlord about anything at all, I go with him since the landlord acts so nice and Christian around me.  I now realize that hindsight is 20/20 and I should never have moved into a house that still had work to be done on it.  My husband has asked the landlord if he can help him, but our landlord flat out says no.  He yells at his wife for doing everything wrong when she tries to help him with his work, so I assume that he doesn’t think my husband would do anything right either.  Right now, we cannot afford to move out because we have had some medical expenses come up, on top of an unexpected car repair recently.  I think my husband and I are between a rock and a hard place right now.  Should we just grin and bear it or is there anything we can do to make our relationship with our landlord more bearable?

Frustrated Renter 

Dear Frustrated Renter, 

I realize that this is a constant source of stress for you and your husband, and it's unfortunate that you are starting out your first year of marriage with this situation.  I am at a loss for explaining your landlord’s behavior toward your husband.  I realize that you are having difficulty living in a home that is in disrepair and you are not seeing things fixed in a timely manner.  However, I would not recommend that your husband do any of the work on the house because the landlord has specifically told him not to.  Also, you are unlikely to be given a schedule of when the landlord will do the work because you do not own the house.  The landlord does, and he doesn’t answer to you.  As the owner of the house, the landlord has full control over any repair or remodeling that needs to be done.  That includes making decisions about what work will be completed, when to do it, and how long to take doing it.  He could choose to do nothing!  If he feels that he is being pressured to complete the work, he might take even longer doing the work and not show up on the days he has promised to be there.  Therefore, I do not recommend any confrontations, written or otherwise, from you or your husband, but I do have three recommendations for you that should help to make the situation more bearable. 

My first recommendation is that you plan to move as soon as you can.  Did you and your husband sign a lease?  If so, you are obligated to remain in the house until the lease expires.  If not, you can move whenever you are able to afford it.  I don’t recommend making any more advance payments on your rent.  If you have extra money, set it aside in a bank account to use for your future moving expenses.   

Secondly, find a way to accept living in this house until you are able to move.  You have been living in it since June, so it must be in livable condition (to a degree).  How does the current condition of the house affect your everyday life?  How does living in the house affect your husband?  How does it affect your relationship with your husband?  What adjustments have you been making to be able to stay in the house for the past few months?  Then, keep telling yourself that you can tolerate anything as long as it’s temporary (II Corinthians 4:17-18).  However, anything that might be a safety risk, such as a missing stair banister, should be repaired as soon as possible.  So, ask the landlord (nicely) to fix that first whenever he has the time. 

Lastly, find a way to love and forgive your landlord.  If you don’t, your feelings toward your landlord will interfere with your ability to worship (Matthew 5:23-24) and will harm your relationship with God (I John 4:20-21).  Don’t focus on your landlord’s faults or be judgmental.  Instead, pray that God will bless your landlord and then find something good to do for his family.  When you speak to your landlord, avoid confrontations and don’t bring up the work that still needs to be done on the house (Ephesians 4:31-32, Proverbs 15:1, and Romans 12:18).  And when you pray, remember to thank God that you have a house to live in.  Many people in the world do not.

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Boyfriend is Impatient with His Mother

Dear Aunt Dara,

I've always heard people say to watch how a man treats his mother, because that is how he will someday treat his wife. Well, I've been with my boyfriend for a year, we are both Christians, ages 21 and 24, and we plan on getting married in a year or two. We are very happy together and I look up to him for many things, spiritual and otherwise, but I do have a concern about how he treats his mom. He is pretty impatient with her, jokes with her in a demeaning way, and I feel like he makes her feel dumb for the things she doesn't know, such as modern technology. I know she feels like she can't do anything right by him because she has said so outright. Once in a while I feel a tinge of the same treatment from my boyfriend, but whenever I ask him about it, he explains he never means to put me down and he just didn't realize how his words or tone of voice came across, and I believe him and can tell he loves me dearly. I have talked to my boyfriend about his treatment of his mom maybe 4 or 5 times, only once or twice in depth, and he's explained to me that he knows he needs to be more patient and treat her more kindly, but the things she does really irritates him, and some of the things she says seem demeaning to him. In my boyfriend's defense, I will admit that some of his mother's quirks can be annoying sometimes, and since my own mother has similar traits, and I have responded at times in a similar way as my boyfriend does with his mom, I know how hard it can be. I know my boyfriend wants to treat everyone with the love of Christ and become more like Him everyday, but I still wonder if this is something to be concerned about for our future. I am a very sensitive person sometimes and I know I couldn't handle receiving that kind of treatment on a regular basis. We have both agreed to do premarital counseling, and I'm thinking that should help but I also know that I can't count on another person changing, since only the other person has control over that. Should I be concerned?

Concerned Girlfriend

Dear Concerned Girlfriend, 

I see a lot of positive things in your letter.  Both you and your boyfriend are Christians and want to please God and grow spiritually.  You have been together for a year, you are not rushing to get married anytime soon, and the two of you will be participating in premarital counseling before you marry.  Your letter makes it obvious that you love each other and have a good relationship.  You are able to talk to each other on an intimate level and be honest with each other about your feelings, motives, and needs.  You have a lot of good things upon which to build your lives together and I pray for blessings for you both. 

