As I have reflected on the winter seasons of my life as a mother, I can see that, though they could be very trying times, they also have been times when I learned the deepest lessons of faith and grew closer to God. Let me share with you some of the fruit of my own winter reflections.
First, I have learned that my life is not the center of the universe. It has taken me years to see just how self-centered and selfish I can be, and just how much growing up I needed to do. Jesus said that in this world we would experience tribulation, so struggle is a normal part of life. He certainly knew tribulation, as did Peter, Paul, David, Moses, Esther, and all who have lived for the purposes of God. My struggles are not exceptions requiring special attention; they are simply the norm.
Second, I have learned that motherhood— the raising of godly children— invites intense spiritual warfare. Living as a Christian is not just about believing in Jesus, enjoying God's blessings, then going to heaven. That kind of mediocrity of soul is never an option for a mature believer. God says the Christian life is spiritual warfare, a battle, and we all will have to fight. No exceptions. Paul said, "do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you" (1 Peter 4:12, NASB). That's just life.
Third, I have learned that God is transcendent, with infinite purposes beyond my finite comprehension. He has been faithful to each generation of his people, compassionate and merciful even when we cannot see or understand his purposes. That truth forces a choice in my heart: Either I bow my knee to God's will, trusting his grace to sustain me through every struggle because I know he is sovereign and in control; or I give in to my bitterness, allowing grief and despair to defeat me. It is a choice I have to make over and over again.
Fourth, I have learned that God wants to shape me, his child, into the likeness of Christ. Scripture teaches that "God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness" (Hebrews 12:10). His hand of discipline has loosed my grip on things I hold too tightly—possessions, people, dreams, pride, expectations—things I have placed my hope in instead of in him. In their place, he has given me the wonderful freedom of knowing I am loved and accepted by him, no matter how I may sin or fail him.
Fifth, I have learned that God uses my trials to make me better able to minister to other women. I have learned compassion for others who struggle, because I have grappled with my own issues. I have wrestled with children, marriage, finances, health, and so many other issues, so I can more easily identify with others in similar situations, and offer them the compassion and hope that I have found in God's faithfulness and goodness.
Finally, I have learned that God uses hard times to make me stronger and more faithful. I have a much larger capacity now, than I ever had as a young woman, to handle challenges and responsibilities. A young mom might be overwhelmed with the constant work and stress of having a new baby, but a mom who has raised many children has learned to take her responsibilities in stride. It may take some time, but I really can "consider it pure joy" when I "face trials of many kinds," because I know the "testing of [my] faith develops perseverance" (James 1:1-3).
I hope my reflections are an encouragement to your own heart today. Do one or more of these areas seem to be one in which you might need to embrace the cup the Lord has poured for you?
You can read more of my reflections on motherhood in Seasons of a Mother's Heart, available here!