This is a guest post by Maggie Combs.
I don’t need to tell you that motherhood is hard work. It’s physically grueling, emotionally exhausting, and intellectually numbing. We are moms, we know each of these challenges firsthand. One hardship we often overlook as moms is the challenge it makes to our sense of purpose. Understanding our purpose and calling is a tricky part of being a new creation. It gets even trickier when we become a new mom.
Through the consuming trials of motherhood, we lose many of the earthly ways we used to understand the purpose of our lives before: We may no longer be working outside the home. We might find our friendships weakening as we enter a different stage from single or childless friends or just have a fussy baby that won’t do the playdate routine. Our relationships with our husbands change as it makes room for the relationship of family instead of just the two of us. Even church changes for us: we rarely get to sit through a service before a baby needs to nurse or an upset child needs to be picked up from the nursery.
Because the challenges of motherhood strip away our old identity markers, we are tempted to replace them by finding our purpose in godly motherhood. We hear from our Christian friends and leaders or tell ourselves things like:
“Motherhood is the highest calling.” Or,
“Raising godly children is our most important work.”
Our Christian culture is trying to support us as we work our bodies, hearts, and brains to the bone, but these kinds of encouragements miss the point. If our ultimate purpose as godly women is to raise godly children, what happens when our children are grown? Do we get to lie down on the couch and watch daytime television for the rest of our lives because we have completed the job God gave us? What happens if despite the countless hours memorizing Bible verses, teaching God’s grace, and praying for their souls, some of our children don’t accept God’s gift of salvation? Did we fail as moms? If our purpose is to raise godly children and some of them don’t accept God’s gift of salvation, what did all those countless hours of endless sacrifice amount to?
Although godly motherhood is valuable, it is not our purpose. It is not our first calling, but the result of it.
Our tendency is to find our purpose in the good works we do for God and the people we impact for Christ, but that’s getting the process backward. Revealing God to others isn’t the purpose of my life; it’s the product. My ultimate purpose isn’t to love my children, my friends, or even my husband—it is to love God.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment” (Matthew 22:37–38).
Our purpose is first and foremost to love God more. This means that motherhood can’t be our ultimate purpose. Godly motherhood is a product of fulfilling our purpose: loving God more by knowing him better. God’s purpose for every relationship we have and every circumstance of our lives, even one as world-shifting and challenging as motherhood, is to bring us further up and further in. When we find our value, identity, and purpose in our relationship with Jesus, we are sanctified and godliness is the result.
Paul says “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). If we know Jesus is of “surpassing worth,” nothing is as valuable or as important as developing an intimate relationship with him. Without this Jesus-relationship component, everything in our worlds is a loss. Motherhood is not meant to give us life; it’s meant to point us to the true Life Giver.
Here’s the process: Challenges in our lives draw us closer to God by allowing us to share in Jesus’ sufferings and know the power of his resurrection (Philippians 3:10). As we experience suffering, we know Jesus better. As our challenges push us beyond our own power, we learn what it means to rely on the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. Through these trials of motherhood, we grow to know him and love him more. As that intimate relationship with God deepens, the Holy Spirit sanctifies our hearts. Finally, others see Christ’s work in us and God uses it to draw others to him.
The Westminster Catechism says the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. We glorify God when we know him and love him more than all the other loves in our lives. Motherhood is just one part of our hearts’ endless pursuit to enjoy and glorify God. Both the trials and the tasks of motherhood are meant to draw us nearer than we have ever been before. Resting in God’s power to propel us through our daily rhythms deepens our love for God, sanctifies us, and brings glory to him instead of ourselves. Dependence on God always draws us deeper with God.
Therefore, we don’t wrap our purpose up in our children—or in any other relationship. Roles and relationships don’t define who we are and why we are here. Only one relationship defines us: our relationship with God. Good works, like godly motherhood, flow out from this relationship. If we focus on godly motherhood, instead of God himself, our wells will run dry. We will look for energy and passion for motherhood in things like self-care, physical rest, food, and friendship. When we keep our focus on knowing God better through the circumstances he presents to us in motherhood, godly motherhood is the natural outflow of the sanctification that occurs in our hearts through growing closer to God and knowing him intimately.
Dear Mommies, we are so much more than the summation of our children. His purpose for your motherhood is that you would know him better, love him more, depend completely on his strength, and understand his faithfulness in a new way. God made you a mom to draw you deeper into his love and his story. The raising of a godly, happy, loved children is a gracious result of your deepening relationship with God.
Maggie Combs is a wife, mom of three busy boys, writer, and speaker. When motherhood overwhelmed her, God drew her closer to him through writing her first book, Unsupermommy: Release Expectations, Embrace Imperfection, and Connect to God’s Superpower. Find more of her practical application of the gospel to motherhood at www.unsupermommy.com or on Instagram and Facebook.