However, you are concerned about how your boyfriend speaks to his mother and how he sometimes talks to you, and you fear that he may continue to act this way in the future.  Here are some things to consider.  Does he ever speak to anyone else in a demeaning way?  Did he ever see his father or any other man speak to his mother in a demeaning way?  If so, this may be a learned behavior.  (The positive news is that anything that is learned can be unlearned.)  When you have talked to him about his communication, he says that he is not aware of how his messages are being received and he says he doesn’t mean to be hurtful.  That’s probably true, but you have talked to him enough times for him to realize that he needs to be more sensitive to the feelings of others.  Did he seem to be sorry for hurting his mother or you?  Was there any improvement in how he talks to his mother or you, if even for a short time, after each time that you talked to him?  I ask these things because (1) it seems that he is making excuses when he says he didn’t know how his words and tone of voice came across, (2) it seems he is not accepting full responsibility for his behavior by blaming it on his mother’s annoying, irritating quirks, and (3) it seems he is trying to justify himself by saying that she says demeaning to him sometimes. 

So, what I see that is of concern is his lack of respect for his mother and girlfriend, and he is defending himself by trying to excuse and justify his behavior.  However, he does acknowledge that he needs to be more patient and kind, and you say he wants to treat everyone with the love of Christ and become more Christ-like.  So, there is hope.  It’s true that you can’t count on another person changing, but you can count on God, and God can change people.  I suggest that you and your boyfriend have some in-depth, regular Bible study and prayer focusing on Galatians 5: 22-23 and II Peter 1: 5-8.  The object of this study should be for the spiritual growth of both of you (so he doesn’t feel as if you are trying to “fix” him).  In the meantime, whenever he slips and says something hurtful, model the fruit of the Spirit to him in your response by acting and speaking kindly and lovingly to him. 

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Friday, October 19, 2012

Boyfriend is Addicted to Computer Games

Dear Aunt Dara,

My boyfriend of almost 2.5 years has decided to quit college for the semester.  He's 20 and I'm 19.  He says he's been going to school his whole life and that he needs a breather.  Why should he stop while everyone else (including me, the woman in his life) is working to finish school?  He's addicted to computer games and I think it's a way for him to just play all day long.  I can't live with his addiction.  I want him to go back to school and to limit his game-playing, but he just doesn't care about how I feel and he says I'm manipulating him.  No, I'm just setting standards. (Right?)  He says it's his life, but if I'm part of his life, don't my opinions matter?  I want us to secure a future for our family-to-be.  (We have plans to marry after school—if he ever finishes).  How do I deal with his laziness and seemingly awful decisions?

Constant Sigher

Dear Constant Sigher,

It sounds as if you are frustrated with your boyfriend and a little resentful toward him.  You are right to be concerned about his decisions and his behavior.  However, he is right in saying that it is his life and his decision.  You cannot change him.  He has to want to change. 

First of all, let’s examine his compulsive behavior.  God is very much interested in how we spend our time and the things that we make a priority.  Our relationship with God and our relationships with others should be our priority (Mark 12:28-31, Ecclesiastes 12:13, Micah 6:8).  Furthermore, God is not pleased with laziness.  He wants us to engage in productive activity and use our time to accomplish something (Proverbs 19:15, I Thessalonians 4:11, Ephesians 4:28, II Thessalonians 3:10-13).  While there is nothing wrong with leisure activities, God is not pleased when computer games, video games, social media, sports, television (and such like) consume our time, hindering our relationships with God and others or preventing us from engaging in productive activity.

Next, let’s consider his decision to take a semester off.  It’s not uncommon for college students to “take a breather,” as he put it.  However, there are concerns.  Will he go back to school after he takes a brief time off?  The danger is that he won’t finish school, and then were will you be in building a secure future for your family-to-be?  Next, what will he be doing during his time off?  Will he be doing something productive, such as getting a job or perhaps doing some volunteer work, or will he be wasting time playing computer games, as you suspect?  His break from classes will be a test for you to see if he spends his time productively, or if he wastes it.  So, my advice to you is to stand back and let him do what he wants.  That will show you if he is mature enough to take on adult responsibilities.  If he ends up wasting his time, you will have some decisions to make.

Anyone who is contemplating marriage should ask themselves three questions:

  1. Is this the type of person with whom I could live happily for the rest of my life?
  2. Is this the type of person who I would want to be the father of my children?
  3. Is this the type of person who will exemplify Christ and be a godly influence on our children and myself?
If the answer to any one of those questions is, “No,” then you should seriously reconsider your decision to marry this person.  Remember, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.  The things he does before marriage will be the things he does while married.  If he thinks that he may lose you, he might promise that he will change his behavior.  However, unless followed by long-term, demonstrated changed behavior, promises are nothing more than empty words designed to manipulate you.  Don’t let that happen.  Keep your standards high.

