By / Aug 10

The United States is a technologically advanced country with trusted science and medicine. And many of us assume most individuals in this country have access to world-class medical care and that their health is always in good hands. Yet, according to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), maternal mortality rates are on the rise in the United States. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines motherhood mortality as “the annual number of female deaths from any cause related to or aggravated by pregnancy or its management (excluding accidental or incidental causes) during pregnancy and childbirth or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy.”

According to the most recent data from the CDC, in 2020, the maternal mortality rate in the United States—the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births—reached 23.8 compared with 20.1 in 2019. This rate indicates a total of 861 women who died of maternal causes in the United States in 2020 compared to 754 women in 2019, continuing an upward trend in maternal mortality rates in the U.S.

The data shows motherhood mortality rates rise significantly among women over the age of 40 and among non-Hispanic Black women. In 2020, the maternal mortality rate among non-Hispanic Blacks was 55.3 deaths per 100,000 live births, nearly three times the rate for non-Hispanic white women. This was a significant increase for non-Hispanic Black women from 2019 when the maternal mortality rate was 44.0. Among non-Hispanic white women, the rate only increased slightly from 2019 to 2020, rising from 17.9 to 19.1. Rates also increase with maternal age. Women over the age of 40 have the highest maternal mortality rate at 107.9—7.8 times higher than the rate for those under the age of 25.

Maternal mortality occurs as a result of complications during and following pregnancy and childbirth. According to WHO, some of these complications existed before and worsened during pregnancy. But most develop during a woman’s pregnancy and are preventable or treatable. Nearly 3 in 4 maternal deaths are caused by severe bleeding, infections, high blood pressure during pregnancy, complications from delivery, or unsafe abortion. These are all known complications with known solutions.

In a world marred by the consequences of sin, maternal deaths are not a new occurrence. There are women in the Bible who died of child birthing complications. Both Rachel (Gen. 35:16-20) and the wife of Phinehas (1 Sam. 4:19-20) died after prolonged and difficult labors. And despite our attempts to combat the consequences of sin with things like science and medicine, sin still affects our world today.

Protecting women’s lives

Today, healthcare providers have well-known solutions to prevent or manage maternal complications. WHO identifies two primary indicators for preventing maternal deaths: 1) Access to high-quality healthcare during pregnancy and childbirth as well as after childbirth; and 2) Access to contraceptives to prevent unplanned pregnancies (though Christians would not support the use of abortifacients or the morning after pill).

Sadly, there are still women in the United States who do not receive the care they need during or after their pregnancies. The five main factors that “prevent women from receiving or seeking care during pregnancy and childbirth” are:

  1. Poverty
  2. Distance to facilities
  3. Lack of information
  4. Inadequate and poor quality services
  5. Cultural beliefs and practices

WHO suggests that to “improve maternal health, barriers that limit access to quality maternal health services must be identified and addressed at both health systems and societal levels.”

The church’s response

So what should the church do? The church can start by genuinely caring. Christ-followers should care because all people have dignity and worth. No matter their circumstances or conditions, every woman, baby, and family is valuable. When Christians show they care about women and are broken over the issues that arise when women don’t receive the care they need, the world sees a little more clearly that God cares for women. He cares for the broken. He cares for the hurting. As Christ’s ambassadors, God calls the church to love women, babies, and families and to be conduits of life.

Pregnant women and their families, healthcare providers, hospitals and healthcare systems, and states and communities can work together to reduce maternal mortality rates. And as churches invest themselves in their communities and pursue the well-being of their cities (Jere. 29:4-7), they are uniquely positioned to be a source of hope and light.

At the state and community level, the CDC offers three specific steps toward reducing maternal deaths:

  1. Assess and coordinate delivery hospitals for risk-appropriate care
  2. Support review of the causes behind every maternal death
  3. Identify and address social factors influencing maternal health such as unstable housing, transportation access, food insecurity, substance use, violence, and racial and economic inequality

It may be easier for us to close our eyes and walk on the other side of the road (Luke 10:25-27), avoiding the hurt that could come from engaging with the rising issue of maternal mortality. But God calls the church to respond to suffering in the world around us. For example, in light of the recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision, and the resulting restrictions on abortion, many pregnancy care centers across the nation are considering how they might meet the needs of the additional numbers of women and families who are walking through their doors for assistance. This has included adding more medical services, such as ultrasounds or STD-testing, which can be an important first step in prenatal care. 

