Joy is a major theme in the Bible. God blesses His people with the joy of salvation, with the joys of fellowship with Christ and other people, joys of work, of marriage, and the promise of eternal joy, with no sorrow or grief to interrupt it. God delights to see His people joyful. He has particularly created fathers and mothers to have joy in their children.
And children bring their mothers much joy. In a perfect world, mothers would be joyful all the time. But this world is not perfect, and there are specific things that can rob a mother of joy. As Christians, we have the tools we need to identify the kill-joys around us, and cultivate the joy that God created us to have in our roles as mothers.
The first mommy kill-joy is circumstance. We’re really busy. We’re very tired. And one year, everyone gets the flu on Christmas Eve. Some days, we will feel run off our feet and at the end of our rope. We can look around at the laundry and the dishes and see that the toddler has unrolled all the toilet paper again, and feel like there is no joy left. Scripture tells us that our joy is not to be grounded in what is happening around us. If our circumstances dictate our emotions, then we will be at the mercy of what happens around us. That is not how Christ lived, and it is not how we are to live. Christ lived on this earth doing what He was supposed to without allowing circumstances to dictate His behavior. He responded to circumstance instead of reacting to it, steadily doing the Father’s will. Joy is to flow into our circumstances, not out of them. And that joy comes from knowing that God is in control of the circumstances and has promised to use them for our good: He is acting in perfect fatherhood towards us and our children, which should bring us joy regardless of the laundry pile.
Few things kill mommy joy as quickly as worries and fears. Mothers have fertile imaginations. From childhood cancer to car wrecks, bullies to learning disabilities—mothers can spin long lists of possible horror stories that will never happen in reality, but that kill joy immediately. And it’s just sin, isn’t it? Carolyn Mahaney said this about mommy fears: “For every fearful peek into the future, I wish I had looked to Christ instead. For each imaginary trouble conjured up, I wish I had recalled the specific, unfailing faithfulness of God. In place of dismay and dread, I wish I had exhibited hope and joy. I wish I had approached mothering like the preacher Charles Spurgeon approached his job: ‘forecasting victory, not foreboding defeat.’” If we are looking to Christ to bring victory, in whatever shape He knows is best, we can have joy in the present. Like the woman in Proverbs 31, we can laugh at the days to come because we know how to cast all our cares and fears on the One who can take them away.
The third potential kill-joy is our children’s needs and wants. Whether the child is a baby who is crying for no reason, or a toddler who wants to sleep on the diagonal in your bed to avoid nightmares, or a teenager demanding more stuff so people will like them, we cannot meet every need or want that our children have. We are human, and we are limited: limited time, limited money, limited energy. Faced with our own limitations and unending demands, we can lose our joy. A biblical worldview corrects this, too, and restores joy. We can’t meet every need and we don’t have to. We do our best, our sacrificial best, to provide for and love and teach and shepherd our children, but it is not enough because our children were made for eternity—made for God. He is the only one who can and will meet their every need and satisfy every want when they come to him. That brings moms joy because our children’s needs can all be met, and the burden does not rest on us! We are freed to do our best: to rock and nurse the crying baby without stressing; to teach the toddler about God’s omnipresence without worrying; to talk with the teenager without feeling defensive. We only have to do what we have been called to do, not what God has promised that he will do. That frees us to joy in mothering.
So, those are three ways that joy can die and three ways that joy can live. All of us can add more ways from our own experience. If the kill-joys that want to attack are met with the Word and prayer, then they will die quickly. That way, when we mother our children, the joy of the Lord will be our strength.