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wondering when She will Meet her Future Husband

Dear Aunt Dara,

I am a young, single, Christian woman who is diligently seeking God.  I've gotten to the point in my walk with God that I crave worshiping and learning more about Him.  However, I wasn't always this way.  Tomorrow is my 31st birthday and I've been reflecting back on all that He has brought me through, as far as relationships go.  My last
serious relationship lasted 5 1/2 years.  I was engaged to be married but I broke it off.  I knew he wasn't the one that God has for me.  About a year and a half after our break-up, I began dating a young man whom I just absolutely had no doubt was my husband.  I found out on my 30th birthday that he said one thing with his actions toward me but meant the opposite in his feelings toward me.  He shattered my heart into pieces on my birthday.  I've since healed from that and here I am, one year later.  I've learned so much.  I learned how to do this whole relationship thing God's way, rather than my own.  I've immersed myself in the church.  I've acquired beautiful new friends who help make my life so rich and exciting!  I've been celibate for a year and I am committed to now saving myself for the man that God created me for.

I just know that now that I'm doing this right, God will reward me.  After all, He rewards those who diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6)!  I try to strive for obedience and righteousness in all I do.  However, I always find myself wondering.  I wonder who God has for me, what he looks like, when he's going to come and where I'll meet him.  I believe that God will send the man whom He has created me for but I can't stop wondering.  My mind drifts constantly.  At times, my imagination is on full force to the point where I feel I might ruin the surprise.  I feel like I thought of everything possible!  Sad, I know!  Sometimes my wondering leads me to loneliness.  I eventually snap out of it but this wondering wonderland is getting pretty old.  I've even asked God to take away my desire to get married if it burns in me more than my desire to seek Him.  So, my question is... Is it wrong to wonder?  Does it show lack of faith or does it help keep my hope alive?  Please advise.

Wonderland Resident

Dear Wonderland Resident,

First of all, happy birthday!  No, it doesn't show a lack of faith to wonder about your future and who God has in mind for you.  It's natural to look forward to the things you desire and to wait expectantly, wondering when the time will come.  There's a lovely verse in the Bible that says that God makes all things beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11), but the Bible also says that the secret things belong to God (Deuteronomy 29:29).  We can't know and aren't supposed to know our future and the plans that God has for us, but we know that God's plans for us are what will ultimately be best for us (Jeremiah
29:11).  However, the question to ask yourself is, "If the will of God is that I remain single for the rest of my life, can I be happy?"  Do you have to have a man to be happy, or can being loved by God and loving Him in return be enough for you?  Hopefully someday you will reach the point that you can honestly say, "God, your will be done.  If
you give me a husband, I will thank you and praise you, and if you do not give me a husband, I will thank you and praise you."  Let loving God become your quest, rather than seeking a man to love.  Then, when you least expect it, God will bring the right man into your life (if that is His will for you).  In the meantime, keep following God's direction (Proverbs. 3:6), but be careful that you don't mistake your own desires as God's leading.

Enjoy your birthday and don’t let the unpleasant memories of your last birthday spoil this one!

God Bless,
Aunt Dara

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Giving Marital or Relationship Advice to a Friend

Dear Aunt Dara, 

I'm hoping to hear your thoughts on my friendship with my neighbor.  She's a close friend and I love her kids.  She and her husband (whom I also really like) are getting divorced, and he moved out 3 months ago.  It's been much harder on him, and mostly she has seemed almost indifferent about it.  Around that time she said that she thought she was gay, but hasn't said anything about it since, and I think she has a girlfriend.  She was raised as a Christian and goes to worship services sometimes, but I don't really know how her relationship with God is.  My family talked with the husband about our faith before he left, since he was unsure.  I've just been supportive of all of them as much as I can and helping with the kids, without giving too much of an opinion on what I think they should do.  I know there are Bible verses that tell us not to judge others, and other verses that tell us to encourage others to follow God's ways.  I'm wondering if it's my place to talk about what God says on these issues, or if it would be better not to bring up my thoughts.  Does it make a difference that she's 10 years older than me and I wouldn't be telling her anything she doesn't already know on some level?  I want to make sure that I'm not being judgmental, and that I'm loving them as God wants.  Thank you for your time and thoughts. 

Concerned friend

Dear Concerned Friend, 

I appreciate that you care about your friend and that you want to do the right thing.  Here are some things to consider:  Even though your neighbor may be a close friend, it doesn’t appear that she confides much in you, nor does it appear that she has asked for your thoughts regarding her problems.  Divorce is a complicated issue and you do not have all the facts surrounding your friends’ marital problems and you do not know that their marriage has been like.  You should not become involved in your friend’s marital problems by telling her what you think she should do.  It’s her marriage—not yours.  The Bible is clear that we should not meddle in other people’s business (Proverbs 26:17, I Thessalonians 4:11, I Tim. 5:13, I Peter 4:15).  Marital counseling should be left to those who have been trained in counseling and are experienced in providing spiritual counsel on family issues.  If you try to advise her, you may end up alienating her because few people appreciate unsolicited advice. 

The best thing that you can do for your friend is to let her know that you are available if she needs to talk.  Listen to her and let her know that you care.  Don’t judge her or tell her what you think she should do.  This is how you develop a trusting relationship with her.  Then you can ask her about her relationship with God and what she thinks God would say about her situation and what God would have her to do.  Be prepared to explore some relevant scriptures with her if her answers seem to be contrary to what the Bible teaches.  Do this gently (Galatians 6:1).  Use the approach that you are both learning what the Bible says.  DO NOT offer your opinion about what you think she should do, even if you have scripture to back it up.  If you do that, she is likely to become defensive and shut out anything that you say. 

