Motherhood is hard physical labor, sweaty work, manual labor of the most intense kind because it requires more than just body. Turns out it’s hard heart labor, too. And when the work doesn’t pay off ? When the pulling and tugging and coaxing and dragging and pushing and begging and praying don’t seem to change things as fast as we’d like, we can be left empty, exhausted, worn down. In times like these, it’s easy to let it all out, taking our frustrations out on those we love the most. And when we can’t stop the toxic flow that comes up from our hearts and out of our mouths you might see us waving the white flag—wanting to give up the fight.
It reminds me of the story of Peter and the disciples in Luke 5:1-9.
A fisherman, Peter had worked hard all night long trying to catch fish and hadn’t caught even one. In those days, I imagine an empty net meant an empty stomach, empty table, empty mouths, and maybe, for Peter, an empty heart. I can almost hear him thinking, “All that work for nothing! Wasted effort, wasted time. I should just quit.” Ever felt that way, Mom? Useless? Overlooked? A failure? Me too.
Jesus, in need of a safe place from which to teach the people, caught Peter coming in from the long, hard, dirty night of fruitless work, and asked for a simple favor. The crowds, desperate for a word when the voice of God had been silent in their land for four hundred years, were pressing in all around him, and the fisherman’s boat looked like a good place to land. He taught the people from the boat for a time, and then told the weary fisherman, Peter, to cast his net in the deep water once more.
Can you imagine Peter’s response? Wait, what did he just say? I gave him my boat, and now this? He’s got to be kidding. Can you picture him, head in hands, eyes tired from lack of sleep, and heart weary from the weight of failure, answering the man Jesus?
Lord, we have been out here all night. We’ve worked our fingers to the bone trying to provide for our families, trying to take care of them and give them our best. We’ve given our all, all night long and it hasn’t been enough. We’re tired, and we don’t want to try again. Not even one more time. But because you seem to be something special, we will. Just this once, and don’t ask us to do it again if you please.
You know what happened, right? Peter’s choice to blow on the flame of hope one last time nearly sank his boat with success. He knew at once that he had been in the presence of greatness, and knowing it, repented, left his nets, and followed Jesus. I find a lot of strength from Peter’s story because there’s not a week that goes by when I don’t entertain the idea of quitting, at least for a few seconds.
Just this week, I sat back and allowed myself to remember what it was like before we had kids. Freedom and quiet were words that came to mind. I’d never really failed at anything much before becoming a mom, and I never thought loving someone so much could make me feel so bad. Certainly, there are professions that garner more praise, and pay significantly higher wages. As moms, we’re trapped in a long-term assignment that often makes us feel like failures, especially when we can’t get our words to behave. But I’m beginning to understand that there is a way to find hope in the mess.
I think our victory, like Peter’s, starts with one more cast of the net and a new definition of success.
In my book How to Control Your Emotions So They Don’t Control You: A Mom’s Guide to Overcoming, I explore a biblical model for making what comes out of our hearts, and therefore our mouths, submit to the Word of God. I wrote it specifically for moms, but since it released in 2013, I’ve heard stories of how moms are using it even to train their children to overcome their emotions.
After all, it’s our emotions that cause us to lose our tongues. Luke 6:45 says it this way: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
What’s in our heart comes out. Angry that your kids won’t obey? It’s going to come out. Frustrated over your lack of finances? It’s going to come out. Ticked off that your husband doesn’t help around the house? You guessed it, it’s going to come out. So the key to changing what comes out is to change what’s already in our hearts, and friends, it has to start with admitting our sin.
We can’t overcome what we won’t confess. Getting angry isn’t necessarily a sin, but it is sinful to allow our anger to control us, our emotions to drive us, and our feelings to inform our actions and the way we treat those we love. Maybe you don’t feel like asking God to change the way you feel—I get that, and I’ve been there. As women, we’ve been trained to believe that we have a right to our own feelings, and we’re willing to fight hard to keep them. But the truth is that if our feelings are in conflict with the Word of God, they need to change. Before any significant progress can be made in this area we have to be willing to admit we’re wrong and submit our emotions and feelings to the authority of God’s Word.
Fact: It is sinful to be controlled by our emotions. God’s Word tells us this is 1 Corinthians 6:12: “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” Certainly, our emotions—the way we feel about every situation we encounter—are lawful, or allowable, even good. Emotions serve as a barometer, helping us access our surroundings and even giving us a glimpse of what’s going on in our own hearts, but they shouldn’t be given the place of mastery over us. As Christians, the only master of our hearts should be Christ. Anything else allowed to control, dictate, or rule is an idol, and must be dethroned as quickly as possible.
If you’ve let your emotions run your life, causing you to treat those you love most sinfully, take a moment now to tell God you’re sorry for sinning against him, ask for forgiveness, and choose change. Choose hope.
From Hope for the Weary Mom by Stacey Thacker and Brooke McGlothlin