If you pour some oil into a clear measuring cup with water you will find that they don’t mix; the oil remains on top. I realize this observation hardly qualifies me as scientist of the year! But there is something to be learned from this familiar occurrence.
Biblical love and discouragement are like oil and water. Mix love and discouragement together in a clear glass and you find love (oil) on top and discouragement (water) on the bottom. You can see the line that separates them. Discouragement, though real, does not change our ability or capacity to love.
We tend to believe that discouragement comes from unfortunate circumstances, as in children who are slow to obey. Actually, discouragement comes most often from the way you think about circumstances and not primarily from the situation itself. That is why Paul urges you, parent, to focus your thoughts on things that are excellent and praiseworthy, in this case that would be love.
For example, your 4 year old has just failed to come when called for the fourth time this afternoon, even though he has been faithfully disciplined for his previous actions. This can be discouraging. But this discouragement must not form the basis for your response! Has God called you to love or discouragement?
Biblical love is patient and kind. It is not easily irritated. What is called for is the loving administration of discipline, yet again. I know it is easy to be discouraged. “How many times will it take?” But, you see, God calls you to deal with your children the way he deals with you. In contrast, discouragement leads to irritation. How many times a day do you become irritated with your spouse? Has God called you to irritation or to love? Sheepishly, we all have to admit that being irritated is the more common response, even though we know that irritation is not what God wants. If you treat your spouse with irritation rather than love how does that work out in your marriage relationship?
The same holds true for your children. Yes, they need continued discipline. But this discipline must flow from love and not irritation born from discouragement. Here is another obvious observation: chidden respond better to love than discouragement. Discouragement brings fatigue. However, God will never deny you the strength needed to love your children as Christ loves you.
Biblical love flows from pursuing what is excellent and praiseworthy in your thoughts. Don’t dwell on discouragement. Rather, focus on the power of Christ. Show love to your children. Let them see that love and discouragement don’t mix!