God calls us to protect the physical lives of the vulnerable among us, seeking justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God (Micah 6:8) as we live out the call to love our neighbors as ourselves (Lev. 19:18). And he calls the church to be a light in this world, pushing back the darkness by physically caring for women while pointing them to the One who became vulnerable in order to make them whole (Matt.5:14-16).

By / Aug 4

A common critique of the pro-life movement has been that it only cares about preborn lives up until birth, not after, nor does it care about their mothers and families. Although this criticism is largely unfounded, as evidenced by the number of pregnancy resource centers operating around the country, adoptions by people of faith, and disproportionate support for foster care, detractors of the pro-life movement have often focused in on a seeming lack of support for public policy solutions that actively aid families, resource low-income individuals, and provide help to mothers in crisis. However, in the wake of the Dobbs decision, a growing coalition of legislators and pro-life supporters have taken an increased interest in these very types of policies. 

Financial insecurity is cited by 73% of women who choose to have an abortion as the primary driver of their choice. For Christians, that statistic should represent a sobering challenge. While we will continue to work relentlessly through policy and law to make abortion illegal across the country, that simply is not enough. We must also redouble our efforts to make abortion unthinkable to a woman in crisis because of the abundance of support and resources available to her. 

In light of that, this surge of policy proposals working to address this very issue is worth celebrating as we seek to establish a culture of life that wraps around women and families and provides the resources and support needed for them to flourish.

A biblical foundation for supporting families

God has spoken clearly throughout Scripture to the value and dignity of every human being as created in the image of God and to the goodness of his design for every aspect of human life in accordance with his will (Gen. 1:26-30; Matt. 19:4; Luke 12:22–31; 2 Cor. 5:17-21; 1 Pet. 1:13-16). Early on in Scripture, we see the foundation of the institution of marriage—one man and one woman for life—as something that God creates for our good (Gen. 2). The married couple is then instructed to bear fruit and multiply as part of God’s plan for their flourishing (Gen 1:28; Ps. 127:3). 

The biblical framework for the nuclear family is a desirable end and moral imperative, and the good work of protecting and celebrating the family in all its biblical forms is central to the ethic, life, and mission of the church. The work of local churches, parents, teachers, counselors, and foster care and adoptive families who walk alongside couples through difficult times, disciple their children in the way of Christ, and help bring healing to broken families and hope to forgotten children is invaluable and an essential part of our calling individually and collectively. Southern Baptists are committed to advancing a distinctly Christian vision for the family in the public square and safeguarding the integrity of this crucial biblical institution for the good of our neighbor.

For decades, Southern Baptists have evidenced that commitment through resolutions declaring their dedication to the family and their desire to see policies that promote its formation and flourishing. In 1978, Southern Baptists affirmed that “the nation and church are only as strong as the family” and resolved to consider “carefully the impact on families of proposed federal legislation” and “give attention to the importance of economic security to all families.” In 1982, amidst concern for the state of families across the United States, the convention resolved to “through local church congregations, be especially sensitive and responsive to the needs of each ‘church family’ member and attempt to provide, and if necessary, be a substitute for needed family relationships often missing among members.” In 1987 while discussing the crisis of children on the streets, the SBC acknowledged that it “has long had special concern for the needs of American children and their families.” Countless other resolutions have been passed outlining the commitment to families  and children in crisis and even “encouraging and empowering Southern Baptists to adopt unwanted children, by providing spiritual, emotional, and financial support for women in crisis pregnancies, and by calling on our government officials to take action to protect the lives of women and children.”