Also, keep in mind that divorce is a very difficult thing for everyone in the family, especially the children.  The entire family is hurting, even if they do not seem to show it.  Since you are close to the children, encourage them to share their feelings with you and be supportive of them.  Let them know that both their parents love them.  Assure them that it is not their fault that their parents are having problems with each other or that their dad no longer lives with them.

Above all—pray.  Your prayers are what this family needs most from you!

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

She Thought She was Over Him

Dear Aunt Dara,

I have always told myself I didn't need a boyfriend, that I was too young for one or that it would be pointless because it wouldn't last past high school, so I've never had one and I honestly haven't seriously liked a guy until now.  I met him last semester in one of my classes.  I didn't like him at first.  He was really quiet and shy so we didn't talk at all.  But as time went on we got to be pretty good friends and all my friends and I thought that he liked me.  At that point I kind of liked him but not enough to admit it so I never mentioned it and we just stayed friends.  All the while I was getting to know him more and realizing that he was the most amazing person I have ever met and I really started to like him.  He was sweet, sensitive, shy, caring, understanding, and he made me feel good about myself—always telling me how smart I am or that I'm the greatest person he's ever met.  And on top of all that, he's a Christian!  I couldn't find one thing wrong with him.  Not one! That is until I found out he was gay.

I cried so hard when I found out, I couldn't stop.  I was so upset that I went totally numb for at least two weeks.  It was that same numbness you get when a family member dies.  I didn't want to eat or do anything.  I turned to God and finally accepted the fact that he was not the one God had for me, so now I view him as just a friend.  As a friend I still wish he would be straight.  I believe that homosexuality is a sin.  I don't believe you go to hell as a result of it even if you’re saved since all sin is equal and since we've all sinned and come short of the glory of God.  I don't think that particular belief lines up with the word of God, but I do believe that it’s wrong and this whole situation has set that belief in stone for me.  I told him that I don't think it’s right but that I respect his beliefs as his personal beliefs and that I would never stop being his friend because of it.  I tried to keep my feelings from him and neither one of us has really confronted each other about it since then.  So, I've slowly healed and I thought I was over him, but he just got a new boyfriend and... I cried again.  I feel fine now, but I just don't know what to do.  I feel as if I need to talk to him about it.  I obviously still have feelings for him, and even our friendship is suffering.  I think he's afraid to talk to me about his relationships for fear of hurting me, or perhaps because he thinks I don't want to hear about it, but I want him to feel as if he can be open with me and know that I'm here for him no matter what it is!  Our friendship isn't going to last long if all our conversations only consist of small talk.  I'm always worried about how he's doing because he won't say anything, but I'm too scared to say anything.  What should I do?

Awkward Friend 

Dear Awkward Friend,

You are showing wisdom in going to God about this situation and recognizing that he is not the one that God has for you.  It appears that you have become emotionally invested in this person and you had hoped that your relationship could have grown into more than just a platonic friendship.  Now you are grieving the loss of what could have been and you appear to be deeply concerned for his well-being.  That is why you become so upset.  You care about him very much and you are worrying about him.  Perhaps you are afraid to say anything to him because you are trying to guess why he isn’t discussing personal things with you.  Since you have a good relationship with him, I recommend that you be honest with him regarding your concerns.  It’s okay to ask how he is doing.  Explain to him just what you have explained to me and tell him that you want him to feel as if he can be open with you and that you are there for him no matter what, and then allow him the freedom to share what he wants with you, when he chooses to do so.  In the meantime, it would be good for you to develop other friendships and interests so that you are not so emotionally involved with him.

I would like to say a few things about sin in general.  You are correct in saying that all sin is equal and quoting Romans 3:23.  However, we should never use that as an excuse to avoid repenting of our sins and we should never take any sin lightly.  Please read Romans chapter 6, James 1:14-15, I John 2:1-6, and I John 3:4-9.  If we continue to practice sin, our conscience becomes hardened.  We start to make excuses for our sin, such as, “God understands.”  We try to justify ourselves, even to the point of searching for scriptures that we can take out of context or twist their meaning, while ignoring scriptures that contradict what we want to believe.  These are the tricks that Satan uses to keep us in his trap.  Don’t let that happen to you!

In the meantime, keep trusting God and He will lead you to the right one for you when the time is right.

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Who do I Listen to, God or my Parents?

Note from Aunt Dara:  Following is a condensed version of a long letter that was sent to me from a young woman whose parents disapprove of her boyfriend.  To protect the writer’s confidentiality, I have edited her letter for content and eliminated multiple details that could possibly be identifying factors.  I also edited my own response that was sent directly to her so that nothing in my published response could be used for identification purposes.  I realize that this column has a world-wide readership and that cultural expectations regarding parent-child relationships vary.  However, the author of this letter is over 21 years old and lives in a country where adult women have full rights and freedom to make their own decisions without any cultural expectation of needing to have parental knowledge, permission, or approval.  Therefore, I tried to set aside my own personal bias, opinions, preconceived ideas, and things that I have been taught previously, and I studied this issue anew, focused on one thing only—what does the Bible actually say?

