They say a baby changes everything… And boy, does it!
It still amazes me that I’ve spent every single day of my daughter’s life with her. However, the road was and is bumpy. Transitioning from a young college grad and newlywed to full-fledged stay-at-home mom was shocking.
This little person, so cute and so beautifully created by God, nevertheless demands around-the-clock care that’s raw and challenging to my will-power.
I discovered quickly in the newborn days that I had a choice—I could either dwell in selfish discontentment or welcome the soul-strengthening power of sacrifice.
Motherhood is teaching me the biblical principle that true freedom is not being without burdens, but about experiencing joy in the midst of them. That supernatural joy is ours in Christ! Because Jesus frees us from sin, we leave the painful path of evil and can love others fully.
In this series we’re meditating on the “Fruit of Spirit,” or qualities that arise in our hearts after believing in the Gospel of Jesus.These nine characteristics listed in Galatians 5 should define our daily attitude, and they include joy and gentleness.
When we’re honest with ourselves, in the trenches of diaper-changing and discipline these two “fruits” can be tough to find on our spiritual tree. Why can we as moms become so tight with frustration, resulting in the opposite—weariness and harshness?
The answer: our toddlers and teenagers and every age in between—while precious—are born in sin into a broken world. We have the high task of walking with them through it, as we address our own sinful hearts. This is not easy. It is what Christ did himself, in reconciling us to the Father—He laid down His whole life.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…” 2 Corinthians 5:17-18
We know from verse 17 above that we are new creations. By God’s stunning grace we have a fresh and complete identity, with the very Spirit of God working in us.
With this newfound faith comes a new purpose – the ministry of reconciliation, of bringing others to God. When we become parents, the Lord uses us witness to our unsaved children everyday.
To do this, as it says earlier in Galatians 5 we as parents should walk by the Spirit, and not give in to the flesh (Galatians 5:16). The parental ministry of reconciliation requires us to lay aside our sin in order to address what we see in our children.
The Greek word “walking” means “continuous action, or a habitual lifestyle.” This is only cultivated by a constant abiding in Christ, a thorough knowledge of His Word, and a humble desire for the Spirit. It also requires an active fight against the flesh.
We can only radiate true joy and loving gentleness in our children’s struggles when we ourselves are walking in the truth, so let’s take a look.
There’s Joy in Self-Denial
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13-14
From the aches and pains of pregnancy and labor, all the way to one-on-one counseling of a young adult, the arrival of a son or daughter opens the door to the greatest “job” of our life. Commands from Scripture about serving others hit us head on as we bring another soul under our 24/7 discipleship.
With that high responsibility comes hard self-denial—the exact kind of humbling God uses to sharpen us into the image of Christ, who is the embodiment of love and giver of joy.
“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”John 15:10-11
It is when we embrace opportunities to serve that we’re embracing God’s will, and thus walking in the path of joy.We walk in joy when we follow the footsteps of Christ. Click To Tweet
Remember that joy is not equivalent to happiness. Happiness ebbs and flows according to circumstances, but we have Spirit-led joy that radiates from being at peace with God through salvation.
I love how Pastor John MacArthur puts it: “Joy is a gift from God, and as such, believers are not to manufacture it but to delight in the blessing they already possess.”
We don’t need muster joy when we have difficult motherhood moments, we have to remember that God placed it in us when He forgave our sins at the cross.
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11
Joy comes when we meditate on Christ, and pursue our children in an evangelistic mission of love. We take hold of godly joy when we treasure the high calling to serve our children.With Christ, struggles with our kids can be moments of ministry, not moments of misery. Click To Tweet
There’s Gentleness in Extending Grace
And what about gentleness? Again, we must transfer our precious vertical relationship with God to our horizontal relationship with our children.
The word for gentleness in Galatians 5 is the same one that’s used in 1 Peter 3 when the apostle says God sees gentle women as precious. This gentleness is not only being kind, but being humble toward others in light of God’s kindness to oneself. Biblical gentleness is about submitting to the will of God, being teachable, and considering others first.
As a parent, gentleness is extending Christlike grace toward our children.
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:12-13
What do these verses look like?
Taking a deep breath when your child spills something yet again, knowing you’ve created your own messes before God.
Putting our phone or to-do list down to properly focus on what your children needs, not getting upset if they interfere with your desires. It’s about His Kingdom, not ours.
Enjoying playtime with our children, as “immature” as it may seem, because Jesus enjoys fellowship with us.
Asking for forgiveness when you’ve sinned against your child or offering forgiveness when your child falls short – both being the inevitable work of the parental ministry of reconciliation.
Gentleness is simply pausing and seeking to show Christ to your child, because Christ has shown Himself to you.
As we see the joy and gentleness God radiates to us, we can then reflect it to our children. Let’s battle for righteousness and share the Gospel of grace with them, growing the fruit of the Spirit along the way!