The Long Term View

Whenever you take on any kind of project, you will run into obstacles. This is especially true of things that will, by necessity, take a long time. Think of losing weight and getting fit. Think of getting organized, redecorating, or teaching yourself some new skill. The thing is, it is easy to get distracted, it is easy to lose your motivation, and it is easy to change your mind. Maybe you lose three pounds and feel better so you start eating cookies again. Maybe you decide the new skill doesn’t really suit you, or it makes a mess, or it is frustrating, so you give up.

But what if this long term project is other people? What if you started out all motivated having children, but now you are tired, frustrated, and feeling lost? In healthy christian communities there will be young people growing up with an admiration for the work of raising children. It is easy to stand on a hill looking out over all the landscape, and see the destination far away, in all it’s beauty. It is easy to see why this is a glorious calling. It is easy, because the view is clear. Many young couples start out their parenting journey with a clear, happy, optimistic perspective. They see, off in the distance, the heavenly city. They cheerfully say “Yes! Give us some children to take there!” Even the shadowy parts look pretty from the top of a hill. They just add shading! What a beautiful, textured view on the way to this heavenly city! They can hardly wait to get started!

One of the main troubles parents will face on this long term journey is discouragement. Because the truth is, once you set out on the actual work of walking through the countryside to get there, it isn’t always scenic. Sometimes those things that seemed inconsequential from afar become actually rather huge obstacles when you get to them. Sometimes, you get down in a valley and you can’t see your destination anymore. Because hilltop views are not what hiking is made of. Sometimes you just flat out don’t want to walk up that hill. Sometimes you realize that you were crazy naive about this when you set out, that you didn’t prepare adequately, that you aren’t enjoying yourself, and maybe even that you aren’t a very good traveler. That is what discouragement feels like. It feels like you haven’t glimpsed where you were headed in a long time. It feels like maybe you didn’t want to go anyways, or maybe that you aren’t skilled enough to get there.

I think we all know what it feels like when nothing seems to be working well. Suddenly all the kids are going through a fussy stretch at once. Maybe they have started back-talking more, or bickering with each other. New sin spurts from the kids often behave in a mother’s life like someone flipping over spiritual rocks. Let’s see what mom has under this frustration rock! We haven’t tried this one before! Let’s see what bounty of centipedes she keeps under here! Maybe we can rustle something out that will startle her as much as it does us! And thus you can find that one of the biggest sources of discouragement in your mothering life is yourself. Maybe you never pictured yourself as someone who would get seriously selfish about sleep. Maybe you always thought you would do lots of crafts with the kids when you had them, but notice your blood pressure rise at the sight of a glue stick, let alone scissors. I don’t think I need to go into too much detail on what this feels like, because I imagine we all know too well. Some of you may feel like this mode is your only mode of mothering. Like you never do get a glimpse of where you are going unless it is the view down into another valley.

But low points and discouragement are actually a perfectly normal part of the job. We are human. This is hard. You can’t head out on a long journey over rugged countryside and expect the whole thing to be something like a fevered dream from the creators of My Little Ponies. The thing that distinguishes unbelief from belief is how discouragement and fatigue are dealt with. We are christians. God has provided for this. Faithfulness does not pitch a camp in the valley. It does not decide to settle down in the swamp because the hill is steep. Faithfulness obeys. It presses on. It trusts. It remembers.

One of the most beautiful things is how obedience and encouragement go hand in hand. Obey, and God will strengthen your steps. Act in faith, and He will reveal the path. When you look to God for direction, He always provides. We have a compass. We know the way. Sometimes, the way seems like an impossible scrabble on your hands and knees, but that is not the same thing as being lost.

Practically speaking, when you have a posse of little kiddos on your hands, there will be times when you don’t know what to do. There will be times when the little problems mount up into something a lot more intimidating. Faithfulness takes a step. And then another. Faithfulness recognizes that this is a tricky part, and begins moving to get through it. We have had times with our children where the feeling of need is overwhelming. But when we ask God for direction on each of the little things, not only is direction provided, but progress is made. Sometimes, you need to ask God to show you each little foothold. That is not a sign that you are failing. It is not a sign that you will never find your way out. It is a sign that you are still on the journey, still obeying, and that you know who to ask for help.

When discouragement comes on a mother, the temptation is to vent. To change the subject. To do anything but take a step. We might want to sit down and brainstorm about the itinerary for next week. We might want to tell ourselves that no one else is making progress either. We develop bad attitudes about the people who appear to not only know the way, but have gone so far as to pack snacks and raincoats. But none of those things are obedience. Obedience is bigger than discouragement, and the two can not live side by side. When you need encouragement, obey. When you are tired, walk. When you feel lost, remember. The more you discipline yourself to overcome discouragement with obedience, the less discouragement there will be to overcome.

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40 thoughts on “The Long Term View

  1. Thanks Rachel, for your perspective and your ability to create a living picture of the concepts you are talking about. Sound advice, just obey. Wonderful article to start my day!

  2. Wow. This was spot on for where I am right now. Thank you for acknowledging that it’s a normal part of motherhood and for the encouragement to continue in faith and obedience. This is exactly what I needed today.

  3. I really appreciated what you said about faithfulness, both God’s and ours. I am called to be faithful like Him even though I can’t. And His faithfulness covers over where I fail. It’s simple, but so easy to forget.