In addition to these declarations of support and calls for action from churches, other resolutions have laid out a role for government to play in meeting these needs. In 1991, the SBC agreed that families are “one of only three institutions which God established,” that “strong families are a vital part of a moral society,” and that “Government policies which have neglected and punished the institution of the family are a significant factor in the moral decay of American society.” In light of this, the resolution went on to reason that “Public policy should provide incentives which promote stable marriages and parental child-rearing, recognizing that these policies will contribute to a better society” and called for the adoption of “policies which encourage the establishment and development of strong families.” And most recently in 2022, in anticipation of the Dobbs ruling, the SBC once again voiced support for abortion-vulnerable women and committed to “partnering with local, state, and federal governments to enact pro-life and pro-family policies that serve and support vulnerable women, children, and families” in hopes of eliminating “any perceived need for the horror of abortion.”

Recent proposals to consider

Though our nation has an extensive web of programs that explicitly exist to alleviate poverty, it is important to note that many of these recent proposals are not primarily focused on that goal but rather are specifically pro-family plans that also hope to have a poverty-reducing impact. A consistent theme of reasoning in these proposals is that much of our current government assistance and tax structure can often actually disincentivize marriage and having children. Governments often use the economic tools at their disposal to incentivize what they want to encourage and penalize what they want to discourage.

These proposals, in differing capacities, work to reverse that trend and economically incentivize marriage, ensure families—with an emphasis on abortion-vulnerable women—have the resources to keep their children, and promote full participation of both parents in the raising of children. In pursuit of this goal, advocates have for many years called for actions such as expanding paid family leave or expanding the child tax credit. While the ERLC has not formally taken a position on these specific policy options or the more recent proposals, we affirm efforts to think creatively about helping those in need, supporting families, and resourcing abortion-vulnerable women and families to raise their children.

Some of these recent legislative efforts have been more narrowly focused. In response to the Department of Health and Human Services launching of reproductiverights.gov, which outlines where women may receive abortion services, nine Senate Republicans recently introduced the “Standing with Moms Act” that would create an alternative Life.gov, a federal clearinghouse of pro-life resources, services, and information for pregnant and parenting mothers. Another bill, the “Unborn Child Support Act,” would permit courts, at the request of the mother, to require child support payments from the father while the child is still in the womb, retroactively from the time of conception. Similarly focused on supporting parents directly around the time of the birth of their child, the “New Parents Act” would allow parents to use some of their social security benefits for up to three months of paid parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child, with the choice of either increasing their retirement age or temporarily receiving a reduction in social security benefits upon retirement.

Other proposals are seeking to take a more comprehensive approach to pro-family policy. Sen. Mitt Romney’s Family Security Act 2.0 would reform the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit to provide a fully paid-for, monthly, cash benefit for working families, beginning while the child is still in the womb. Another comprehensive policy framework is Senator Marco Rubio’s Providing for Life Act. This package would seek to expand the Child Tax Credit, create fiscally responsible options for paid parental leave, bolster child support enforcement, increase WIC funding, make the Adoption Tax Credit fully refundable, fund mentoring services for low-income mothers, post online resources for new mothers, direct federal funding to pro-life pregnancy resources centers, and enforce rights for pregnant college students.

Though there is much to still be debated on which of these policies are best and which can find bipartisan support to become law, it is encouraging that many members of Congress are beginning to recognize a need for programs that support families and are beginning to think creatively on how best to do that. The ERLC will actively engage in these debates and advocate for policies that promote life, marriage, family, and the flourishing of all of our neighbors.

ERLC intern Daniel Hostetter contributed to this article.

By / May 6

Many women dream of being mothers. And if God grants that gift, whether biologically or through adoption, they quickly discover that while it is full of joy, it is also full of hardship. It’s a call to lay down your life over and over again. That’s why only the Lord can fuel and sustain moms as they care for little lives and cultivate little hearts. Kristen Wetherell knows this truth and encourages weary moms in her new book, Humble Moms: How the Work of Christ Sustains the Work of Motherhood. Below, she answers questions about burnout, mom guilt, and the satisfaction of Christ. 

Elizabeth Bristow: You recently wrote a book on motherhood called Humble Moms. With Mother’s Day approaching, give our readers a brief synopsis of the book and the message you hope to convey.

Kristen Wetherell: Humble Moms is a journey through John’s Gospel, looking at the humble heart and work of Jesus, and how he lives to serve his people (moms included). It is not a parenting book or a list of to-dos, but biblical meditations on God’s Son, who humbly serves us moms not only in hand, but in heart. My hope is to give hard-working and weary moms a deep breath and a chance to rest as they gaze at Christ and his sustaining work on their behalf. 

