I grew up going to the Broward County Fair. Every year my best friend Morella and I would look forward to the Friday night when we would put our lives in danger on roller-coasters that were likely not meeting safety standards (I kid, kind of) and overpay to play games that would win us life-sized stuffed animals. And for some unknown reason, which now feels like foreshadowing, my favorite game to play was whack-a-mole. Do you remember it?
It’s an arcade game in which players use a mallet to hit toy moles which appear at random and at a rapid pace, leaving you barely able (if at all) to address one toy mole before another and another appeared. The more you hit, the higher you scored. But I was never able to hit as many as I hoped.
This is how motherhood has felt for, well, quite a while.
I am in a season of parenting that feels incredibly overwhelming and immensely exhausting. Yes, I have five boys who range from kindergarten to college, so I should, in some sense, expect parenting to feel like a game of whack a mole. But I don’t think the number of children we are parenting has to be indicative of the amount of overwhelm we feel. One child can just as easily reveal how much we need help, real help, to not only guide our children in the gospel, but sometimes to just simply make it through the day. Can I get an amen?
Recent months have shown me, in an entirely new way, how much I need God to help me parent the children He has entrusted to me. I need to know the power of God in my parenting. I cannot do this alone. And when I attempt to do it alone, which I don’t do intentionally but it is part of my human nature, I find myself far more exhausted and discouraged and overwhelmed than when I am parenting in the power of God’s Spirit—the Holy Spirit.
Does the physical exhaustion and mental discouragement magically disappear when we accept God’s help and rely on His strength to be manifested in us? I wish! So then what does happen when we admit we are not sufficient enough or strong enough to wallop all of the moles? Oops, I meant to say, “to be the moms we long to be for our precious kids.”
HE STRENGTHENS ME.
One of the greatest things about knowing the grace of God and the power of His Spirit is the freedom to admit we are weak. There is so much pressure in our culture to pretend we are sufficient enough and strong enough to face what this life throws our way. But as Christians we enjoy the benefit of having the supernatural strength of the Spirit.
Let’s look at a familiar passage to gain fresh insight.
In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul wrote about a handicap in his life that kept him ever aware of his human limitations.
But it’s his response to that handicap, described as a thorn in his flesh, that I want to focus on. He said:
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (vv. 8-10, NIV).
Paul is teaching us that because we have weakness, we get to experience Christ’s power. (It’s the “get to” that gets me.) The Holy Spirit, who lives in me, works through my weakness so I might experience what is only possible with God!
His power becomes real when we accept we have weaknesses that stand in the way of us becoming who we want to be for our kids or doing what we want to be able to do for our kids. It is then that our weaknesses give way to God’s strength. When we are busy trying to muscle our way through it, we miss out on experiencing Christ’s power. His power is the divine Person of the Holy Spirit who has made His home in YOU!
But when we trust the full sufficiency of God’s strength, we are free to be honest about our weakness because then the pressure to pretend we are something we aren’t is lifted, and the humility required to invite the power of the Spirit of God becomes undeniably precious to us.
It’s easy to wish God would just remove weakness from us. But what God does for us is so much better. He puts His Spirit in us and He allows us to experience what’s only possible with Him.
This is the good stuff. The best stuff. The stuff that lifts the heavy burdens and breathes life into our depletion.
In my early years of motherhood, I was not OK with feeling weak. It made me feel like a failure. I didn’t understand the magnitude of God’s grace and the power of His Spirit, so I was embarrassed by my weaknesses, especially with my kids. I wanted them to see me as someone who would never let them down or get it wrong. In other words, I was trying to play the role of Jesus in their lives.
But now I have so much freedom to confess to my kids how much I need Christ’s power to help me. I get to shine the light on the sufficiency and power of Christ! My weaknesses give tangible evidence of God’s power. Maybe it even makes my kids hungry to have His power—which is the Person of the Holy Spirit—too! And isn’t that we want most for our kids? For them to know God’s presence and power in their lives?
Maybe, as you read this, areas where you need to experience the Spirit’s power in your parenting are coming to mind. I wonder if we can pause here, for just a moment, and ask the Lord to show us one step we can take today to be more intentional in welcoming the Spirit to strengthen us in our physical and mental exhaustion.
When you find yourself in situations where you’re saying, “I can’t do this. I don’t have what it takes. I don’t have the courage. I don’t have the energy. I don’t have the strength,” take heart and hear the Holy Spirit saying, “I can! I do!”
Take the help and then boast all the more that you don’t have to have what it takes because you have the power of God living inside you, and He can do abundantly more! He will strengthen your heart for the work of your hands! The Holy Spirit champions us by helping us in our weakness.
God will “strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being” (Eph. 3:16, NIV).
We worked with Jeannie to create these beautiful Scripture cards. Our hope is that you will print, cut them apart, and tape them to your mirror, put them in your purse, or place them somewhere so you can be encouraged by God’s Word daily.
Jeannie Cunnion is the author of Never Alone, Don’t Miss Out, Mom Set Free, Mom Set Free Bible Study, and Parenting the Wholehearted Child. She is also a frequent speaker at women’s conferences and parenting events around the country.
Jeannie’s work has been featured on outlets such as The Today Show, Fox and Friends, Fox News, The 700 Club, and Focus on the Family. Jeannie has a Master’s degree in Social Work, and previous to writing, she worked in the counseling and adoption field, traveling the country (48 states to be exact) speaking about adoption and parenting. These days you’re most likely to find her driving carpool, coordinating chaos, cheering for her boys on the sidelines of their games, or singing worship songs off-key in her kitchen while trying to cook an edible meal.
As for what makes her happy – well, that would be sharing the love of Jesus, reading a great book, hiking with her family, watching Auburn football, stringing words together, water in every form, traveling anywhere warm, singing like nobody’s listening, and hanging at home with her family.