Dear Aunt Dara,

Jonathan and I met through a mutual friend.  As we got to know each other, I soon realized everything he is was everything I have been praying and asking God for in a husband.  We both prayed about it and promised to honor God in our friendship/relationship.  I remember asking God countless times to show me signs and give me answers as to whether or not Jonathan was the right one for me, and each time God told me he was the one. 

However, when my parents found out about us, they made us break up.  They insist that we stop talking and that they will NEVER accept him.  I feel pulled into different directions.  When I read my Bible and spend alone time with God, everything makes sense, but when my parents start "speaking into my life," nothing makes sense and I feel confused.  Several ministry leaders have told me I should leave my parents and follow God's plan for my life.  But my parents say if I don't listen to them, I'm not listening to God because the Bible says, "Children obey your parents."  My parents keep telling me to stop talking to Jonathan, but I feel God telling me something different.  If Jonathan truly isn't the one for me, I want to see the answers for myself and for God to reveal it to me, not reveal it to my parents and then I have to take their word for it, because right now I don't trust my parents.  I’m trying to honor them, but it's hard because God is telling me a different plan for my life.


Dear Frustrated,

First of all, thank you so much for trusting me enough to ask my advice.  You are doing the right thing by seeking counsel in this matter, and I commend you for having already consulted several ministry leaders. 

First, I would like to address Ephesians 6:1 and Colossians 3:20, which are the only places in the Bible that say that children are to obey their parents.  There is absolutely no question that children are to obey their parents.  However, you are not a child.  So, at the heart of this issue is the question:  Do adult children have to obey their parents?  Since I am not an expert in Greek, I cannot speak to the meaning of the Greek word which is translated “children” in these verses.  Therefore, I have compared various translations of the Bible, consulted Bible commentaries, and read on-line discussions on the meaning of these verses and whether or not these verses apply to adult children. 

Here is what these passages say:

Colossians 3:20-21:  Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

Ephesians 6:1-4:  Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.  (The KJV says “nurture and admonition of the Lord.”)

If Ephesians 6:1 is taken in its context, it would seem that Paul is not referring to adult children because in verse 4 he instructs fathers on how to bring up their children.  Adults have already been brought up.  Also, I noticed that the Bible never tells children to obey their parents without immediately issuing a command to the parents.  So, that prompted me to consider the question, “How should parents treat their children?”  The Bible says that parents should instruct their children (Proverbs 4:2), train them (Proverbs 22:6), and teach them (Deuteronomy 4:10; 11:19).  I speak as a mother and grandmother when I say that our children are gifts from God.  We do not own them; they belong to God.  As parents, our job is to teach our children the skills that they need to become responsible, independent adults who love and obey God.  In the process, we are to model godly behavior to them and treat them as God treats His children—with love, kindness, and compassion.  We are not lord over our children, and our adult children are not our subjects who have to submit to our arbitrary wishes that are contrary to their own will and desire.  Therefore, if we as parents would obey God by treating our children the way God instructs us, there would be no need for anyone to ask if adult children must obey their parents.  Boundary issues would not be a problem.

It then occurred to me that perhaps we are asking the wrong question.  Instead of asking, “Must adult children obey their parents?” perhaps we should be asking, “Do parents have authority from God to issue commands to their adult children?”  I explored this in scripture, using different keywords that mean “command” and I found only two verses (Genesis 18:19 and Deuteronomy 32:46), and both of them are in reference to commanding our children to keep the way of the Lord and obey the words of God’s law.  Significantly, there is no verse in the Bible anywhere that says that parents have authority from God to command their children otherwise, or to issue orders (reasonable or unreasonable) to their adult children.

Finally, I asked myself, “Do parents have authority from God to punish, discipline, or chastise their adult children?”  There are several verses in the Bible that speak of parents disciplining or chastising their children, but I ran into the same problem of trying to determine if this means children who are minors or children of any age.  Hebrews 12:9-10 offered the clue that I needed.  It says, “Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?  For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.”  I compared more than a dozen versions of the Bible, and every one of them used past tense when referring to discipline from human fathers, and every one of them said that discipline from their human fathers was “for a few days” or “for a short time” and some versions actually say, “while we were children.”  This tells me that discipline, chastisement, or punishment of children ends when childhood does and does not carry on throughout adulthood.  (Therefore, your parents do not have authority from God to punish you.)

So, how should parents and adult children treat each other?  Children should honor and respect their parents.  Always.  Forever.  (Note, however, that “obey” does not have the same definition as “honor” or “respect.”)  Parents should offer advice (when asked) and share their wisdom.  However, parents should not try to control an adult child.  Parents should be considerate and respectful to their adult children by allowing them to make their own decisions.  The son or daughter who is of age is now responsible for their own actions and choices.  They have the right to self-determination, to make their own decisions regarding friendship, marriage, career, what to buy, where to live, where to work, what to wear, etc., while submitting to God’s authority and leading.  The Apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”  If I may pretend for a moment that I am Paul’s mother, I think she could have said, “When my son Paul was a child, he was not old enough to make his own decisions, he needed my guidance and direction as his parent and I expected him to obey me; but now that he is a man, I have stopped treating him as a child.”