EB: According to a 2020 survey of 3,169 respondents, 41% of moms are feeling burnout frequently and 51% of working moms said they feel burnout frequently or always. Why do you think this is, and what can we do to reverse this statistic? 

KW: Three factors come to mind: the heart, the work, and the culture. First, by nature, our hearts want to be like God: without limits and everywhere, always. As moms, this desire can tend to burn us out as we seek to be everything to everyone, which is impossible for us. Second, the work of motherhood is hard. Period. It is a sacrificial job that often requires us to lay down our desires, plans, and preferences for our kids. Every type of work has been affected by the fall into sin, and that includes motherhood (so you’re not crazy, mom, for thinking it is hard!). Thirdly, I think moms are burnt out because our lives and faithfulness is no longer private, but on display for the world to see and critique through social media and the internet. We’re so busy looking side-to-side, comparing ourselves with others, that the possibilities feel overwhelming and the sense of failure, crushing. We need our eyes fixed on Someone better.

EB: What advice would you give to the mom who feels exhausted from taking care of her family?

KW: Ask for help. You are not God, and you were never meant to be. You have permission to be human (whew!): to need to stop and sleep, to need some helping hands, to need a Savior and Lord who is perfectly able to do everything you can’t. So, ask for help: first, from the Lord. He loves it when you come to him; that is why he came to you in the first place, to rescue you and carry you. He delights to serve you.

Then, if you are married, ask for help from your husband. Most of us don’t receive help from our hubbies because we don’t ask for it, and they can’t read our minds! Ask for help from friends, especially sisters in Christ from your local church, both peers and older women. God’s church is his body, his hands and feet doing his work in the world, so let others be his presence to you. They will be blessed in return.

You weren’t meant to do this motherhood thing alone; let God and his people serve you. As my senior pastor has said, “Jesus has more to give you than you have yet to receive” (John 10:10). 

EB: We live in a culture that rewards us to hustle, be more, and achieve more. In your book, you write that “hustle doesn’t necessarily equal faithfulness.” How do you challenge moms to allow themselves permission to rest?

KW: We need to know that hustle doesn’t necessarily equal faithfulness, that at the end of the day, what matters is that we are faithful to Christ. Jesus said to his disciples in John 12:26, If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” The culture bids us to hustle — to accomplish more and become more and earn more — in order to be great moms; but Christ bids us to become less, to become servants, and rest in him. 

And how do we do that? By trusting that he is enough on our behalf, that he accomplished all we never could through his perfect obedience to the Father, and that our calling as moms is to follow him out of gratitude and love for him, by the power he supplies. I love what Pastor Bryan Chappell says: “We strive best when we are most rested.”

Think about how Jesus rested in his Father. Even when he was hours away from an excruciating death, he was at rest because he knew who he belonged to and where he was headed (John 13:3). Similarly, when we moms know we belong to Christ, that he is with us, and that we are headed into a glorious future with him (and all because of his grace), we are compelled to work for him from a heart of humility and gratitude. Our rest in Christ motivates and empowers our work for Christ.

It is this humble posture of service that made (and makes) Jesus great. And so, it is a humble posture of service before Jesus that makes a mom great. This is our great challenge: to rest ourselves on him.

EB: In our culture, social media often inflicts “mom guilt” and self comparison. What advice do you give to the mom who might be struggling with inadequacy? 

KW: Three pieces of advice: One, your intention to serve your kids well and do right by them means that you love them. And that is a very good, God-given calling. You can praise him for that, and keep loving your kids. 

Two, you need to know that you are inadequate, and that acknowledgment brings freedom, if we let it. You were never meant to be God! Only he is and has everything your kids need. So when you mess up and sin against your kids (and the Lord), let your guilt drive you to the throne of grace. When you can’t discern between true guilt and false guilt, ask God to search and know your heart, and know he is greater; he has covered and overcome your guilt at the cross. When you are reminded you are limited and inadequate, let that lead you to worship the One who isn’t and let it rest you in Christ’s perfectly adequate, righteous record, which has become yours by faith. 

