Good News for the Discouraged Mom

Beat down. Worn thin. Oily scalp. Bone tired. Dark circles. Weary heart. Dashed hopes. Big doubts. Tiny people.

Some of us walk into Mother’s Day weekend with a limp in our strides and a lump in our throats. Some carry shame, others cradle guilt. All of us, at one point or another, arrive at the sorrowful conclusion that we cannot sustainably meet our own expectations for what a “good mom” should be. We make every effort to be affirmed as “good” by ourselves, our families, and our social circles. We tackle lists and sign up for programs and attempt to order our lives to such a degree as to make self-approval a tangible standard. But eventually, we arrive at a crushing disappointment: I really want to be a good mom. But I’ve tried, and I’m not. I’ve failed.

If this sounds like something you can relate to, you're not alone. I invite you to reflect on some biblical encouragements as your weary heart heads into Mother's Day weekend.
"No one is good except God alone."
– Jesus
Only God is truly good. You may recall Jesus’s words to the rich young ruler in Luke 18:19. As the young man approached him, he called Jesus, “Good Teacher,” and Jesus replied:

“Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”

His response instantly throws us off our tracks as we consider the idea of being a “good mom”. Jesus, while knowing his own worthiness and goodness, redirects the young ruler's attention to the goodness of the Father. By doing so, Christ affirms that only God sets the standard of true goodness (i.e. the law), and only God is truly good by nature.

This means discouraged mothers can do away with the notion that "good mom" is a biblical label. It isn’t. The “good mom” label is a man-made affirmation for a man-measured standard. Of course we may deeply desire to be a "good mom"—that's not a bad goal in and of itself. But we must guard our hearts against worshipping our goodness to the point that our shortcomings steal away from our joy in Christ. 

No one is good except God alone. This knocks our goodness idol of its pedestal and puts our eyes back where they belong: on the Lord. Everyone else pales in comparison to such innate, divine goodness, and Jesus wants us to remember it. So much so, he reiterated the point of goodness being tied to God and to obeying his commands several times during his earthly ministry (Matthew 7:17-21, Matthew 19:16-17, Mark 10:17-19, Luke 6:45-46). His point: only God can offer the kind of deeply satisfying goodness we crave to provide to our children.
Discouraged mothers can do away with the notion that "good mom" is a biblical label. It isn't.
Being a "good mom" isn't our highest calling. If our quest to acquire the “good mom” crown has left us battered and bruised, it's because we've turned motherhood into our highest calling—the source of our temporary prestige. Yet Jesus boils down our true calling down to one fundamental element in John 6:28-29:

Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

After examining Jesus's answer, author Elyse Fitzpatrick reminds us that being a "good mom" is neither our life's main purpose, nor our life's highest calling:

"What is our highest calling as women? Our highest calling is to believe...to believe in and love the gospel and then to live our lives in the light of all Jesus has already done for us." (Good News for Weary Women, pg. 18 & 19)

Mothers who are feeling discouraged can find their consolations in Christ’s warm invitation to believe. It is the discouraged and fainthearted he came to redeem. It is the sinner he came to save, not the righteous. It is those who beat their breast and cry out, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!” who receive their justification (Luke 18:13). Thank God, it is those women who recognize their need and their failures and turn to Christ for forgiveness and salvation who find streams of mercy never ceasing for their thirst. In Christ, we are accepted into God’s kingdom based on Jesus’s merit, not our own.
"Mostly, spiritual power and growth feel like weakness,
as if we just barely make it through the day."
–Ed Welch
The Holy Spirit will develop good fruit within us.  Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit, but so is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Empowering believers to grow spiritual fruit is one of the Holy Spirit's tasks, and God promises to bring this transformation to completion (Romans 8:29). It is through the growth of spiritual fruit that we experience what it means to be a God-honoring mother in every season—not a "good mom," but a faithful follower of Christ in our everyday motherhood. 

However, we must remember that we cannot will the fruit of the Spirit to quickly develop within us. It is a life-long process that often looks like messy, ugly faith. Ed Welch writes, "Mostly, spiritual power and growth feel like weakness, as if we just barely make it through the day.”

Discouraged mothers can take comfort in the fact that God’s saving grace is also his transforming grace. Spiritual fruit is the work of divine enablement, which allows us to become truer ambassadors of God's kingdom. Our glimpses of goodness serve merely as mirrors, reflecting him who is the ultimate Good one. Our Heavenly Father promises to bring Christ-like transformation to completion as we humble our pride, abide in the Word, and live lives of continual repentance in biblical community. 
There was never a moralism that changed a mother's heart
for the glory of God.
So where does this leave the discouraged mom on Mother’s Day weekend? Here's some good news to lighten your load as well as your countenance:

The gospel’s highest calling is that you believe. (John 6:29)

The gospel is transforming you to the ultimate standard of goodness: Jesus’ image. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

The gospel has freed you from being a slave to man-made suppositions about what a “good mom” should look like: there is only One who is good. (Luke 18:19)

The gospel breaks the chains of self-condemnation because Christ has settled the debt created by your insufficiencies. (Galatians 3:13-14)

The gospel satisfies the need you have for peer praise because in Christ, you receive God’s commendation of “Well done!” (Matthew 25:23)

The gospel offers hope for tomorrow because you know your place in heaven has already been secured by Jesus’s goodness. (Colossians 3:4)

The gospel allows you to let go of your dashed hopes and dreams because God is doing a new thing in your life, charting a path forward to guide you. (Isaiah 43:19)

The gospel is your greatest evidence that God is not unconcerned about your weaknesses and limitations and struggles. The cross of calvary proves God’s intimate knowledge about your desperate need of his help. (Isaiah 41:10, Philippians 2:5-11)

There was never a moralism that changed a mother's heart for the glory of God. But through a relationship with Jesus Christ, mothers who yearn for righteousness will be satisfied (Matthew 5:6). Those who mourn over their sin and shortcomings will be comforted (Matthew 5:4). We needn’t apply strategies or enlist in programs to reorient our discouraged hearts to God. We simply answer the call to believe in Jesus Christ and his Word. We believe his goodness is enough for us while God's good fruit is maturing in us. We need not pray to be "good moms!" Let us instead pray to be faithful disciples as we—and our motherhood—are transformed by God's goodness to us.
Christine M. Chappell
Author/Writer/Speaker
Christine Chappell is the author of Clean Home, Messy Heart, the host of The Mental Hope Project podcast, and is a guest contributor at Desiring God. She writes frequently about mental health topics at her blog, has completed biblical counseling certificates with the Institute for Biblical Counseling & Discipleship, and is currently pursuing certification with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.
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