A few weeks ago, I shared during liturgy how I often struggle with applying the gospel to motherhood. I tend to rely on my own abilities, my own strong will, my own creativity, my own intellect. If it’s the last thing I do, I’ll get this parenting thing right and my kids will grow up to be well-adjusted, productive, successful adults. Because that’s the goal.
Except it’s not. Not the primary goal anyway.
Since my third child was born, I have felt anxiety like never before. I have worried and stressed over things that should not be significant. This has made me impatient, irritable, and easily angered. I’ve had to apologize to my children many, many times, and, precious ones that they are, they just keep forgiving me and moving on. (Lord, make me more like them.)
Some time ago, I read this article by Trillia Newbell and was convicted by this: “We lack joy in motherhood — and enjoyment and peace in our Savior — the moment we step away from the gospel and try to do this “mom thing” on our own. Instead, as we mother, we need to remind ourselves daily of the truth of God’s word, specifically the gospel.”
The gospel! That is what I need! More and more, each and every day.
As mothers, we can constantly feel pressure to do better. We often base our value on how well we feel we are doing raising our kids. And I’m telling you, we are HARD on ourselves. We work and work, and at the end of the day, we can still feel like we blew it. Some days, maybe we did! I sure did a few times today.
The good news of the gospel is that our value isn’t found in anything we can do, as moms or otherwise. The work has already been done. The good and perfectly righteous work of Jesus’ life, the atoning and justifying work of his death, and the hope-giving and death-defeating work of his resurrection- that is where we turn our tired eyes and weary hearts. He has done it all. I have nothing to prove. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” I can lay my burden down at his feet- the heavy burden of motherhood, the heavy burdens of trying to do everything right and please everyone and be good enough- and take up his.
When I as a mom rely on my own performance, not only am I missing the goodness of the gospel for my own life, but I am modeling a works-based salvation for my children. My standards for myself are impossible, so my standards for them will likely also be impossible. The primary goal isn’t to raise well-adjusted, productive, successful adults, but to raise them up to love Jesus, to believe the gospel, and to point others toward both. I can’t do that by trying harder or requiring more of them. I can only trust in the power of the gospel to transform my heart and theirs.
Does reminding myself of the gospel suddenly fix things? Does it suddenly make my anxiety a non-issue? Is it immediately easier? No. This parenting gig is still hard. But the gospel makes this hard thing worth something. It’s not just a season to push through and hope for the best. It’s an opportunity to lean hard into Jesus and taste his goodness even more deeply.
“He invites you, mom, who labors and are heavy laden. You who have been working hard to be the best, only to realize that your efforts leave you more condemned and doubting than refreshed and encouraged. He invites you who have been trying to earn favor before God based on your performance rather than resting in his finished work for you on the cross. He invites you and me to find perfect and true rest in him.” (Trillia Newbell)
I’m not writing anything new. There are hundreds of articles out there that are way more articulate than this one. (Be sure to read the one I linked above!) But I’m a woman who sits next to you at church. I’m a mom raising my kids along with you. I’m struggling through this thing just like you are. I need the reminder, and maybe you do too: the gospel is for you, mama, and it’s for your little people, too.
Side note: If you’ve been at New City for any length of time, you’ve heard of the Four Questions. I’ve worked through them below for my feelings of anxiety and sometimes depression.
Who is God?
What does my current feeling show that I am believing about God?
That he is not in control, his love for me is based on my performance, he doesn’t see or care about my struggles.
What do I really believe about God?
He is in control, his love for me is not based on what I do, but on the work that Christ did in my place, and he knows every detail of my life and heart and cares about them all.
Who am I?
What does my current feeling show that I am believing about myself?
I have to try harder to be good enough. I am not loved or accepted. I am a failure. I am in control of things (not God) and if things go wrong it’s my fault. I am not secure in God’s love.
What do I really believe about myself?
I am loved and accepted, regardless of my failures. I am not in control, and I can rest in God’s sovereignty and goodness. I am secure in God’s love because of what Jesus did on the cross.
What has God done for me?
He sent his Son to take my place and bear the punishment that should’ve been mine. Jesus was tempted in every way, yet lived perfectly. He has forgiven me of my sins and adopted me as his child. He loves me even when I mess up.
What should I do?
Confess my disbelief in the gospel. Believe that God’s Word is true, that the gospel is relevant to every detail of my life. Remind myself daily that I do not have to be anxious because God is good and faithful and is always with me.