by Sharon Betters
We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses.
2 Corinthians 6:3-4
Do you, like me, feel inadequate to take on the calling of “spiritual mother?” When feeling particularly low, I rewind the worst moments of parenting, wishing I could live my life over again. How can I encourage others when I’ve made so many messes? Then I read a verse like Today’s Treasure.
I love the message of Paul’s words in this passage. He pounds nails into the heretical teaching that if only we have enough faith we can avoid troubles, hardships and distresses. Ha! Paul “commends” his life journey to others in part because of the troubles, hardships and distresses.
Every circumstance in our lives is a gift we can offer back to the Lord for Him to use as a means to help turn hearts toward Jesus. It seems this is what Paul is saying in this passage. Though troubles came, he endured, trusting the Lord would one day redeem the pain and also work through the circumstances in a way that brought good to him and his partners in ministry who loved Jesus. I often think Paul is referencing holy troubles, you know, the persecution he experienced. Yet Paul declares he is the greatest of sinners. I conclude hardships and distresses could easily include all the temptations and sinful actions of my own life. Intentionally doing life with other women encourages me to revel in the love and forgiveness of the Source of Life, Jesus.
Hanging out with other mothers whose children were older than mine helped shape my views of discipline. I discovered jewels of wisdom while working in the church kitchen preparing for potlucks as older women shared bits of their personal lives. I’ll always remember the kindergarten teacher who reassured me my five year old wouldn’t always be as difficult as that day. With the words, “This, too, shall pass” she mentored me. I took a deep breath, hugged my little child, and thanked the Lord for those hopeful words.
Paul owns the hard places and sees them as a pathway for offering hope to others. My friend shares how her parenting struggles equipped her to encourage other young moms:
When our four adult children gathered for Thanksgiving, I reveled in the time we enjoyed, but when they left, doubts assaulted my heart that I wasn’t a good mother. I saw all kinds of weaknesses, from the one who didn’t know how to cook, to the one who couldn’t manage their money, and the one who wasn’t walking with the Lord. I was a terrible mother, I had not taught them well and now it was too late. My husband’s encouraging words only made me feel worse. Desperate for the Lord to forgive me for being such a bad mother, I read:
O Lord, I am Your servant; born into Your household; You have freed me from my chains. I will offer You a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.
Psalm 116:16, 17
Instead of God’s Word piling on guilt, affirming my failure as a mother, I found reassurance and overwhelming peace, remembering God's faithfulness and forgiveness. I am His child. He chose me. Of course, I had made parenting mistakes. Our children were sinners, just like me, but through Jesus, my chains were gone. My sacrifice of thanksgiving that morning was to thank the Lord He is parenting my children, and really, He always was. I have to credit the ministry of other women in my life for my decision to turn to God’s Word for help in this moment of self-inflicted guilt and despair. Through their lives and their teaching, I have learned to run to the Scriptures again and again to gain eternal perspective at a time in life when things feel even more out of my control than ever.
Now I see how my past struggles take on redemptive value as I use them to spiritually mother younger women to ‘do it better’. Through the resources I have studied through our women's ministry, I have a new appreciation for God's church, and a desire to help the next generation catch the vision that comes with understanding those foundational truths that make us who we are as a covenant community. These days, my thrills come not only from watching my children mature, but also from watching spiritual daughters facing life with confidence in our Sovereign God. I am loving how God continues to humble and amaze me through the nurturing process of understanding His truth with other women!
Life-giving encouragement is contagious!
LIFE GIVING ENCOURAGEMENT
Start your quiet time by praising God for the richness of your inheritance as a child of the King. Read 2 Corinthians 6:-3-4. Are you reluctant to allow another woman into your life because of your own hardships and stresses? Sometimes the best gift we can give is to let another observe us as we struggle through the hard times. What was Paul’s motive in living out his faith? What is yours?
Review the story in yesterday’s devotional. Blessings came because this woman obeyed the call to spiritual mothering. She experiences joy as she watches the Lord use her own failures to encourage young moms to think through their own parenting decisions. Ask the Lord to bring a woman into your life who needs encouragement in her daily life, or if you’re struggling, ask the Lord to bring a woman into your life who can offer you the help and hope of knowing Jesus.
Father, thank you for the privilege of learning from others and for the privilege to pass on what we learn to others. Your grace is too precious to keep to ourselves. Show us how to practically help one another stay focused on the freedom we have in You, and how to reflect that freedom in our everyday interactions.