(This was my journal article selected for publication in the Journal of Family Ministry Spring/Summer 2012 published by The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary).
Note: I was given this topic to write in early December 2011. It was on the period between marriage and motherhood. Little did I know that the very next month I would find out I was pregnant. Maybe that will give you some insight into this journal article.)
There is a war constantly raging inside us. Paul shares this truth with the believers in Rome (1), and I share the same truth with you, from my experience of being a new wife living in the waiting period before motherhood. The two opponents in this war are anxiety and rest. Both of them contended within me even before I got married. I remember from the time I was a teenager pondering over the questions: Will I find “Mr. Right”? What will my dress look like? Where will I go on my honeymoon?
Once I did get married, long after I started asking these questions, similar questions continued in their persistence: Will we have children? When will we have children? Is our house or my husband’s salary big enough to sustain our lifestyle with children? What if we have trouble conceiving? Will we be infertile?
One might think these questions would stop as I prepare to enter motherhood, but they do not: Will I carry my baby to term? Will the baby be healthy? What are we going to name the baby? Will he or she ever come to know Christ? These questions constantly repeat themselves.
God, however, has provided the answer to all these questions: rest. The importance of rest is taught throughout Scripture, starting in Genesis when God rested after completing his creation work (21-3) The psalmist says to be still and know that He is God. Our rest is rooted in God’s care for us and his sovereign control over our lives. The command “do not fear” occurs frequently in the Bible (e.g., Gen 15:1; Num 14:9; Deut 1:21; Mat 10:31; 1 Pet 3:14; Rev 2:10). Paul exhorts the Philippian believers to rest in the peace of Christ and do not be anxious about anything. The circumstances we find ourselves in do not need to control us. God has bought rest and comfort for us by sending his Son Christ to pay our full penalty. If he died and rose again, then he also can take care of every situation we face on any given day. We rest by letting God be in control. The following are a few of the Scriptures that are most helpful to me when I cry to my husband and share with him these questions:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
“For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor.” “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father, who loved us, and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.”
The 16th Century Heidelberg Catechism begins with a word that is applicable to this struggle between anxiety and rest:
Q1: What is your only comfort in life and in death? A: That I am not my own, but belong – body and soul, in life and in death – to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to Him, Christ, by His Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for Him. (2)
When my husband shared that with me, I initially mocked him saying, “And that’s supposed to help?” However, I have found that these truths not only apply when facing motherhood and the potential anxieties that accompany it, but they also can stand up against any anxiety we may have. When I know I am prone to anxiety, I can trust the Scripture will assure me that my comfort comes from Christ. When I wonder if I’ll be a good mother, the Spirit residing in me gives me strength to rest. When I fear that the baby I carry will die or be unhealthy, I think to this catechism and know that all things work together for my salvation. I knew then that these were the truths that I need to always cling to in moments of anxiety – to trust the Lord, and witness His victory in my rest.
1 See Galatians 5:1-25 for Paul’s discussion of the inner battle between flesh and spirit.
2 Kevin DeYoung, The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism (Chicago: Moody, 2010), 20.