There are some women who have only read the title and are already thinking, “What? Being a mother is the greatest joy in the world!” If that’s you, I celebrate that beautiful aspect of your life. You are not the woman who needs to read this article.
However, I’m willing to bet you have a friend who secretly thinks, “This is nothing like I thought it would be. Nobody told me about all this. I don’t know what to do and there’s no end in sight.” Those were my personal words when my son, my firstborn, was one month old. In my waiting for him to sleep (a little, at some point) and slow down nursing (I was dying inside and outside), I had many well-meaning women in my life who told me how wonderful it was to be a mother and what a blessing children were. But my secret, never-verbalized thoughts said otherwise: what if I wasn’t cut out for this? Was it so wrong to be happily married and not be a mother? Had I made a huge mistake?
I’m not the only woman to think such thoughts and dare to speak them. A friend whispered to me, “I can handle two children, but three is just one too many.” Another said, “I was a good mom until my children were teens; then everything fell apart.” The questions are deep and solemn: what will this do to my marriage? My friendships? My career? My plans and dreams? Can I handle this emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually?
Few experiences rival that of a crisis of faith in response to motherhood. We are torn between loving our children and wishing we had a week off. We cherish it one moment and then think we might seriously hate it the next. But few situations can slingshot us into the arms of our Savior like the faith crisis of motherhood if we’re willing to cling to his Word like the healing balm and ancient truth that it really is. Let’s consider a few Psalms and reframe them to work with our new stage of life.
“I feel like I can’t do it.” (See Psalm 62)
You can’t. At least, you can’t do it like you fantasized. In your mind, you thought you’d be the Instagram version of Clair Huxtable. You’d fix beautifully hand-crafted meals, dress your darlings in coordinated (but not too coordinated) outfits, juggle that job, run errands between feedings and naps, and still watch movies at night with the hubs. Before long, your daily goals change to getting everyone fed, dressed, and teeth brushed…at least once (maybe).
So take the pressure off yourself: you are not the source of peace, order, salvation, and hope for your household. That’s God’s role. Consider the opening words of Psalm 62:
“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.”Psalm 62:1-2 ESV
Don’t know what to fix for dinner? Don’t know how to keep that baby from crying every single time you buckle him into his car seat? Don’t have a clue as to how to convince a toddler that frogs won’t bite? Don’t know how to discipline that lying teen? Spend some soul time with God. Let him refresh your brain and your heart, rejuvenate that aching back and weary forehead.
“I feel all alone.” (See Psalm 42)
Wherever it was you interacted with others, motherhood shifts that dynamic. Whether it was in a women’s Bible study, at work, at the gym, or a girls night dinner with friends, many mothers feel as though they’ve unplugged from people they once loved and environments that kept them engaged, energetic, and active. A friend of mine delivered her first baby just before she and her husband moved hours away; her husband started his demanding new job and she was at home with a 6-month old in a new town with no friends. “Jesus became my best friend,” she said, “because he was all I had.”
Use this shift in time and socializing to learn to truly become best friends with Jesus. Do you talk to him? Listen to him? Do you know his tastes and preferences? Can you imagine what makes him laugh? The sons of Korah wrote, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:2). A soul removed from the throngs of people finds itself downcast, but we must remember that times of solitude are directed by God. Elijah, Moses, and even Jesus were removed from others for a time in order to hear God clearly. We, too, can use these days to pour out our soul condition to the Lord, seeking his steadfast love in the day and his song in the night (Psalm 42:8).
“I’m so afraid.” (See Psalm 91)
You used to be fearless, not worried about washing your hands or what you ate or being too particular about safety features of appliances, vehicles, and escalators. But now you hold the responsibility for a tiny human, and the fears seem endless: what is he putting in his nose? What is he eating? Does that little girl over there have something he’ll catch? Am I crushing his spirit? What about genetic disorders? Is my home safe from fire, carbon monoxide, and fleas? Will this particular hand soap kill the germs or ruin his immunity?
Stop. Give yourself one concern per day, and it must deal only with today. No fears for tomorrow, and no piling up of fears. According to Psalm 91, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” He is our shelter and refuge, our fortress, deliverer, and dwelling place; he is where we rest. Like a child trying to pick up all 30 stuffed animals and crying because she can’t carry them all, we haul around all the worries of all the things, then we stress because we forgot to worry about something.
The Lord asks for your trust; worry is refusal to give it to him. God ends this Psalm 91with his own words: “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name” (v. 14). Let go of those worries and hold fast to him in love.
When your prayers seem hollow, your hope seems crushed, and your smile has faded, find confidence in the Psalms. The Psalms are praise, crying out, confession, worship, and prayers all in one place. Find your words, confidence, and hope in them, no matter your season of motherhood.
Application and Reflection
Each new stage of motherhood is less like renovation and more like recovering from a natural disaster: everything you used to know and do and have seems lost or gone or upended. But God doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6) and Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Your relationship with God didn’t go anywhere; he is there, just as he always has been.
He sees your hectic days and your sleepless nights. He has grace for those days when you don’t crack open your Bible or when you forget to hit your knees. At the same time, he pours out blessings for the times we sit at his feet. I used to keep a pen and my Bible propped up against the corner of my kitchen counter, in sight of the sink, so I could get a few seconds of truth while washing dishes or pureeing veggies. I might get only two verses read before someone started crying or fighting, but I would jot that word on my wrist and do my best to saturate my mind and heart with that specific truth. The Psalms were my lifeline, my hope, and my joy.
There are also several great collections of Psalms set to music: Chris Tomlin, Shane and Shane, Sandra McCracken, and many others have given us the incredible gift of being able to sing along with the Psalms, just as the people of God have done for generations. Join in this song, knowing you join these faithful saints in turning your life—and your ability to mother, and your children, and your fears, and your loneliness—over to God Almighty.
Image Credit: Emilee Carpenter