Encouragement for Today
“The Overwhelming Burden of Mommy Guilt”
Lysa TerKeurst, President of Proverbs 31 Ministries
Luke , “Jesus replied, ‘And you experts of the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.’” (NIV)
Has guilt overwhelmed you at times in your life? As humans, we experience many different kinds of guilt because it comes to us in many different packages. Today I want to talk about the overwhelming burden of guilt a mother feels when her children live and behave in less-than-adequate ways. We all have good days and bad days, good moments and bad moments, victories and defeats. But just as there are no perfect children, there are no perfect mothers. We are all just doing the best we can.
Mommy guilt is unique because it is so readily available if you choose to take part in it. There is so much to feel guilty for! The little daily things:
- That illness that you thought was “nothing” but was actually an ear infection.
- That jacket your child needed but you forgot to grab.
- The laundry you did not get around to, so your kids have no clean socks.
And the big stuff:
- The fight your child witnessed between you and your husband.
- The ugly things you said to them in anger.
- The gaping holes in your own character that motherhood has brought out in an undeniable way.
How much will they have to share on the psychiatrist’s couch because of you?
I say, be free my friend! Unload the overwhelming burden of guilt. I want to spend some time looking at the words “overwhelm” and “burden” in the Bible and see what God has to say about them.
First, let’s look at “overwhelm.” Psalm 40:12 says, “For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me” (NIV).
David wrote these words when he was feeling overwhelmed by guilt over sin. Feeling guilty over a sin is one thing, because the Holy Spirit is convicting us of something we have done wrong. But feeling guilty over something that is out of our control (i.e., our children acting out) is usually Satan using guilt to cripple us.
As mothers, we will be held accountable for the way we have raised our children. But I believe there comes a time for our children to be held accountable for their own actions and choices. They must take responsibility for mistakes and injuries made as a result of their own disobedience. If you have been faithful to instruct and communicate those boundaries and consequences of wrong choices, don’t be overtaken by guilt! Though the troubles that linger around your child may be more in number than the hairs on your head, you don’t have to give guilt permission to dye them all grey too!
Now let’s look at “burden.” In Numbers 11:14-15, Moses is pleading with God for the sins of the Israelites. He says, “I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now – if I have found favor in your eyes – and do not let me face my own ruin” (NIV). Have you ever felt this way as a mom? I know I have!
Moses is crying out to God for relief from his burden. God’s response in vs. 16-17 is amazing: “Bring me seventy of
What does God do? He helps Moses by giving him other people to share the load!
So how do we respond when motherhood sin or guilt overwhelms us? As both David and Moses did, we must take it to God and ask Him for help.
Today’s Key Verse reminds us that the burden of guilt is one we feel because of unmet expectations that have been placed on us – either by ourselves or others. The priests and teachers of Jesus’ time put the expectation of following the entire Jewish law on the people. These types of unmet – unrealistic – expectations were a burden. Jesus’ purpose in coming was to free us from guilt so that we could stand in God’s presence. He said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew ). He wants us to have “life to the full” (John ), not walk around weighted down by burdens.
Even God, the perfect parent, had Adam and Eve, who had to be sent to the most serious time-out of them all… all the way out of the garden! Therefore, instead of pointing the finger at yourself when your children act badly or make poor choices, point them toward their Heavenly Father. Assess what correction they need and administer it, but do not let their poor choices define you as a mom!
My Prayer for Today:
Dear Heavenly Father, through all my mess-ups and pitfalls lead me to the promise in Your Word that says I can have confidence in Christ’s ability to free me from the overwhelming burden of mommy guilt. Renew my outlook so I may see my children (good or bad) without the stain of guilt tainting my view. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
In my quest to slay this beast called “Mommy Guilt,” I have adopted a few personal rules to follow. They are not easy, but they are having an impact in my own life. I pray that in your quest to be a godly parent, these rules will be reflective of God’s own parenting heart as well as His methods of discipline when we (HIS children) are being stubborn.
- I will no longer be fooled into thinking that my kids came to me as perfect children and everything bad they do is a reflection of my poor mothering. No, kids are bad when they come to us. They have the same sin nature that causes you and me to sin, and they need a Savior just as much as we do.
- I will have the courage to let them live with the consequences of their bad choices. At some point, we have to start shifting responsibility to them. I will not follow behind my children for the rest of their lives picking up the pieces of their bad choices.
- I’m going to stop feeling guilty over telling my kids no. “No” is a great answer and one they will hear for the rest of their lives from other people. So, why shouldn’t they go ahead and get used to hearing it now? As long as I balance it with enough “yes” answers to keep their hearts from getting discouraged, hearing “no” from time to time will be good for them.
- I will not compare myself to the seemingly perfect moms I know. Seventy percent of mothers will admit to having struggles with motherhood and I’m convinced the other thirty percent simply aren’t telling the truth.
- Are you trying to follow an unspoken rulebook (ie: law) for mothers? Is the burden to meet every expectation in it overwhelming you to the point of guilt?
- How do you respond to guilt when it creeps up on you?
- How do you discern it? Is the guilt a result of your own sin, or just Satan trying to cripple you because of your child’s bad choices?
- Do you turn to God, asking Him to give you the strength, peace, and grace, grace, grace to deal with the situation?
Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (NIV)
Isaiah 6:6-7, “Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’” (NIV)
Hebrews 10:19, 22 “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (NIV)
The Bathtub is Overflowing, but I Feel Drained; by Lysa TerKeurst
Taming the Tattletale, ETC Corner
Being a Great Mom, Raising Great Kids; by Sharon Jaynes
Originally published Friday, 22 September 2006.