8 Promises for Exhausted Parents
- Elizabeth Spencer Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2022 24 Feb
My youngest nephew took some time making his entrance into the world, so before he was even born, his parents had already racked up some sleep debt. When I talked to my brother a few days after the birth, he commented on how tired he and my sister-in-law were. "He's just been born, and we're already in the hole," he told me. "Little brother," I told him, "You are a parent. You will NEVER get out of the hole."
The demands of caring for the tiny (and eventually not-so-tiny) humans entrusted to us by our Creator can leave us feeling as if we've been thrown into a pit of exhaustion we'll never climb out of. But like a strong arm reaching over the edge, here are eight promises backed by God's Word that have the muscle to pull us up.
1. God has a special place in His heart for parents.
"He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." Isaiah 40:11
God invented parenthood, and what God creates, He cares for. God sees us both as parents and His children, and His heart toward us is relational and tender. Throughout Scripture, God often helps us see who He is and what He does through a parenting lens. He does not forget us: "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!" (Isaiah 49:15). He lavishes good gifts on us: "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:11). He has compassion on us: "As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him" (Psalm 103:13).
2. You do not have to parent today on yesterday's strength.
"The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning." Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT
The physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional strength to do the divinely ordained work of parenting is not a lump sum God hands us when our children come into the world and then expects us to ration out for the rest of their lives. God is big on us trusting Him one day at a time because He is big on faith, and step-by-step dependence requires more faith than having God's provision tucked away in a spiritual bank account we can withdraw from at will.
Drink in just a few of the references in God's manual for living that indicates not only His desire but his design that we should lean on Him each day for sustenance for our bodies, minds, and souls.
Exodus 16:4 "Then the LORD said to Moses, 'I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.'"
Psalm 68:19 "Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens."
Proverbs 3:34 "Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway."
Luke 11:3 (NKJV) "Give us day by day our daily bread."
3. There is a season for everything.
"For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT)
My younger sister was describing what life is like with three of her four children in basketball and the fourth cheering for the sport. I joked that she must need a spreadsheet to coordinate who has games, who needs to be picked up, who needs to be dropped off, who needs to be fed, and whose uniform needs to be washed first. Meanwhile, I told her that I'd been spending a lot of time in the evenings watching the winter Olympics, of which she said she'd seen none.
I well remember the spreadsheet days when I felt as though I did nothing so much as drive children around and make endless snacks. While I may miss those days, I do not have regrets about them because when I was in them, I was fully in them. This is the opportunity of the seasons God appoints in our lives, that when we are in a season, we embrace its joys and persevere through its challenges so that when we are out of it, we have the satisfaction of knowing we made the most of it.
The other side of this is that there is a season for everything, but not everything is for every season. The pressure to say "yes" to every option our children have out of fear we may deny them some future happiness must sometimes yield to the more immediate calling of preserving our children's present happiness.
4. God will show you the way to go.
"Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before." Joshua 3:4
Many tasks in life are more exhausting to do the first time you do them, and parenting is one perpetual study in doing things for the first time. But God loves and cares about our children even more than we do (impossible as it is to get our minds around that fact at times), so He is ready, willing, and able to show us the way to go. Here are some stepping stones we can use to help determine if God our Guide is leading us down a particular path as parents:
A ~ Ask God what He thinks (otherwise known as prayer).
B ~ Be aware of holy nudges. These are Holy Spirit twinges in our mind or an emotional sore tooth that keeps pinging, either steering us further down a path or halting us before we take another step.
C ~ Carefully consider God's Word on the matter. The antiquity of Scripture does not diminish its present authority or applicability.
D ~ Draw from the wisdom of careful counselors. Mature friends of faith, trustworthy clergy members, teachers of truth - God can use all these human pillars to lead us along.
E ~ Expect God's confirmation. Our loving heavenly Father wants us to know His will. It's not as if He's clutching it to Himself, shrouding it from us and hoping we won't guess what it is. Earnestly seek His direction—and then wait in confident expectation that He will give it.
5. This work that's so exhausting is eternally significant.
"We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands." Psalm 78:4-7
As parents, it might feel like what we're doing day in and day out is tying shoes and wiping noses and helping with homework and battling bedtimes and driving someone somewhere and making meals and cleaning up and waiting up. But what we're really doing is raising sons and daughters who will love well because they were well-loved.
This work takes place today within our homes, but it carries the hope of changing hearts beyond our homes for all eternity. "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end" (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
6. While you are a parent, you are still Abba's child.
"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1
I'm blessed to live not far from my parents, but sometimes, I still stay overnight at their house just for the fun of it. Whenever I do, my mom will order me to the couch and cover me up with a blanket and make me a favorite meal while my dad feeds the fire and make sure the house is toasty warm. After a few minutes of this royal treatment, I usually joke, "Remind me why I ever left home?"
I am a middle-aged adult and a mother of young adult children, and yet in all the best ways, I am still my parents' child. And as parents ourselves, we are still Abba's children. He has chosen us through divine adoption, and He still bids us to rest in His presence, to be fed by Him, to be warmed by His love.
7. Your weakness is the perfect place for God's strength.
"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." 2 Corinthians 12:9
I've always gotten a little stuck on one particular word that appears in several translations of 2 Corinthians 12:9: "my," as in, "For my power is made perfect in weakness." This always seemed to imply that God's power is not perfect apart from our weakness. I could never reconcile this with the truth that everything about God, including His power and strength, is perfect - unblemished, flawless.
But then I started to view this passage through the lens of perfection as completion. Like all of His other attributes, God's power is unblemished and flawless. But it finds its completion in our weakness. Our weakness is the perfect counterpart for God's strength. Our weakness is the perfect stage for a performance of God's power.
We may shy away from allowing our children to witness us in our depletion and our dependence, but when our children see our weakness and also see us inviting God's strength to be fully realized in it, we help them lay a foundation of trust in God they can build on for the rest of their lives.
8. God will never abandon you or turn His back on you.
"God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'" Hebrews 13:5
Even when we feel too worn out to reach for God, He reaches for us. Not only does He promises never to leave us or forsake us, but He also promises to never, never, never, never leave or forsake us: the original Greek in Hebrews 13:5 has five negatives, a fistful of reassurance that as parents and as people, we need not fear the absence of His presence.
I think one of the loveliest descriptions of God in all of His Word is as our "resting place": "This is the resting place, let the weary rest" (Isaiah 28:12). But Scripture also provides us a cautionary tale about where we should find our rest: "My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains. They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their own resting place" (Jeremiah 50:6).
Parenting certainly comes with more than its fair share of forgetting; foggy brains and muddled minds go with the sleep-deprived, mentally-overloaded territory. But if only we will not forget our resting place. If only we will cling to the promises of God's Word and respond to His open invitation: "let the weary rest."
Photo credit: ©evgenyatamanenko
Elizabeth Spencer is a wife, mom, freelance writer, baker, Bible study facilitator, and worship leader from Battle Creek, Michigan. She writes about faith, family, and food (with some occasional funny thrown in) on her blog, Guilty Chocoholic Mama, and on Facebook. She is the author of the devotional Known By His Names: A 365-Day Journey From The Beginning to The Amen.