Toothpaste and Sanctification

I’m not sure if there’s anything I dislike more in our morning routine than brushing my son’s teeth. I don’t know what it is about this chore that I find so frustrating. Maybe it’s that he’s guaranteed to declare “I do it!” and resist my help while we’re running late. Maybe it’s that his tiny neck goes limp and his head wobbles from side to side when I really need it to stay firm and still so I can brush efficiently. Or maybe it’s that he can’t fully reach the sink to spit and thus dribbles toothpaste onto the countertop that I just cleaned.

I’ve called out for the Lord’s help more times than I’d care to admit while brushing my sweet boy’s teeth, and I’ve even reacted sinfully because of my frustration.

My example seems a little silly, but we all have seemingly simple motherhood moments that launch us into frustration, grumbling, or reacting in sin. Whether it’s homework help, leaving the house on time, meals, bedtime disasters, middle of the night wakings with a newborn, or after school carpool, we all find ourselves in moments of frustration. But we have the opportunity to choose obedience to God.

What is Sanctification?

Sanctification is God’s transforming power within us through the Holy Spirit to make us more like Christ. We faithfully cooperate with the Spirit in obedience to this end. The Westminster Catechism defines sanctification as, “...the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.”[1] In simpler terms, God’s love changes us and declares us righteous through Christ’s work on the cross, equipping us to resist sin.

God sent Christ to die for us while we were still sinners and rescues us from where we began.[2] When we first accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, God makes us new creations by rescuing us from slavery to sin.[3] After this great rescue, he considers us holy because of Jesus, but he also loves us enough to transform us more and more into his image through the work of the Holy Spirit.[4] This is the sanctification process.[5] Praise God!

When Will I Just Cooperate?

Motherhood is one great opportunity for sanctification. We have hundreds of opportunities to surrender our wants, desires, and needs, every single day.


Motherhood requires us to serve others. ith the right heart attitude, this brings glory to our Heavenly Father. But do we surrender our wants and needs with much grumbling, bitter complaining, or even a sinful or resentful heart? Do we make these sacrifices out of love or just because it’s required of us? Do we rehearse inner-monologues about how unfair it is to be cleaning up yet again after capable bodies or remind ourselves over and over how irritating it is to brush a two-year-old’s teeth and when will he learn to just cooperate? 

As I was brushing my squirmy son’s tiny teeth one day, looking forward to the day he could just do it himself, the Lord convicted my heart to cooperate.

At first, I protested. ”Of course I cooperate! I’m depleted to almost nothing at the end of each day because of how much I pour myself out in servanthood to my family!”

But the more dominant part of my heart, with the help of the Holy Spirit, knew exactly what was meant by this question. Am I doing the work of serving my family just because it needs to be done, or because I’m joyfully obeying Christ’s command to love others as I love myself?[6] Am I grumbling as I serve and sacrifice my needs for others, or am I faithfully submitting to the opportunities for sanctification that I have been blessed with, believing that God will use them for my good?[7] Am I allowing God to change and transform me to who he wants me to be through these mundane tasks? Am I choosing sinful reactions or allowing God to enable me to sin less? Am I cooperating with God’s desire to sanctify me through servanthood to my family?

We can go through all of motherhood resisting this transformation, merely surviving each season with its distinctive challenges and arriving on the other side unchanged. Or we can yield our hearts and desires to our Heavenly Father, who gently leads those who have young.[8] We can let him use these moments to make us new creations and allow him to enable us to cast off sin more often than we choose it.

Jesus didn’t live a perfect life, suffer crucifixion on the cross, take on the sins of the world, and defeat death for us to simply survive motherhood. Jesus overcame death and sin so that sin would no longer have power over us. We’re enabled by God to choose righteousness over sin—even in motherhood.

My fellow mamas, when our flesh is crying out to behave sinfully because we’re yet again being asked to serve, sacrifice, or do that one dreaded task that frustrates us to our very core, let us instead choose to cooperate. Let us cast aside grumbling, complaining, resentment, and frustration and embrace the work of God in our lives. He is the God of peace, who is faithful to sanctify us. Let us not fight this hard work of motherhood but welcome divine opportunities to serve our families and become more Christ-like with the help of the Holy Spirit. Let us take a deep breath and cling to 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24: “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it”.

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America is a 26 year-old mother of Hayes (3) and Hattie (1) and has been married to her handsome husband, Mark, for 5.5 years. She lives in Michigan and stays home with the kids. She’s a lover of reading, fellowshipping with other mamas (especially when coffee is involved!), enjoys being outdoors while the little ones explore, and is passionate about women’s biblical literacy. 

  1. Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. 35

  2. Rom. 5:8

  3. Rom. 6:6-7

  4. Col. 3:12

  5. 2 Cor. 3:18, 1 Thess. 5:23

  6. Matt 22:39

  7. Rom. 8:28

  8. Is. 40:11