Helplessness in Motherhood

Originally published Monday, 16 January 2017.

I called my husband in tears, "I just don't know what to do." I had run out of ideas and didn't know what to do with our child.

It was a deja vu experience because I had said the same thing with the same tears multiple times since becoming a mother. It's just that I assumed that as my children got older I would grow in wisdom and understanding and things would be smoother than they were when everything was all new and confusing and exhausting—when they were babies, then toddlers, then preschoolers. But no, I still feel just as helpless as I did the first day I held my oldest son at the hospital. 

Helplessness in Motherhood

The hurricane had knocked out power everywhere. The hospital was damaged and people recovering from surgery were in the maternity ward along with lots of other women who went into labor as a result of the storm, including me. I had complications after the birth and had to stay a few days longer. Everything was chaos around me as exhausted doctors and nurses worked overtime, all the while wondering about the state of their homes following the category three storm. I wasn't allowed to sit up in bed and had to lie still for three days, making it hard to handle a newborn. The feeling of helplessness was birthed there in that hospital room and followed me home, never to leave my side.

I don't like feeling helpless; I like to know what to do. I like to be equipped, prepared, and ready. I like to have plans in place to prevent chaos. I like to control the unexpected. But as I quickly learned, there's no controlling motherhood.

The helpless feeling continued as first my oldest and then my youngest battled asthma as babies and then chronic infections. They were sick most of early childhood which meant middle of the night breathing treatments and visits to specialists until they both ended up having sinus surgery. Every moment, I felt helpless.

Today, as I navigate the struggles and challenges of elementary and middle school years, I continue to feel helpless. I still don't know what to do. I'm still powerless. Every day is still a journey into the unknown. 

But the truth is, while I am helpless, I am never hopeless. Never.

Helpless but Not Hopeless

While helplessness is a condition I resist, it's exactly where Christ has called me to be. He didn't come for those who have it all together, who know everything, and who don't need any help. He came to rescue and redeem those just like me—the helpless. "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). 

As wisdom incarnate, Christ knows just what to do all the time and in all circumstances. He is never helpless, lost, or confused. He rules and reigns over all things, including our helpless circumstances. For those who are helpless, with Christ is exactly where we need to be. 

"And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:37-41)

The disciples were used to storms at sea; they had faced them countless times. But this storm had them shaken. They had done all they knew to do in the midst of a ferocious squall and realized they were powerless. Jesus, however, was asleep in the stern of the boat, exhausted from a long day of teaching. I can almost hear the panic in the disciples' voices as they cried out, "Don't you care?" But Jesus, the Maker and Ruler of the wind and waves, only had to say, "Be still!" and all was calm. The calm didn't come on gradually, the way the seas slowly stop their seizing once a storm has passed. Rather, just like that first day when God spoke the world into being, this storm came to an instant stop at just the sound of its Maker's voice. 

The disciples were helpless but never hopeless.

Christ our Hope

Too often, I forget that I'm not hopeless. I try in my own strength and wisdom to mother my children. Problems arise and I get overwhelmed. I worry and despair. I feel like a failure. Like the disciples, I fret and fear that motherhood will sink me.

Forgetfulness is a common problem for moms. I call it mommy-brain and use it as an excuse for forgotten appointments, conversations, and items at the grocery store. As problematic as such forgetfulness can be, it's not as serious as gospel forgetfulness. That's what happens when I forget the hope I have in Christ.

In all our helpless situations, Christ is our hope. He has redeemed us from our sin and given us his righteousness. Through faith in his perfect life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection, he has made us right with God. And as Paul reminds us, if God has given his own Son to rescue us from sin, how can he not also give us all things? (Romans 8:32). In providing for our greatest state of helplessness—sin and separation from God—Christ has proven that he is our hope. The disciples cried out, "Don't you care?" Christ's sacrifice for us on the cross is his response, a resounding, "Yes!" In our greatest helplessness and in our small daily helplessness, Christ is our hope. He is sovereign over all things. He knows all things. He bears all burdens and hears our every cry. He works all our circumstances together for our ultimate good. He is our comfort, our peace, and our rest.

When we are helpless, when the storms of life crash over us, we must turn to Christ. We must rely on his strength, wisdom, power, and truth—not our own. We must find our peace and solace in him. Yes, we are helpless, but in Christ we have everything we need for he is right there in the storm with us. 

Moms, though we are helpless, in Christ we are never hopeless.