I became aware of the 9Marks eJournal on pastoring women because it is carrying a review of my book, Radical Womanhood. But the article that captured my attention is one by my friend, Jani Ortlund, who graciously and winsomely encourages young mothers who are struggling with guilt.
This was a timely piece for me to read because I had just been listening to a mother talk about the common temptation to think she was failing her children. I say "common temptation" because I hear that from nearly every mother I speak with. I know countless women who are making incredible sacrifices for their children and yet feel they are falling short. I strongly believe part of that is spiritual warfare--lies from our Enemy who wants mothers to lose sight of God's grace and quit the ministry of pointing rebellious children to a redeeming Savior. Jani fills out this idea with the opening of her article:
Jani addresses these questions in the rest of her article, "For the Young Mother: Ministry, Guilt, and the Seasons of Life." I trust it will be a refreshing perspective for anyone who is weary in her parenting role.
Guilt is a young mother’s habitual shadow. It has a nasty way of soaking through many of her efforts at nurturing, serving and loving others. “Am I doing enough for my children? For others? What do they think of me? What does God think of me?”
As a young mother everyone wants something from you—your family, your church, your boss, your neighbor. And most likely, you give way more than you ever thought you could. But along the way guilt nibbles at your soul, eating away your inner peace and joy. And it often lingers through the years, even after your children are grown and gone.
Dear young mother, don’t waste your guilt!
Don’t waste your guilt, but instead listen to it and evaluate it. Take it out of the shadows and examine it in the light of Scripture. Lay out your feelings before Christ. Is this guilt legitimate conviction of sin? Then confess your sin, receive his forgiveness and ask him where and how he wants you to change.
But maybe your guilt is a nagging, self-focused fear that if you were just a bit better or worked just a little harder, then you would be noticed and admired enough to feel okay about yourself. That is false guilt, rooted in pride. It will hurt your family and hinder your relationship with your grace-giving Father. If this describes your guilt, then remind yourself that through Christ’s death and resurrection, you’re accepted by God. The solution to false guilt, as to true guilt, is the gospel.
Paul speaks of these two kinds of guilt in 2 Corinthians 7:10. There is a godly grief that produces repentance, and a worldly grief that produces death. Ask yourself this question: is what I give my time and energies to driven by life-giving repentance or life-depleting pride?