It’s all a little blurry now, but I seem to remember waking up on March 13, 2020 and learning school had been cancelled. I quickly turned off my alarm, rolled over, and fell back asleep, grateful for a bonus day of Spring Break. The joke was seriously on me. What started as a single bonus day somehow warped into what has felt like 865 days of Spring Break.
Like parents across the country, I soon began the homeschool job I never signed up for. And yes, I know I was not technically homeschooling. But listen, these kids were at home and they were doing school. Home. School.
Since then, the disappointment has become palpable. I’m disappointed my youngest son didn’t get to go to his first day of kindergarten. I’m disappointed my boys saw their friends a fraction of the time of a normal summer. I’m disappointed I haven’t been on an actual date with my husband since February.
As if the disappointment hadn’t been enough to wrestle with, God led me to start a full-time job the day before my boys started back to virtual school. So now, it’s disappointment compounded with stress.
Let me paint a quick picture for you. We live in a nearly 1,600 square foot home. We now have two full-time working parents and three school-aged children all under one roof. We have four desks, five computers, and hundreds of unique Zoom links. We have a new kindergartener who doesn’t read yet and needs help and supervision with nearly everything he does. We have installed lights above the doors of two rooms to indicate if a parent is on an important call that cannot be interrupted. The home that has been a place of peace and rest for me now feels more like an office building, a classroom, and a cafeteria.
As you can imagine and probably relate to, things feel a little off balance around here. Fighting the stress and disappointment feels like its own full-time job, but God has mercifully led me to these truths to help steady my heart in the middle of chaos.
James 1 says when I face trials of various kinds, and a global pandemic squarely falls under various kinds, to count them as joy. We don’t always get an explanation alongside God’s commands. But, fortunately here in James, we do. James says to count these trials—the juggling of calendars, the Zoom circus, the grief of unmet expectations—as joy, because it’s producing steadfastness in us. And steadfastness must finish its work so that we might become complete, lacking nothing. Let that rest on your heart for just a minute.
If that’s true, that would imply that there hasn’t been one single trial in the past six months or in all of eternity past that has been outside of God’s perfect and loving control. Every single trial, every single changed plan, every single missed milestone, it’s all been Plan A. It’s not because God loves to torture His kids, but because God knows exactly the circumstances that will produce steadfastness and help us to endure and finish our race. It means that God is producing something in our hearts that wouldn’t have been afforded to us without all the trials and sufferings of 2020.
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2 ESV)
The command to count our trials as joy comes with a promise that God’s not wasting our trials. He’s not out of control. Instead, He’s lovingly giving us exactly what we need to endure so that, “we shall become like him” and “we shall see him as he is.” Count it as joy.
The call of motherhood, working outside the home or not, requires surrender. Five years ago, I remember walking my oldest son into his kindergarten classroom and feeling like my heart was beating outside my body. I remember how difficult it felt to leave him in a building that smelled of old ketchup for eight hours at a time with towering 5th graders and a teacher I had only met the day before. It was the first of many moments of letting go. Surrender.
Today, the circumstances of the surrender look different. There are still moments of physical surrender—letting my boys go on bike rides by themselves, dropping off for a week of overnight camp—but now, more often than a physical letting go, surrender is a slow loosening of my tight grip on control.
If you’re a parent, I imagine you can relate. When it comes to our children, we love control. We love our schedules and routines. We love our sleep. We love our throw pillows the way we left them. Having kids seems to suddenly illuminate how out of control we actually are. It quickly becomes clear that any control we thought we had was only an illusion. And if you’re anything like me and most people I know, feeling out of control triggers all kinds of anxiety.
As a working mom, painfully aware of how out of control I am, these anxieties take on the form of self-doubt. Am I a good mother? Am I neglecting my kids? Am I failing? Why can’t I do it all!? Instagram and Pinterest seem to only perpetuate the doubt and mom guilt. My feed is full of beautiful, obedient children, sparkling kitchens, and lots of free time. That’s not my reality, and it’s not likely yours either. So, what truth does Scripture give us to fight the doubt and anxieties?
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus urges His disciples to fight their anxiety by considering how much God loves them. He explains there is not one flower that falls to the ground without God’s sovereign word. There’s not a single bird anxiously hoarding away food, because each one has a perfect Provider. The point that Jesus wanted His disciples and us to consider is this: If we have a God who cares so much about the temporary, how much more does He love you and me and our children? And if He promises to provide for the birds and the flowers, how much more does He promise to provide for His very own children?
Here’s the truth: No one loves our children as much as God does. He knows every single hair on their heads. By the word of His power, He is carefully holding every single molecule in their tiny bodies together—causing their hearts to contract, their lungs to breathe, and their eyes to blink. He’s in perfect control and He gently holds them in the very palm of His hands and He can be trusted. How can we know this for sure? Because, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 ESV)
Our God has always been and will always be perfect and good in His provision. He promises to feed the birds of the air and clothe the grass of the fields, how much more will He provide for His very own children?
Fighting anxiety and self-doubt requires a surrender made possible by a dependence and trust that God’s Word is true and good—that He’s got us. He’s holding me. He’s holding my children. And He’s holding every detail of our lives in perfect control.
“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37–39 ESV)
He doesn’t bend or buckle by the weight and stress that I feel. He’s not juggling meetings, meal plans, laundry loads, and kids’ activities. He holds all of it. He has held the weight of the world on His shoulders so we wouldn’t have to. You can trust Him. Surrender.
It’s only after I surrender, that I really feel the freedom to enjoy my work. I am not weighed down by the anxiety, self-doubt, and insecurities. Instead, I am freed to pursue the work that God has put before me. Often, we see work as a necessary burden. We have mouths to feed, bills to pay—therefore we must work. While that may be true, it’s not the primary purpose of our work. In Genesis 1, God created work for Adam and Eve, not to be a burden, but to be a gift. Work was and is an opportunity for us to join in the work that God is doing. It’s an opportunity for us to use our gifts and talents to participate in the work that He is already accomplishing.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)
It may be changing diapers, it may be full-time ministry, or it may be being on the frontlines of a global pandemic. No matter what it looks like, God has put work ahead of every one of us and it all matters. He has you exactly where you are for His good purposes. He, our Heavenly Father, has created work for us to do. And when we faithfully pursue that work with the gifts He has given us, God delights.
Working moms, I know you are tired. I know you want a break. I know the lies that are whispered to you. I know the weight. Count it as a joy. Not one second is being wasted. Surrender. God has you. And work hard. And rest in God’s delight for you, His very own daughter.