  4. This encourages me right where I am at in mothering my 2 year old and 8 month old right now. Thank you for sharing.

  5. I am wiping away the tears, as I find myself in the valley of motherhood right now. I am learning (very slowly) not to mother out of my own strength, but out of Christ’s strength in me. It is a challenge I face daily. Faithfulness can be hard. Thank you for your post!

  6. Great great great. Applying to parenting…but also to that decorating, remodeling and heck, I’ll throw fitness in too.

  7. I am in the middle of life right now with two young ones, and at times I feel oh-so-ill-equipped to do this job I have longed to do my entire life. The fatigue, the mental exhaustion. Amazed how much I realized that I have to grow in my sanctification so I can teach these kids the right way. I thank you so much for this water of encouragement that nourished me this evening.

  8. Absolutely beautiful. And necessary! I have so enjoyed your book that I’ve been reading it on a weekly basis since I bought it a month ago. It’s my daily inspiration outside of the Word to keep on keeping on as I raise three amazingly busy little boys (ages 5, 3, and 4 months). You inspire me. I am glad I have found you :)

  9. Sound wisdom and encouragement!

    I think that because parenting is such an important task, we have a tendency to inflate our importance in the role. We may feel that the well-being of our children is entirely in our hands, when really we are merely the hands of Christ, our Head. When we seek the Lord each day for all that we need to accomplish His plans for us that day, He faithfully provides it (food, clothing, wisdom, strength, etc.).

    Though we plant seeds and water, it is God who gives the growth. Some days, the heat and flies are unbearable. Other times, the ground is impossibly hard and cracked from drought. But through them all, the Vinedresser is pruning all of those (big and little) who abide in the Vine, that they may bear much fruit. Drink from the living water to quench your thirst, let Him be your shield from the scorching sun and wind, stay warm by fellowshipping closely with those who love Him–His sheep. He is our Good Shepherd; follow Him.

    He knows the end from the beginning. Be encouraged, for He cares for you. Enjoy walking with your Savior, in trust and obedience.

  10. This is such a well articulated and encouraging piece. I am definitely in a stage where I’m not feeling on top of things and trying to get through the day to day can be discouraging. Thank you for the relatable examples and practical advice – God is faithful.

  11. Love it, Rachel! It’s so good to remember where you’re heading amid fatigue and mess. I also like the reminder to keep taking steps (or crawling) forward even when you feel in over your head.

  12. Like so many of the other ladies here — thank you for posting this; I’ve been encouraged so many times through your writing to hold His hand more tightly.

  13. I love this article, Rachel. Beautifully written! I would venture to say that reading this reminded me of the view from the top. We’ll get there before we even know it, and then not even remember all the bad parts!

  14. Thank you! This reminds me of a poem Elizabeth Elliot used to quote called “Do the Next Thing.” Good reminder.

  15. Thank you for encouraging me to sit and recall the long view! One thought about obedience…for those who have had terrible loss, trauma or abuse, I believe that obedience and discouragement often do live side by side because we live in a fallen, broken world. There is a step between discouragement and obedience – the gospel. Without it our obedience is ‘self-help’ and short lived. With the gospel we can truly obey even in dire circumstances.

  16. Rachel, This is very beautiful and so true. Very well written and wonderful encouragement for all.

  17. Love this article!! Actually, I love all of them! Thank you so much for your Godly wisdom and redirection… back to the Cross, always, back to the Cross.

  18. thank you so much for this. i read it today and bawled, after hours of researching how to get out from under the weight of having to prepare a strict diet of different foods for different kids with severe food allergies. i realized that there IS no getting out of it. the last 6 months (since they were diagnosed) has changed our day-to-day lives and i am just now realizing that this trial, too, is from the Lord. (yes, i’m slow).

    so thank you for helping me walk through this day-to-day trudging (not quite a valley, that would be overly dramatic;) with a good attitude and with fortitude and obedience. perseverance has never been my strong point, and the Lord is teaching me patience. thank you for the reminders of the good things He is doing, and of our part in it.

  19. I needed this encouragement today to keep on, one step, one runny nose, one scream or cry, one piece of paper, one toy, one meal, one day at a time.

    “Maybe you always thought you would do lots of crafts with the kids when you had them, but notice your blood pressure rise at the sight of a glue stick, let alone scissors.” YES! Right now the question “Mommy can we make this?” is one of my biggest fears. So, today it’s one craft project at a time here we go! Let’s decorate patriotic drums! :)

    @Carrie Crawford — I’m with you — 3 boys (5, 3, and 10 months).

  20. How did I miss this?
    I love this one…
    Besides the “My Little Pony” reference…this quote is my favorite:

    “Obedience is bigger than discouragement, and the two can not live side by side. When you need encouragement, obey.”

    Gives me footing for moving forward…
    With little guys (and older ones too) I often have to tell myself–
    “This is not the end of their story…”

    Just as I look back on my life and His work in it…there were (and still are at times) some pretty dark and ugly chapters, but He’s not finished writing my story and it’s the same with our kiddos…that brings HOPE!
    And just when He knows I need it…God will give glimpses of victory. of obedience winning (either in my life or theirs).

  21. Thank you for this post- so encouraging- and a great reminder to just keep taking steps- to trust and obey- even when we can’t see where we are going- we need to surrender to the Lord’s leading. Needed to hear that today.
    God bless you.

  22. “When you need encouragement, obey.”

    The flip side of this also comes to mind: When you need obedience, encourage. But the “you” there is plural, and the “encourage” is a one-another. “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13, NASB)

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