“Me just not know what me gonna do with two sisters,” my 3-year-old son explained to me sorrowfully in a memorable heart-to-heart. My third child, Evangeline, was due any day now, and Stephen had been acting strangely all week. He was finally letting me know why: he felt the weight of responsibility of being a big brother and wasn’t sure he could handle it. I didn’t know what to say, so I hugged him and assured him he’s been a great big brother already. That was encouraging to him, but as I thought more about it throughout the morning, I realized that my heart was in the same anxious place as his in so many ways, and we both needed better advice than “you can do it!”
In Exodus 3, Moses was speaking to God through the burning bush and, when told that he would deliver Israel from Egypt, he protested, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” The Lord did not answer with how Moses was plenty qualified but instead gave an infinitely better answer: “But I will be with you.”
So I comforted my son with 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. To keep Paul from being conceited, God gave him “a thorn in the flesh.” We can’t be certain what that “thorn” was; the ESV study Bible suggests it could be physical ailment, resilient sin, spiritual warfare. Regardless, there was a nagging difficulty that Paul was unable to shake. When Paul asked God to remove the thorn and He didn’t, the Lord told him “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Later Paul concludes “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Obviously a new child in the family is not "a thorn in the flesh", but the concept of humbling dependency on God still applies. I explained to Stephen that if we are in a place where we don’t see our need for God, we are not in a good place. It’s good to feel like we can’t handle what we’ve been given so that we lean on Him. Self-sufficiency slithers in quietly but its bite is vicious and venomous. From Adam and Eve's failure to believe God was right about everything to Pharaoh's stone-hearted rejection of God's authority to Solomon's wandering from wisdom to idolatry to Simon Peter's passionate refusal that he would ever deny Christ, we see that whenever someone stops seeing their need for the Lord (even if they were aware of their need for Him in the past), they fall. Hard.
Fast forward a day or so and it’s November 6th. My midwife and I had arranged that she would break my water and I’d get this baby out. That morning I woke with insomnia at 3 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I had a panic attack a few hours later and had no idea how I was going to be a good mom to three children when I still didn't feel equipped in the ways I needed to be. But the LORD comforted me with those words to Moses in Exodus 3: "But I will be with you." I didn't feel that He was with me but the Bible gives me every reason to believe that He is.
After my midwife broke my water, labor took much longer than expected and I was growing impatient. When the contractions started becoming more intense, I was no gung-ho birth hero, but instead I just kept looking at Peter and my friends Lauren, Rachel, and Rebekah, and saying “Guys, I can't do this...” In between contractions, I would lean back against Peter in silence and non-eloquently beg God to just get me through this.
When it was time for a contraction I would lean forward and my friends would rub cold cloths on my neck and face and hold my hands while Peter massaged my back. I’ve seen awesome videos of moms who just sat by themselves in their birth tubs and breathed their babies out, but I was not that woman. I had three or four people holding me for every single contraction.
Eventually I started pushing until it finally felt like something was being accomplished. Eventually I felt Evangeline’s head and I knew it was almost time to meet my baby. Peter was right in my face, reminding me of truth. And then, one last glorious push, and she came!
She was immediately placed in my arms and I was so overjoyed. I mean, I was absolutely delighted. Of course I loved the arrival of my other two children, but this birth was even sweeter than the others because I felt so carried. I knew this was all just grace. The Lord carried me. He got me through every single contraction, and He used the very tangible hands of my friends and husband to hold me through it all. And that multiplied my joy in seeing that this baby had come into the world with so much help.
The first week home was very difficult and I didn’t bounce back as quickly as I thought I would. There were some issues with nursing and again I’ve found myself needing to pause constantly and just ask the Lord to get me through just one more feeding. And He has (including the times when I needed to just give her a bottle of formula.) Throughout this year when I’ve had big emotional struggles and I wasn’t sure how I would get through one more night, I did. The Lord brought me through it.
I’m reminded of Psalm 3:5: “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.” David was fleeing from his enemies, so every night was indeed a question of survival, but he was aware that when he did wake up, it was because the Lord protected him throughout the night and kept him breathing in the morning. He trusted God on a night-by-night basis.
In 1 Chronicles 29 when David was leading Israel in bringing offerings to the Lord for the building of His temple, he prayed: “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.” Even any obedience I’m able to muster is still from the Lord. Also, any knowledge I have of God is a gift from Him; as Paul strongly puts it in 1 Corinthians 4:7, “For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”
Virtually all modern voices reject humility as strength. Self-love is hailed as virtue. But it’s a devastating mindset contrary to the words of Jesus, who told us we must come to Him humbly, needy like children. In Deuteronomy 1:31, Moses likens God’s leading of Israel out of Egypt to be “as a man carries his son.” God isn’t some egomaniac dictator wishing to brainwash and break His people until we get Stockholm Syndrome and feel like we need him. Instead, He actually is the all-powerful, all-sufficient, and ever-near God who is far more aware of our frailty than we are and, in kindness, He offers His covering and strength.
Don’t be like the Jews who were so offended by Christ and His call to believe in Him that they accused Him of having a demon. They were flailing about in accusations because they did not want to hear that the only way to salvation is to throw our arms around the neck of Christ, completely disregarding our filthy-rags righteousness and clothing ourselves instead in His perfect righteousness. As Tim Keller has pointed out, no one studies historical figures like Queen Elizabeth and gets flaming mad. Atheists hate a God that they claim doesn’t even exist because it’s so offensive to the prideful human mind that God would dare presume that His creation needs Him completely.
May we desperately embrace our Savior Jesus, to get us through emotional difficulty and painful childbirth and doing the dishes and parenting our children and going to work and loving our neighbors. May we trust Him to be our mediator to God today and forever. May we trust Him to carry us all the way to our glorious future Home.
When we are weak, then we are strong.
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 5, 3, 1, and not-yet-born. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
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Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today