I breezed through the first month of my little guy's life.
Being incredibly thankful to finally be off bed rest, I thought nothing could knock me down. Newborn baby snuggles and big sister giggles filled my days. Three hours of sleep at night didn't bother me at the time. Anything proved better than bed rest--being separated from my toddler and worrying about the baby in my womb who risked at coming early.
But month two hit me hard. My body, having recovered from labor, didn't recover in the ways necessary for everyday life. Still getting only 3-5 hours of sleep a night, my body ached and sin (a lot of it) came out.
When a Blessing Also Brings Hardship
God blesses us with children (Psalm 127:3). In Genesis 1, God commands Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply after he blesses them (v. 28). Yet because of their sin in Genesis 3 and ours, as a result, we know the bearing and raising of children brings hardship--although it comes from a blessing.
The problem comes when we think in extremes such as the following:
1. Children are a blessing.
If we think too heavily about the fact children are a blessing, we don't expect the hardship parenting brings. It surprises us when our birth plan or our sleep training doesn't work how we imagined. We begin to think we are the problem. And we begin to plan how we can fix it. Our fingers find themselves on google all too much, trying to find an end to our momentary suffering. Children are a blessing, so we must be doing something wrong. It's not supposed to be this hard.
But it is. We live in a fallen world and although children come from God's direct blessing, it will bring much hardship. We should expect it.
2. Children are difficult.
If we think too heavily about the difficulties having children brings, we miss out on the blessing God intends for us and for others. He intends for us to raise our children as disciples who will fill the earth as his image-bearers (Gen. 1:28). We may choose to not have any children, or we may choose to stop having more children for this reason alone*:
Children cause too much of a burden; therefore, we shouldn't begin to bear children, or we shouldn't have another because of it.
Hardship comes with the many blessings of the Christian life.
As Christians, God gives us innumerable blessings in his Son Jesus Christ, but it doesn't mean once we trust in him all hardship will cease (Eph. 2:1-10, 2 Cor. 4:8-12). If we believe harship will cease, we may retreat when a storm comes. We will think we did something wrong for it to be this hard. We must flee from it--we think. But God purposes all suffering for his glory, and his blessing stays intact (Eph. 1:3-14). We don't need to go about how to fix and ease our circumstance if we know we are in the will of God.
Recently, a group of us began reading the book Insanity of Obedience by Nik Ripken. He talks about the certainty of persecution in the life of the obedient Christian. (Jesus makes this clear in Mark 10.)
Ripken mentions how ill-prepared he and his wife were when they first moved to a hostile place. They did not expect persecution. Yet he learned "persecution was simply to be expected for followers of Jesus. And God's ability to intervene and use persecution for his purposes was expected as well" (p. 12).
If we expect the hardship accompanying a blessing, we stay steady (Ps. 55:22).
"All who are godly will suffer persecution." --2 Tim. 3:12
If we expect this in our pursuit towards godliness, we will persevere in our faith and experience the blessing full fold as a result (1 Peter 4:12). We will make it to the end, for we know the great hope awaiting us--to be raised and glorified with Jesus Christ.
Likewise, if we expect to suffer in parenthood, we will experience the blessing God intends. Perhaps we should say: All who are parents will suffer hardship.
Some days I want to give up all my "mom duties." I want to shrink back or run away. I think: I can't do this anymore (another day). OR I can't do this again (another child). My perfectionist tendency is to make note of what I'm doing and try to fix what's causing my burden. I need to work harder to get it together. Then the suffering will end. The end of the suffering becomes my goal, and I'll do whatever I can to get there.
God doesn't promise to end our suffering on earth. One hard circumstance or season may end only for another to begin.
But he does promise to end our suffering if we persevere through it--if we remain faithful.
I still don't have a stable routine. The little squares I draw each morning for my to-do list often remain unchecked. My evening social life remains non-existent, and a full night's rest has only happened once. Clutter, dust, and laundry continue to pile up too.
Thankfully God doesn't care as much about how well I accomplish my to-do list or how sanitary or organized my house is as he does my faithfulness. Am I being faithful each day to spend time with him in his Word even when I'm tired? Am I being faithful to recognize my sin and to kill it daily? Am I allowing him to produce the fruits of the Spirit in me so that I can mother with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and gentleness? Am I exercising self-control over my temper in the midst of sleep deprivation? Am I being a good wife to my husband?
God cares about these things more than my ability to calm the chaos around me and to establish a routine three months after adding a new addition to our lives. Routine is good. Discipline and diligence are healthy and good commands from God. The suffering accompanying my attempts to parent well as a faithful steward of the children God has given me, however, is not in vain. God purposes it and will bring about his blessing through it.
On days like today when I want to throw up my hands in defeat, I must remind myself one day Christ will return to crush the head of the Serpent. The curse on mankind which produced such hardship in childbearing and rearing will be undone. We who are in Christ Jesus will have the victory! As my daughter says, "Hallelujah! Praise Jesus!"
*I understand not everyone can have biological children and do not believe God is withholding blessing from those who can't (Psalm 34:10). However, I do not expound on this in this article for the sake of clarity.