It was 2:00 a.m. and I was being woken up yet again. This time it wasn’t my 18-month-old. My 5-year-old needed to use the bathroom. I helped him wash his hands and tucked him back into his bed. 30 minutes later I heard him laughing and talking to himself loudly in his room. I heard the door to his room open again. This cycle continued until 6:30 a.m., when he finally fell asleep — just in time for my 18-month-old to wake up for the day. We had a jam-packed schedule of things planned for the day. My 5-year-old had given up naps long ago, so I didn’t see a moment of rest in the day ahead. How was I going to function?
My 5-year-old has some intense sensory, behavioral, and verbal expression problems that require a lot of therapy. It’s hard not to compare him to a typically developing 5-year-old, and I feel some sadness knowing that it’s going to be a long time before he catches up with his peers verbally and socially. On days when I’m exhausted from being up much of the night, parenting a child with special needs can be so draining. I never thought parenting would be easy, but I didn’t realize it could be this hard. I really want to be content and not wish for a more “typical” child. How does the Gospel help me to be contented when parenting small children has worn me out?
A Lord who knows tired
I know from the Bible that God is good. Even if I don’t feel like His Word is the truth, I know His Word is the truth. He created all things through Himself and for Himself (Colossians 1:16). He created my sons in His image (Genesis 1:26), therefore they have value and worth. Because I am a believer, God is using these hard situations to make me more like Him (Romans 8:28-29).
Just as I am tempted to despair when I’m tired, Jesus has been tempted in every way I have been tempted (Hebrews 4:15). That means he is sympathetic to the way I am feeling. He daily bears my burden of feeling tired and overwhelmed by my children (Psalm 68:19). Jesus himself was tired (John 4:6) and ministered to huge crowds of people with many needs (Matthew 19:2). He sovereignly chose me to be their mother for a reason, even if I don’t understand it on earth.
Sin’s effect on motherhood
All things in the world have been ruined and frustrated by sin, including motherhood (Genesis 3:16). I’m sinful and flawed (Romans 3:23) and I want things to go my way. I struggle with the sin of unbelief because I don’t believe that my children are God’s gift to me. I feel as though I’m entitled to an easier motherhood even though I was never promised a life free of struggle (John 16:33). I have idolized the idea of having a “normal” child who sleeps well and acts differently from the Son God gave me. I’m prone to grumbling and complaining because I don’t have what I want (Philippians 2:14).
A Savior who suffered well
Jesus is my example of suffering well (1 Peter 2:21). He bore my grief and carried my sorrow to the cross (Isaiah 53:4). Through his death and resurrection, my sins of discontent, unbelief, entitlement, and idolatry have been removed from me and placed on Jesus for punishment so that I can be in a right relationship with God (Romans 5:10). Jesus endured suffering so that I can know a lasting and eternal joy, not a joy that comes and goes depending on how much sleep I’ve had the night before.
Faithful expectation adjustment
Knowing that Jesus is Lord, the world is corrupted by sin, and that Jesus is my only Savior, I can have assurance that God loves me and cares for me (Hebrews 11:1). Jesus is the foundation of my faith and is helping perfect my faith when I feel faithless (Hebrews 12:2). I can draw near to God knowing that He will help me persevere in the struggle of parenting (Hebrews 10:32-38).
When things seem hopeless for the future with my son, I can remember that in heaven I won’t have to experience the ruin of sin anymore. By faith I can ask the Lord to help adjust my expectations for everyday parenting. I can experience peace, even on two hours of sleep, when I keep my mind on the Lord and trust in His provision for my life (Isaiah 26:3-4).
I once read a quote in Tabletalk Magazine by Reverend Joe Thorn that said, “The Christian life is not easy, but it’s better. It is good. It is glorious.” I can go forth on a tired day knowing that parenting may not be easy, but with Christ it can be better, good, and even glorious.