To answer the question about who you should obey—God or your parents—the Bible is clear that God has authority over all and that we are to obey God (Acts 5:27-29).  The question now is, “Who is truly hearing from God, you or your parents?”  How do you tell what is from God?  Is God speaking to you by the answers that you are receiving to your countless prayers, or is what your parents say God’s word for your life?  First, examine everything from what God has already revealed in his word, the Bible.  God will never contradict His written word.  Then look at the means through which you are receiving the messages (see Matthew 7:15-20 and James 3:1-18).  In other words, is the person who is speaking the word to you consistent in living a holy life, holy in speech and behavior?  If not, that should tell you something. 

I really believe that your parents think that what they are doing is in your best interest.  For some reason they think that Jonathan is a threat to you and they are trying to protect you.  Listen carefully to what they say and take it into consideration, but weigh everything they say against what you know to be true in God’s word.  Remember, your parents are not your enemies.  Satan is your enemy and he is a deceiver.  Your parents need your prayers so that they can be delivered from the tricks of the devil.

Finally, I feel an ethical obligation as a social worker to let you know that your parents’ behavior toward Jonathan and you is spiritual abuse, emotional abuse, and verbal abuse.  From your description of your father’s anger, he might even be capable of physical abuse also.  Threats, intimidation, harassment, accusations, aggressive behavior, lack of forgiveness, condemnation, hatred, cursing others, and uncontrolled anger are not from God!  Your statements sound very similar to those of countless abused women whom I have counseled.  I would encourage you to get some assistance from a Christian counselor and advice from someone whose specialty is domestic violence so that you can be safe when you do leave your parents’ home. 
God bless,
Aunt Dara

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Is it a Sin to Use Birth Control?

Dear Aunt Dara,

I searched “Christian advice” on Facebook and your Facebook account came up. I need some Christian advice! We just had a baby 6 weeks ago and we'd like more, not right away but in about 6 months to a year.  The doctor said not to get pregnant for 18 months after giving birth, but that seems very excessive. Would going on birth control be considered a sin?  We are very financially stable, own our own home, have savings and are both in good health but I worry what if I get pregnant straight away as we had baby Alison first try (seriously).  It isn't in our life plan to have a small family and I need to hurry up as I have a family history of early menopause and I’d hate to assume I had more time then realize I don't.  So if I go on birth control for 6 months, would that be a sin or should we just ditch birth control and see what the Lord wishes us to do?

New Mom

Dear New Mom,

Congratulations on the birth of Alison!  I pray that God will bless you and your family, however many or few children that He gives you.  There are a few things that you didn’t mention that might have some bearing on the decision that you make regarding when to have your next child.  You didn’t say how many children you would like to have, how old you are now, and at what age the women in your family typically achieve menopause.  These things should certainly be a factor in spacing your pregnancies.  You also did not mention the reason or reasons that your doctor advised you to wait 18 months before becoming pregnant again?  Is this just your doctor’s standard advice for his patients, or do you have particular health concerns that the doctor thought might worsen if you become pregnant again too soon? 

You asked if it would be a sin to go on birth control for 6 months.  Christians have differing views on birth control.  Some Christians believe that using artificial means of birth control is a sin, and others do not.  If you are a member of a particular church, what does your church teach regarding birth control?  If you are unsure, I encourage you to ask one of your church leaders.  What are your personal beliefs regarding birth control?  Do you think that using birth control is a sin?  That you are asking this question is evidence that you have doubts about God’s approval of birth control.  Whatever you do, do not violate your conscience.  Romans 14:23 tells us that if we have doubts regarding if something is permissible, but yet go ahead and do it anyway, we are sinning.  

You have a lot of serious things to consider.  Pray about this matter thoroughly and then apply wisdom to make your decision based on what you believe God wants you to do.  If you choose to follow your doctor’s advice by waiting, but you believe that using artificial birth control would violate your conscience or displease God, ask your doctor to instruct you on natural means of birth control. 

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Teased and Tormented at Work

Dear Aunt Dara

My coworkers at the plant where I work have been tormenting me ever since they discovered that I am a Christian and I do not participate in the things that they like to do.  They drink, smoke, cuss up a storm, and cheat on their wives.  They tease me because I do not go out to drink with them after work.  They think that my commitment to my wife is old-fashioned.  They never seem to miss an opportunity to mock me because I do not use the same foul language that they do.  They think I’m crazy because I don’t buy lottery tickets when the jackpot gets high.  I always seem to be the butt of their jokes, and it’s starting to really bother me.  I’ve been praying and trying my best to find another job.  So far I have had interviews at seven different places in the last year, but just when it seems promising that I’ll get hired, something happens at the last minute and the position either gets eliminated or there’s a hiring freeze.  I’m not happy being stuck where I am.  What more can I do?  What does God expect of me?  Why doesn’t He answer my prayer for another job?

