The four oldest Duggar girls of the popular TLC reality TV show "19 Kids and Counting" share never-before-told stories about how their family applies biblical principles to guide them through all of life's challenges in their new book, Growing Up Duggar: It's All About Relationships, which is out this week.
In their book, Jana, Jill, Jessa and Jinger share the life lessons they've learned from their parents and mentors in an effort to better the lives of teenagers who are struggling with relationships and social pressures.
Each chapter of their book deals with relationships – parents, siblings, internal struggles, friends, dating, social and cultural pressures; how everyone can impact their communities and country by getting involved in politics; and how having a servant's heart and working in missions can transform people's lives.
In a recent interview with The Christian Post Jill said she and her sisters wrote their book as a continuation of the one-on-one conversations they've had with grandparents, parents and teenagers at conferences or when volunteering their time at orphanages and juvenile detention centers.
The girls speak boldly in their book about why they hold to conservative Christian values and wear modest clothing, and also talk candidly about one of the most difficult times in their lives when their youngest sibling, Jubilee Shalom, died as a stillborn baby in 2011.
"We were stunned. Speechless," the girls write. "The baby brother or sister we had so looked forward to holding and playing with was gone."
Despite the sadness of losing a loved one, especially a young child and sibling, the family maintained their unwavering faith in Jesus Christ and knew that He would use their heartache for a greater purpose and they would one day see their sister in heaven.
"As Christians, we believe that God can use everything that happens to us – even the hardest heartache – for good," they write, citing Romans 8:28 and1 Thessalonians 5:18.
The following is an edited transcript of The Christian Post's interview with Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, and their four oldest daughters: Jana, Jill, Jessa and Jinger.
CP: What was your inspiration for writing the book and what to do you want teenagers, especially young girls, to learn from you and your experiences in life?
Jill: I would say that our inspiration for writing the book has really been a lot of the letters and emails that we've received from young ladies, and also from parents who ask a lot of questions. They've seen the television show and they ask, "What makes y'all honest and good Christian girls?" And they want to know that. In this book we try to go even more in-depth than what people have seen on the TV show and share our hearts with young ladies.
We hope that girls can come away from this book and feel like they've had a conversation with us, and that we have been able to encourage them, like we've been encouraged by other young ladies in our area, and among our friends and even our parents.
Our hope with this is that young ladies and parents alike will be inspired and encouraged just by our daily life and our daily struggles, because we're not perfect. We're human just like everyone else, and we hope people will see our faith in God in this book.
There are a lot of stories in the book that we use to illustrate different points and to talk about relationships and how important those are. We want to give everyone a ray of hope, especially teenagers.
CP: Each chapter of the books deals with different types of relationships, and you also deal with the issue of forgiveness. Would you like to explain why Christians are called to forgive their friends and family members?
Jill: I know that it's very important to forgive and not harbor bitterness. Our parents have encouraged us, since we were little, to be each other's best friend. Like the Bible says, don't let the sun go down on your wrath. Therefore, not letting little things build up, but taking care of offenses right away. Whether it's sibling relationships, or as friends, or as parents, you don't want to let those things stay or blow up and get angry or use the silent treatment with people, because those things will build up a wall between you and that person.
In the book we talk about ways that you can take those steps to finding that freedom to be able to have what's called a courageous conversation. Talking to that person, going to them like it says in the Bible in Matthew 18, and not gossiping about them to other people – it's so easy to do, especially for girls, to go and gossip to other people.
Taking the initiative on your part, as a young lady, and going to that person not in anger, but in a considerate manner and talking with them if you've been offended. Put that fire out before it grows bigger in your own heart and makes you bitter toward that friend or family member.
CP: What tips and advice have your parents given you and your siblings about the qualities they want you to look for in a spouse? Some girls might not have parents who've advised them on character traits to look out for when considering marriage. What advice do you share in the book about what young women should be seeking?
Jill: That is something we felt strongly about including in the book, because so many young ladies are distracted by guys – it's a huge thing. And once you reach the teenage years that's a big part of your life, and what you talk about is guys. We want to encourage ladies who read our book to not just settle for the first guy who comes along and shows them attention, and think, "Oh, because he's showing me attention, I'll do whatever he wants me to do."
We really challenge young ladies in this book to write down character qualities they feel would be important in a future spouse and to not just date to have a companion, but to look beyond that. We want them to think about whether or not they believe a guy they're dating would be a good father to their children. Does he have a godly character?
In our book we've compiled, along with our parents, a list of qualities that would be vitally important in a marriage relationship.
We include such things as: Is he a man who is slow to anger? How does he handle his anger? Would he be abusive? These are questions that you do need to think about. And, is he honest? How does he treat his family – his siblings or his mom? Is he disrespectful?
However he treats his mom or his sister is how he's going to treat his wife someday.
We try to help young ladies to take a look, stop and see and not just say, "This guy is being really sweet to me, and I just love him so much." But really, you need to stop and think and know that before you go any further with courting or dating a person, you need to consider some of the guidelines that you want to have down for a potential partner or a potential spouse.
CP: Will parents and grandparents be able to read the book and use it as a resource to connect with and guide their children and grandchildren?
Jill: Absolutely. In our book we reach out to parents and grandparents who are helping to be an influencer to their children and grandchildren. We've received a lot of emails, letters, phone calls and have conversations with people asking such things as, "What do I do with my 15-year-old daughter?"
In our book, we try to encourage them. We've asked our parents to share what they've seen as being vitally important in our lives with raising each one of us. We've talked about having heart-to-heart conversations with your children and even your grandchildren.
Really, you want to be that influence in their lives, especially during the transition going into the teenage years. As the parent, you want to have that role and to offer godly counsel. But if you don't have their heart, then they're going to be going to someone else for their advice.