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When I was a teenager, my best friend and I loved to discuss parenting. We analyzed the parenting differences we saw in families around us and tried to connect the dots between parents’ actions and the children’s success. Sometimes the outcomes within a family varied widely, and we wanted to understand why. It’s no wonder that we both went on to be psychology majors in college.
Now that I’m parenting three teenagers, I sometimes fall into a similar results-based mentality. Most of my adult life has been focused on raising children, and I hope my efforts will bear fruit as my children enter adulthood. It’s tempting to think that my children’s worldly success or biblical faithfulness determines whether I fulfilled the mission of God as their mother. But I also know that only God is sovereign over my children’s hearts and lives. They are the Lord’s vessels, not mine (Isa. 64:8). I need a shift in my thinking about God’s mission for motherhood.
Long before the fruit of our labor is revealed, our motherhood fulfills the mission of God when we glorify Him by humbly and obediently laying down our lives for our children. In our daily tasks of instructing, disciplining, and caring for our children, God gives us opportunities to pass along the truth of His Word to the next generation. He uses our work as mothers to conform us to the image of His Son and to increase our dependence on Him. And He is glorified when we obey His call to serve our families sacrificially.
motherhood affects our children
When my firstborn child was just a toddler, a friend made a casual comment that shaped the way I talked with my kids from that point on. She told me how her own mother constantly pointed her grandchildren to the Lord by connecting everything back to Him. Instead of saying, “Look at the beautiful flowers,” she would say, “Look at the beautiful flowers God made and how He’s given us the gift of their beauty.” Her words were a constant reminder of a Creator who cares for us.
In Deuteronomy 6:6–7, God said:
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
There are times when we will intentionally teach the Scriptures to our children, pray with them, call them to repentance, and encourage them to place their faith in Christ. But we also fulfill God’s mission as mothers when we talk with our kids about Him not just in those specific teaching moments but in the running dialogue of our daily activities.
We have a unique opportunity as mothers to shape the way that our children view themselves, our God, and the world. No one has spent more time around me in the past eighteen years than my children. They see me read my Bible at home and sit next to me in the pew at worship. They watch me interact with others and observe my reaction to both joyful and heartbreaking circumstances. They witness the countless times when I succumb to impatience, frustration, or anger. Daily life in close quarters with my children provides ample opportunities to teach them about God’s Word. I can point them to the truth of His character, share the good news of God’s grace when they sin, and model repentance and confession when I sin against them.
motherhood sanctifies us
As mothers, we influence our children’s faith and character while also being transformed ourselves. In Romans 8:28–29, Paul wrote that “for those who love God all things work together for good,” and that God’s purpose for us is to be “conformed to the image of his Son.” God uses the challenges of parenting to conform us to Christ’s likeness.
God works our sleepless nights for our good as He teaches us to depend on Him for rest and strength (Isa. 40:30–31). God uses those moments when we don’t know how to shepherd our teenagers to show us that His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9–10). When we lose our temper, God’s Spirit convicts us of our sin and reminds us of our need for the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Rom. 7:24–8:1). As we imperfectly love, instruct, and discipline our children, our heavenly Father perfectly loves, instructs, and disciplines us. God uses motherhood to fulfill His mission in us: to sanctify us and conform us to Christ’s image.
motherhood glorifies god
Finally, we fulfill the mission of God as mothers as we glorify Him. When we serve our families, we are serving the Lord Jesus Christ (Col. 3:24). Even before our efforts bear any other fruit, our obedience brings glory to God. This truth can bring encouragement when our parenting efforts feel futile. We will have days when it’s hard to see any good coming from the hours spent cutting up grapes, folding laundry, and disciplining your child for the same behavior you corrected twenty times yesterday. Take heart, child of God. As you obey Jesus’ command to lay down your life for others, you’re fulfilling the mission of God, and your humble sacrifice brings glory to Him.
The details of God’s mission for us as moms will change in different seasons of life. Sleepless nights with infants turn into late nights waiting for a teen to arrive at home and then nights spent in prayer for adult children who are no longer sleeping under our roof. But in every season, God is at work through mothers. “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).