Christian Husband and Father

Dear Christian Husband and Father,

What can you do?  You can praise God that you have been placed in a position where you are able to be salt and light to people who are living in darkness—people who need to know the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!  Someday, one or more of your coworkers will be hurting and in need of God’s love and forgiveness.  When that happens, they will remember you and will seek the inner peace and freedom in Christ that you have demonstrated to them.  Make no mistake.  They are watching you closely.  You have what they want and need.  They just don’t fully realize it yet.  Their teasing and tormenting you indicates that they know that their lifestyle is wrong.  Therefore, they make you the object of jokes to reduce their own sense of guilt and to soothe their conscience.  Plus, they are participating in a pack mentality that gives them the boldness to attack you with the support of their allies.  Remember, however, that Jesus said that we would have trouble in this life (John 16:33) and that we would be persecuted (John 15: 20).  Jesus also said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).  The Apostle Peter wrote, “But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God” (I Peter 2:20).

I know that you would like to get another job, and perhaps someday you will.  In the meantime, however, trust that you are just where God wants you to be at this time and pray that God will help you to patiently endure the hurtful things that your coworkers say.

God Bless,
Aunt Dara

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Marriage Seems Over Before it has Started

Dear Aunt Dara

I was married in November 2011.  I did not realize we had sexual problems until December 2011.  I have    discovered my husband is not forthcoming when it comes to sex.  I think if he had it his way he could have it once a week, but I want sex every day or once every two days.  It now looks like I am a sex maniac in my own head.
I am upset almost every evening and it is now starting to affect the way I think of him, act around him and talk to him.  I am moody and I am not the happy wife you would expect to see a few months into her marriage.

To this day I haven’t slept with my husband in a week; I am more frustrated because he acts like nothing is wrong.  I have thought about cheating but I cannot - I feel guilty before God.  I have also thought about masturbating but I just can’t do it - what will God think of me?  I have spoken to him more than three times.  It changes for a day or two then we back to square one.  I am tired of talking, Aunt Dara, and I have all these feelings bottled up.  Who do I tell?  How will people look at me?

This has begun to also affect the way that I think.  I think I am too fat so maybe he is no longer attracted to me.  I think it has something to do with his health.  He is obese too and asthmatic.  Maybe it’s his health that is affecting this part of his life.  I think he has other priorities like his job.  My husband can work so hard the minute he walks into the bedroom he is flat out and he sleeps till the next day.

Is sex not necessary in marriage?  Am I really a sex maniac for wanting to sleep with my husband at least 4 times a week?  What should I do?  I feel my marriage is slowly breaking down.  I need help to deal with this before we both ruin our marriage.  I love my husband, so much - and that is why I married him – but he is slowly destroying me.

Confused and Heartbroken Wife

Dear Confused and Heartbroken Wife,

I have delayed in answering your letter these few days because your problem, though a common one, is complex and the ramifications of giving inaccurate or inappropriate advice could be harmful to your marriage, to your relationship with God, and to your self-esteem.  I have spent days in prayer that God will assist me in being sensitive to your needs, to say the things that you need to hear, and that your heart will be receptive to the things that I have to say.  I realize that some of the things that I am about to say may be hard for you to hear, but I feel strongly led to share them.  I also realize that my reply to you will be far longer than is typical of my replies.  I ask that you read with an open heart, keeping your love for God and your love for your husband in mind.  I also ask that you trust me in what I’m about to say because I speak as a Christian wife, mother, and grandmother who has been happily married for 38 years.

First of all, I congratulate you and your husband on your new marriage.  I pray that the two of you will have many, blessed years together.  Marriage is a wonderful gift from God, as is the sexual relationship between a husband and wife.  However, as important as sex is in a marriage, it is not the most important thing.  The most important thing about marriage is the bond that you form with each other as you become one—not just physically, but as a spiritual union—one in the sight of God and man, one in purpose, in plan, in life-direction, and in service to God.  Some of the things that you say in your letter, including the title that you chose for your letter (that your marriage seems to be over before it has started), indicate that you may have some misplaced priorities and unrealistic expectations about marriage, about your husband, and about the place of sex in marriage.  Physical intimacy in marriage is not about having one’s sexual tension satisfied, nor is it about one person satisfying the sexual tension that has built up in the other.  Sex is about sharing love, affection, and intimacy through the ultimate bonding of two physical beings.  I commend you for wanting to do the right thing regarding your sexual needs, and you are correct in not doing anything that would displease God or violate your conscience.  However, you need to look at the sexual relationship in your marriage from all angles and put sex in its rightful place.

Sexuality is a natural, God-given human desire.  However, sexual desire varies greatly from person to person, and even varies in the same individual over time.  It is perfectly normal to want sex four times per week.  (You are not a sex maniac; you are normal.)  It is also normal to desire sex once per week.  (Yes, your husband is normal, too.)  You and your husband just happen to have a disparity in your current sexual needs.  (Notice I said “current.”  Sexual needs change over time.)  I doubt that your weight has anything to do with your husband’s not wanting sex as often as you do.  If your weight was an issue for him, he would not have married you.  Sexual desire can be affected by various factors, including one’s age, physical condition, health, hormones, stress level and energy level, among other things.  Certain medications also have a side effect of decreased libido. 

