I won’t be preaching this Mother’s Day. Our family is on vacation and one of our elders will be preaching for our church family.
As a pastor I struggle with what to do for Mother’s Day. The day can be associated with a lot of pain for those struggling with infertility, miscarriage, the death of a mother, or relational estrangement from a mother. Do I really want to have people come to worship to hear the good news and reopen all of their wounds because of a Hallmark holiday?
At the same time, motherhood is a high calling of which the Bible speaks in glowing terms. While the day might not be part of what we would call the church calendar, this cultural celebration offers great opportunities to celebrate the gift of motherhood and look at the biblical injunctions to mothers.
So, if I were preaching this Sunday, this would be the heart of my sermon.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The Danger Mothers Face
Mothers face endless sources of needless guilt. The greatest sense of guilt you face comes from within yourself as you never feel like you measure up to what it means to be a good mother. There is always something else you feel like you should do, or you cannot stop thinking about that mistake you made.
Our culture doesn’t make things easier on mothers either. You are neglecting your children if you work and lazy if you stay home with your children. You are poisoning them if you fix them processed food and turning them into morons if you let them watch television while you fight the mountain of laundry. You are putting your children in danger if you let them play unattended and smothering them if you keep a watchful eye out. (I could keep going.)
The pressure on mothers begins early and never lets up. At every turn there is a cadre of experts telling you what you should be doing to have a healthy and successful child. If you don’t have them trained to sleep by two months old and meeting developmental milestones at every doctors’ appointment you feel like a failure. You must put together magical and memorable themed birthday parties and enroll them in every possible activity so they can find their passion. Oh, and don’t forget to read to them hours a day so they can develop their vocabulary and imagination.
The cacophony of voices would not be so bad if moms didn’t buy into what they were selling so often. Apart from the Gospel, every person has a desire for self-justification and this takes many forms in our lives. For moms, the temptation is to find your identity and sense of righteousness in being a good mother.
Falling for this temptation leads to two terrible consequences. Either you will feel like you have succeeded and become puffed up with pride so that you look down on everyone else around you or you will believe you have failed and will fall into despair and self-loathing. In addition, when you look to your parenting for self-justification, you put burdens on yourself and on your children that neither of you can bear or were meant to bear.
The Good News Mothers Need to Hear
This brings us to the words of our text. The Pharisees loaded people down with unreasonable expectations leading them to pride or despair. More often though the people were weighed down with despair.
Jesus invites people to come to him. To come to Jesus means to embrace him by faith and to rest in the work he accomplishes for us in his life, death, and resurrection. Through simple faith in Jesus, every one of our sins is atoned for and we stand before God draped in Jesus’ perfect righteousness.
We have no more need for self-justification when we look to Jesus. He invites those weighed down with unreasonable guilt and expectations to come to him, lay down our futile efforts, and rest in his finished work for us.
Jesus’s words serve to remind us that he is a compassionate Savior. He came to earth and experienced every one of our weaknesses and temptations. He knows what it is like to be tired, overwhelmed, and discouraged. He comes to our aid as we face these temptations. The tired and weary soul can come to him and receive grace to help in our time of need.
Jesus also promises to give a different burden when we come to him. No longer does the person who comes to Jesus carry the heavy burden of self-justification. Instead they get to carry Jesus’ burden which is easy and light. The Christian labors, not under the pain of unbearable burdens, but in the great freedom Jesus provides.
This is incredible news for Christian moms. You can carry out the responsibility Jesus has given you, to raise your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, with freedom instead of drudgery. When you are tired, overwhelmed, and confused, you can come to Jesus and he will give you his peace and his help. When you feel insufficient for the task, you can remember God gave you his Holy Spirit to empower you to do everything God has called you to do.
Tired mom, come to Jesus and find rest. Overwhelmed mom, come to Jesus and find peace. Guilt-laden mom, come to Jesus and find forgiveness. Proud and judgmental mom, come to Jesus and find humility and compassion. Whatever your discouragements, whatever your temptations, whatever your fears, come to Jesus and find the help you so desperately need.
“The Joy and Pain of Consistent Parenting“
For Further Reading:
Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman