I read an excellent article yesterday entitled, “Joyful Parenting”. It was just what I needed.
You see, I struggle with joy in my parenting. Lately especially, I have been very aware of my lack of joy. I find myself easily irritated over two and a half year old ways. I see a strong temper coming from my near ten month old. I grow weary of the constant demands of my emotional and physical reserves. I wonder if any of my efforts are ever going to reap fruit. I’m not a yeller, but can certainly be unkind with my words and my tone of voice. I was convicted just a few days ago of being too harsh with my tone.
Parenting is hard!
Listen to how the author begins the article (emphasis mine):
“Joy is prominently placed in Paul’s list of the fruits of the Spirit, second only to love (Galatians 5:22-23). If Christian homes are little outposts of the new Eden, green with the fruits of the Spirit, we should expect joy to be one of the main crops. Joy should be the dominant tone of a Christian home.”
He goes on to describe all the reasons that it is hard to have joy while raising children. Like I mentioned, parenting is not easy! It helped me to hear someone else say (or describe in this case) that parenting is not an easy task. If you read the article, he has paragraphs describing difficult aspects of parenthood. I chuckled and wanted to say out loud, “Can I get an amen?”
He then says something that brought me so much encouragement. It really set the tone for my day (emphasis mine):
“Joy in parenting is a gift of God. It doesn’t come naturally. It’s not the product of the flesh. Wherever you find a joyful Mom, you can be sure you’re seeing the Spirit at work.”
Here is why it provided me so much encouragement: he acknowledges that joy is a gift and that it doesn’t come naturally. Phew! This helped me to remember that I need not feel defeated when I realize, again, that I am not naturally joyful. Instead, he reminds me of the need to walk in the Spirit, because joy is a fruit of the Spirit working in my life. I put the emphasis on the last sentence because I so appreciate it. What an evidence of God’s grace in our lives! I made a mental note to seek to encourage another mom when I see her walking in joy with her kids. She is walking in the Spirit and He is at work in her life! How many moms could use encouragement? This one does every day!!
Lately, I have been working to pinpoint why I lack joy in my parenting. My answer has come down to a lack of gratitude for what Christ has done on the cross for me. Everything stems from and revolves around the gospel. Well, the author lists this as the first thing to do in the fight for joy.
“So, what to do? Confess your ingratitude to God, and then begin giving thanks, every day, for one of your children. When you get through the list, start over, and keep praying for a different child every day until your resentment resolves into thanks. And then you’ll want to keep giving thanks because you will have developed the habit of thankfulness.”
I have been seeking to cultivate a heart of gratitude. It has been hard. But, as I read this article, I was very aware of God’s grace to me! I was reminded of the help I have in the Holy Spirit, which I have because of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross in my place for my sin and because of the grace that drew me to Him. That is deserving of gratitude!
I am digressing from the next point he makes after confessing ingratitude and cultivating gratitude!
Lastly, he encourages us to remember what joy is:
“Finally, look ahead. Joy is eschatological. Joy is anticipation. Joy comes at the end of woe, as light follows darkness. Jesus went to the cross for the joy that was set before Him. Joy in children is also anticipatory. Scripture often describes how the anguish of a laboring or barren woman opens into joy when a child is born (Psalm 113:9; Isaiah 54:1; John 16:21; Galatians 4:27). In raising our children, we rejoice in looking forward to the fruit that the Lord promises to bring through our efforts.”
He mentions at the end that this doesn’t mean we trudge through 18+ years of parenting. No, we can experience joy now thanks to the Holy Spirit. But, we can and will experience the fullness of joy in the future as well.
So mom, be encouraged! Your job is not easy. Rest in your Savior today and ask Him for help to walk in the Spirit. And remember that you are not the only one who struggles!