Motherhood hasn’t looked exactly the way I imagined it would. There have been feeding challenges, hospital stays, unexpected diagnoses, and repeated medical tests. One September, when one child’s lab results were abnormal, the intensity of my emotional response caught me off guard. Even though the blood cell counts normalized within a week or two, the Lord helped me see that those wacky lab numbers represented something much bigger, something I couldn’t control. They pointed to a deeper heartache and brokenness, sickness and disease, an unknown future, and my fear of premature loss.
We moms can be hyper-aware of the challenges our children face. We can be faithful to pray for them and even to ask others to pray for them. But we still might not realize how deeply our children’s pain affects us. Acknowledging how suffering related to motherhood touches us is often an important step toward experiencing God’s comfort in the tender spaces of our hearts. When we recognize our trials for what they are and call out for God’s help, we find that while affliction is real, God’s comfort is real too.
Acknowledge the Pain
Maybe a family member said your hard circumstance isn’t so bad or that it’s all in your head, suggesting you just need to get over it and move on. It’s possible a well-meaning friend tried offering solutions to make a difficult situation better when what you needed first was for her to sympathize and say, “I’m so very sorry.” Or maybe you’ve been ignoring a hardship, hoping it’ll go away, not recognizing the toll it’s taking on you and your family.
Sisters, whatever you’ve been told and whatever you’ve been telling yourself, I want you to hear the validation of your trial and pain: your affliction is real. I don’t know what your specific hardships are, but whether or not you or I expected it when we signed on to parenting, suffering is a guaranteed companion on this road. Since the fall, women have experienced pain related to childbearing (Gen. 3:16)—and it’s not confined to giving birth.
Whether or not you or I expected it when we signed on to parenting, suffering is a guaranteed companion on this road.
Some trials are weightier than others. Some are temporary, and others won’t go away until heaven. Some are the consequences, direct or indirect, of our own sin; some are the consequences of others’ sins against us; and some have causes we may never fully know. Nevertheless, every kind of suffering you or I experience is causally related to sin in our fallen world (Rom. 8:20–23):
Your sadness as you walk the halls with empty arms.
Your concern as you toss in bed waiting for your teenage son to come home.
The wheelchairs, allergy appointments, inhalers, and eyeglasses.
The phone call from the police that there’s been an accident.
Your daughter’s IEP (Individualized Education Program).
The broken wrist in a ballgame.
Your child’s fear of bullying at school.
Your fears for your adult son who can’t land a job.
Your postpartum depression.
Your toddler fighting the flu.
Your rebellious child.
And the list goes on.
We mothers experience the real effects of living in a sin-torn land. However good our intentions might be, ignoring those trials or denying their reality is a far cry from trusting God in them.
Not only does ignoring or denying them hinder the healing process, but it also makes us prone to increased temptation to sin and more vulnerable to believing Satan’s lies. At the very least, it promotes a false sense of self-sufficiency and keeps us blind to our dependence on the Lord and on our Christian brothers and sisters. But humbly acknowledging our suffering and pain, coupled with calling out to God, positions us to receive the comfort he offers.
Accept the Reality
The apostle Paul reminds believers that “we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:7–9). But what does it mean to be a jar of clay?
We’re made of sinews and flesh, blood and bones, T cells and pituitary glands, progesterone and estrogen. As women, we were designed to carry babies, but even when wombs don’t work properly and we can’t bear children, God designed us as vessels for his glory. And though we’re fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14), there’s a reason Paul calls Christians mere “jars of clay.”
When I fill mason jars with homemade applesauce, my family doesn’t get excited about the jars but about what’s inside them. We weren’t designed to draw attention to ourselves—our capacity or endurance or sufficiency—but to the treasure of Christ living in us, God’s all-surpassing power, and the transforming work of the gospel.
As jars of clay, we ought to accept the reality of our condition. It’s good for us to admit when we’re afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down. Then we’re better postured to showcase God’s glory.
Receive God’s Comfort
We don’t have to stuff our pain, gloss over it, or prove anything in it. We can run to our heavenly Father, “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction” (2 Cor. 1:3–4). In his presence, we can be honest about our struggles and learn what true comfort is.
Biblical comfort isn’t just a soft blanket or a steaming cup of coffee (although I enjoy both on cold winter mornings). God’s comfort strengthens and helps us stand firm in our faith through our affliction, not just on the other side of it.
God’s comfort helps us stand firm through our affliction, not just on the other side of it.
This comfort is tied to Jesus Christ, born to be the “consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25), the One who secured our comfort and through whom we have “strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Heb. 6:18–19). And we experience God’s comfort today through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, our Comforter (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7).
To whatever degree you’re afflicted, God’s comfort is also real and available. The psalmist wrote, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (Ps. 119:71). While on our down days we might question the accuracy of this statement, it holds a precious truth: our trials provide opportunities for us to learn things about God and his Word that we might not learn any other way. Things like knowing God as our Comforter and experiencing his comfort in the harder parts of motherhood.
This article is adapted from Katie Faris’s book, God Is Still Good: Gospel Hope and Comfort for the Unexpected Sorrows of Motherhood (TGC/Crossway, January 2023).