In the seemingly endless stretch of sleepless nights following the birth of our second son, I kept myself awake through hourly nursing sessions with the glow of my phone screen and the company of e-books I’d purchased that promised hope and encouragement for the weary mom.
Feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, lonely and simultaneously ashamed for acknowledging my weariness, I struggled under the weight of my ambitions for motherhood. I had such high expectations for myself and the two beautiful boys I’d been called to raise, and I could already see myself failing them. How was I ever going to measure up to the noble Proverbs 31 woman?
In my loneliness and depression, I turned to a welcoming online community of Christian women who make it their mission to encourage one another in their pursuits of marriage, motherhood, and ministry. It wasn’t long before I found myself reading their blogs on a daily basis, following them on social media, participating in early morning Bible study groups, and downloading their e-books.
At first, I felt rejuvenated by the positive vibes and the assurance that I wasn’t alone in my struggles. One after the other, the authors reminded me of God’s unconditional love, my dreams, my gifts, and the big plans He has for my life; a good purpose meant just for me.
But, it wasn’t long before I noticed a pattern: God, then me, me, me. It all came back to me.
Eventually, I had purchased and read a handful of these books, and I even urged other friends to get them, too, so we could walk through them together. However, it wasn’t until I found myself going back to read a few all over again — after the initial feelings of rejuvenation had worn off and I’d failed to live up to my own expectations — that I began to realize something.
Instead of feeling hopeful and encouraged, I still struggled with all of the same things I had in the beginning, and I began to wonder what was wrong with me.
Why was I so broken?
Maybe, I’d think, if I could just read the next book, be more like her, get up earlier in the morning, have Quiet Time every day, successfully employ this parenting method, etc., then I would finally reach my full potential as a mom. Maybe, then I would be deemed worthy; a good and faithful servant.
When I finally took a step back and acknowledged the true nature of the vicious, self-absorbed Law-Gospel-Law cycle I’d been caught up in, the realization shook me.
Please know this is not a stab at the authors of these books. I trust they are writing from a place of peace with a desire to love and serve others with their messages of encouragement.
I believe we all crave solidarity, along with the reminder that we are not alone in our seasons of weariness. I also believe that we should be there to love and serve one another as well as we can.
However, in order to truly love and serve the desperately weary mom in need of hope and encouragement — one crumpled beneath the weight of perfectionism and legalism — I believe we must turn her away from herself (her shortcomings, as well as her well-intended ambitions of marriage, motherhood, and ministry), altogether, and, instead, point her to Jesus Christ on the cross. For it is through His sacrifice, alone, that we are justified.
By pointing others to God, and then back to themselves, we are only showing them what they can do better for God rather than reminding one another of what God has already done for us.
While our good works and accomplishments may be pleasing to God, as they grow naturally from even the littlest seeds of our faith in Him, our true source of hope and encouragement lies in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
When voices of the world, then, claim to give us confidence, show us how to bestow grace upon ourselves and our neighbor, and offer to lead us to reach our full potential in our efforts to live a truly meaningful and fulfilling life, we must remind ourselves of the truth. God’s truth.
No matter how closely we stick to the letter of The Law –- no matter how many Christian books we read or Bible studies we attend, and no matter how well we apply what we’ve learned from them in our lives — we will never be able to justify ourselves to God.
Without Him, we will never be enough.
As a recovering perfectionist with high expectations for myself, this realization isn’t an easy one to swallow.
But, the good news is, despite our weaknesses and daily failures, through faith and by His grace, alone, we are forgiven and declared worthy.
As Jesus declares on the cross, “it is finished.” There is nothing left for us to do, because He has already done it all for us.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (EPH 2:8-10, NIV)
Weary Mom, it is my prayer today that you find peace and rest in His mercy.