I remember the moment I saw that pink line—butterflies filled my stomach, I couldn’t contain the joy and excitement swelling in me. I waited my whole life to be a mom, and my dream was becoming a reality. My heart exploded, even amidst the constant morning sickness late into pregnancy. I was grateful, humbled, and amazed this precious life was growing inside of me, making me a mom.
I wish I could say that my joy meter as a mom is always at the tipping point like it was during that first pregnancy, but that wouldn’t be the truth. Five years and four kids later, I often find myself discouraged and defeated. From the baby blues to sleepless nights, training little hearts to mountains of laundry, sibling rivalry, worry, and the selflessness and sacrifice motherhood demands leaves me feeling joyless on more days than I’d like to admit.
I miss moments of bliss and blessing, because I’m fixated on something that didn’t go my way, worried about a what-if, or frustrated because of a situation that, ”ruined our day.” But the truth is, despairing in my circumstances instead of hoping in Christ, is sin. When I wallow in self-pity and defeat, I’m losing, and I’m the one missing out. Sin never brings joy, it only steals it from us. I’m missing out on the very blessings the Lord gave me to enjoy. If it’s true that, “God is most glorified in us when we’re most satisfied in him,” as it is described in Philippians, then joy isn’t an option; it’s a command. We’re to do all things with joy. Why? Because it brings so much glory to God.
How do we experience true joy?
Sometimes we confuse the Christian’s call to joy with a worldly happiness found when life is going our way. But that’s not what scripture teaches. The world’s happiness is often contingent on circumstances, but as believers, our hope isn’t built on the here and now. In God’s kindness, he does bless us here on earth with many good gifts, which bring joy. But true joy must never be wrapped up in the good gifts he’s given. It’s always in the Giver.
True joy for the Christian is produced by the Holy Spirit. The satisfaction and enjoyment of Christ overflows into our daily thinking and living, because we’re redeemed and transformed by the grace of God. And we get to enjoy him even more, through the good gifts he has blessed us with. We can begin to see his goodness in a whole new light when we seek joy in the eternal, knowing he is always at work. When we get to share the gospel with our children and see them marvel at God’s creation. When we get to pray for healing for a sick child and wait with expectation. When we enjoy a cup of coffee and share life with a dear sister in the Lord and do life together. When we can rejoice with our husband’s in answered prayers, and fruit in our children’s lives, we experience his good gifts. All of this brings joy.
As believers who are changed by the transforming power of the gospel, we have the Spirit working within us to produce true and lasting joy, both now and into eternity. We’re going to rejoice in the Lord always because he’s good, he’s faithful, and he’s the God who saved us.  For us, we agree with what Paul says in Philippians 1:28, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.”
The Holy Spirit enables us to open our eyes and see the beauty of Christ, to see his goodness in creation and in scripture, and to focus our reality in him despite any circumstance or lot we may have in life. He’s our joy in the everyday, in the peaks and valleys, in the trials and the triumphs. When we walk through suffering, when we are hurting because of illness, miscarriage, the loss of a child, a parent, a spouse...when persecution for our boldness in Christ is real and painful, when standing for what is right costs us our reputation, or even relationships; when we are hurting from life’s circumstances that often time seem to overwhelm us, and beat us down; we can still say, “Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, ‘It is Well, it is well with my soul.’”
Joy plays a huge role in the life of the believer. “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” Is that true for me? Is that true for you? When circumstances don’t go our way, the pregnancy test reads negative again, the baby won’t nap, the toddler had another potty accident, or the kids just won’t seem to get along, do we respond rightly, or do we react in anger and frustration? Have we misplaced our joy, is it contingent on our expectations? We can use these opportunities in our daily life to respond rightly, and in turn to show our children, that our ultimate trust and joy comes from Christ, and no circumstance can rob that from us.
The Ongoing Battle for Joy
It’s easy, as a mother, to let our circumstances steal our joy. We let spilled coffee, fighting toddlers, sickness, or an early morning wake up leave us feeling frustrated, hopeless, or despairing. As believers, it’s a daily battle for us to live a life filled with joy in every moment, especially the broken ones. However, our joy can increase as we enjoy the goodness and beauty of God in Christ, through the word and the world.
So what does this look like for us moms on the daily? His creation is all around us, from the moment we open our eyes in the morning we can choose to see it and his goodness through it. A beautiful sunset, a quiet snowfall, the pitter patter of little feet running to wake us in the morning, His goodness displayed through creation is all around us. Through his word, the God of the universe has spoken to us, if we’re only willing to read it and listen—to open our hearts and minds to its transforming power. To meditate on it day and night, to hide it in our heart alongside our children as we memorize scripture with them. To recite it throughout the day reminding ourselves, and our kids of his promises. To sing it as we go about our daily routines. And to study it deeply allowing it to transform and refine us.
We enjoy motherhood, because we enjoy the beautiful work of the gospel within our hearts and souls. And in turn, we hope others can see our joy as we trust the goodness of the Lord in every circumstance. It won’t always be moments of bliss and blessing like this. Some days we’ll still be discouraged and defeated. But let’s treasure Jesus Christ above all things and find joy in motherhood through the lens of the gospel.
“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him,” is the definition for Christian hedonism, as explained by John Piper and Desiring God.
Definition given by John Piper for his term “Christian hedonism.”
Vanessa Bence is a wife and stay at home mama to four kids, five and under. She spends her days pouring into her young children and homeschooling. Her heart's desire is to see young mothers equipped with strength, grace, and joy through the power of the gospel, redeeming the ordinary moments for his glory. She recently co-founded a gospel-centered podcast, Mommyhood Redeemed, that can be found on iTunes. Follow along or connect with her via social media on Instagram or Facebook. She resides in sunny southern California where she enjoys family days, being outdoors, writing, and a good latte.