Sexual desire is particularly affected by what happens outside the bedroom.  In other words, when you have a negative attitude or negative thoughts toward your husband, when you become frustrated, unhappy and moody, he is less likely to feel amorous toward you.  Do not harbor negative thoughts in your heart about your husband.  God is not pleased when we have negative thoughts toward our husbands, when we complain about them, blame them or nag them (Eph. 5:33), and nothing will kill romance faster.  When you tell him repeatedly that you want sex more often, he may feel as if he is being nagged and pressured.  He may even wonder if you love him for him, or if you just want his body so he can satisfy you.  Nobody likes to feel pressured, and nobody wants their spouse to view them as a sex object.  The way that you think, behave, and speak to him will affect his response to you.  If you want to spark your husband’s desire, then what he needs from you is selfless and unconditional love, understanding, patience, forgiveness, kindness, consideration, appreciation, admiration, and affection.  Show him that you love him by preferring him above all others, spending time with him, talking with him, doing things together, looking for ways to help him, serving his favorite foods, etc.  Show him that you love him by giving him affection without the pressure to have sex.  Hug him.  Hold hands.  Stoke his arm or leg.  When you sit side-by-side, lean against his body.  Kiss lovingly and often.  Smile when you look at him with the sparkle of love in your eyes.  Tell him daily, at least once a day, that you love him.  Then, watch how he responds.

Be sure to pray, asking God to help you to have a loving attitude toward your husband, to have the right priorities in your marriage, and to have a more balanced view of sex.  Pray that God will bring your sexual needs and your husband’s sexual needs more in line with each other so that both of you will be content with the frequency of sex in your marriage.

Finally, I would like to leave you with this thought:  When my husband and I were married in 1973, the minister who performed the ceremony told us that he had married 197 couples, and only four of those marriages had ended in divorce as far as he knew.  He said that he told all of them the same thing that he was about to tell us.  I now pass on this old gospel preacher’s wisdom.  He said that the marriage vows that we were about to take were not really vows to each other, but rather we were pledging vows to God.  Then he read Proverbs 15:1 (you can look it up).  He said if both of us remember those two things, we would have a successful marriage.  I pray the same for you.

God Bless,
Aunt Dara

Monday, January 23, 2012

Ex-Husband Neglects His Children

Dear Aunt Dara,

Two years ago, my husband told me that he was in love with another woman and he moved out, leaving me and our three children (two boys, who are now age 13 and 11, and a girl who is now 6 years old).  My ex is now married to the other woman and has legally adopted her 12-yr-old son.  He says he is happy with this new family and he seems to spend a lot of time with his newly adopted son.  However, he totally neglects his own children.  He doesn’t call the children, not even on their birthdays!  He rarely visits them, and when he does he acts like it’s a chore that he has to get out of the way so I’ll get off his back.  At Christmas he stopped by briefly to drop off a small gift for each child, but wouldn’t come in the house.  Our little girl was heartbroken and she cried all evening, but the boys just got mad.  The boys say they hate their father and they don’t want anything to do with him anymore, but our daughter still cries every night and asks why her daddy doesn’t love her anymore.  What can I say to my little girl when she cries for her daddy, and how can I get my sons to not hate their father?  How can a man be happy with another man’s child and not want to spend time with his own children?   

Puzzled and Angry at Ex-Husband

Dear Puzzled and Angry,

Not being familiar with the situation except for the clues in your letter, I don’t feel comfortable speculating about your ex-husband’s possible motives or how he could be happy with someone else’s child while neglecting his own.  Honestly, I don’t know how a man can be happy with another man’s child and not want to spend time with his own children.  My gut feeling is that he is not as happy as he says he is, and that he is struggling with guilt at having left his family. 

Here are my suggestions on possible ways to manage the situation while minimizing the pain that you and your children are experiencing.  First of all, you indicated that you think that your ex-husband views time spent with the children as a chore, and it will get you “off his back.”  That tells me that you have repeatedly asked him to spend more time with the children.  If so, then he may think that you are nagging him and he may feel pressured and resentful.  I suggest that you not say anything else to him about calling or visiting the children.  I also suggest that you not say anything negative to him or about him, especially in front of your children.  Your children should hear you say only positive things about their father. 

You also said that you and your sons are angry.  You are the example that your children see.  Anger is the natural response when your sons see that you are angry.  (Please refer to my posting on Sept. 10, 2011 on how to let go of anger.)  When your boys say that they hate their father and they don’t want to have anything to do with him, let them know that you understand how they feel, but avoid saying anything negative about their father.  Furthermore, don’t tell your sons that they shouldn’t feel the way they do about their father.  Instead, just let your sons vent, listening actively and affirming their feelings.  Then follow this conversation with a prayer for God to fill your hearts with love and forgiveness and pray that God will bless their father.  As you work to get over your anger, so too will they.

Your daughter needs to be assured that her father does love her, and that he loves her very much.  Also assure her that his not being with the family is not her fault.  (This is also a good time to assure her that God loves her very much and God is always with her.)  When she cries for her father, encourage her to name something that she likes about him and to share the good memories that she has of him.  Write a list of the things that she identifies.  Ask her to identify ways that she can share some of the things on the list with her daddy.  Perhaps she could make up a song about him, a story about him, write him a letter, draw a picture, send a card, etc.  Let her call him and talk to him, without your saying anything to him.  Make sure your sons know what your daughter is doing, and let them know that it is okay for them to express their thoughts also, when they are ready.

Finally, I am so sorry that your family is suffering such heartache and grief.  Please know that I am praying for you and your children. 

God Bless,
Aunt Dara