Third, take a break from social media. Clear your mind, and release your heart from it. This has been one of the most helpful things for me.

EB: Talk about your own experience as a mother of two kids. How do you ground yourself in truth when you feel weary from motherhood? How has Christ sustained you on the hard days?

KW: Jesus says that we do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). So when I am weary and discouraged, I need my faith in Christ strengthened; I need sustenance for my soul. So I turn to my Bible where Jesus reminds me of who he is and what he’s accomplished on my behalf. That’s the first thing I do to survive, before the day even begins.

Once the day gets going and the needs start rolling in — once my lower back starts hurting and the kids start crying all at once and there isn’t enough of me to go around — I need to rely on God’s moment-by-moment grace to sustain me. I don’t look too far ahead (I can’t, or I’ll crumble), and I take a deep breath. Sometimes I cry, knowing Jesus cares for me and feels compassion for me, that he knows what it is to be weak. I pick up my phone and text some friends for prayer — and I am reminded that Jesus is also praying for me right now in heaven. That gives me strength.

And honestly, some days I collapse onto the couch at night not even sure how I got through, and feeling discouraged that I didn’t consciously think about God that day. But I know God thought about me, cared for me, and carried me. I know he is actively serving and loving me, remaining faithful, even when I am faithless. Humble and needy is the best place we can be as moms. 

EB: What encouragement can you give to expectant moms who feel overwhelmed and unprepared to step into motherhood?

KW: I thought about that mom the whole time I was writing this book! I have been that mom, and whew!, how I needed a book that would give me permission to stop and rest. I have certainly been blessed and helped by motherhood books, but most of them made me feel more tired. They somehow added to my already-full plate and depleted body. I desperately wanted to write a book that would invite an expectant or new mom to rest in Christ, to enjoy him, to worship, and to wonder freshly at his heart and work on their behalf. 

EB: Many women struggle with infertility and long to experience the gift of motherhood. What encouragement would you give to a woman who is longing and expectant?

KW: Oh, I have been there. I would say, let your longing drive you to two things: expectant prayer to the Lord, and submissive waiting on him. We can do both. We can lament and live in the tension between assurance of God’s goodness and the unknown future. Use the Psalms to help you pray and wait well. They have been wonderful friends to me in times of sadness and uncertainty.

EB: How can we have a healthy view of our identity as mothers? How can we avoid wrapping our whole identity in that role?  

KW: We need our minds aligned with God’s and what he says about us, so I would encourage every mom to make it her holy habit to steep her mind and heart in Scripture, which is the very mind of God. Commit yourself to a local church, where you are able to serve in various ways and see yourself as a member of the body of Christ. Another reason we struggle with identity as moms is because the culture degrades and devalues that role, thinking it beneath other ambitions, so it feels natural to want to cast it off. But motherhood is a very Christlike calling. It is a privilege and a joy to be a mom, but our identity is ultimately in Christ. 

EB: How can we show honor to moms as a church?

KW: Pray for us. Acknowledge our work. Come alongside us, building us up in the faith (through faithful preaching, small groups, Bible studies, and women’s and children’s ministries). Reach out to a mom you know personally, and offer to help her in a practical way (or take her kids!). Tell us we are doing a hard thing, and that we’re doing it well. All of these things are honoring both to us and to Jesus.

By / May 4

Mother’s Day is two days away, and I wonder how many women are dreading it. On a day set aside to honor the invaluable work only women are able to fulfill, many are left feeling tender and disappointed, wishing we could skip the day altogether and get on with Monday. For women with and without children, Mother’s Day evokes a host of emotions as it exposes dreams, longings, fears, and hurts in an especially poignant way.   

Is the pain of this day redeemable?

The truth is, the role of “mother” is important and worth honoring. The mothers who bore us, raised us, and sacrificed for us should be acknowledged, thanked, and loved. But it is all too easy for us as women to slip into a blinding self-focus on Mother’s Day. For those in the trenches of mothering, the desire to be acknowledged (or just to be given a break, for goodness sake!) can grow too big, leading to anger and frustration when expectations are not met. For those longing for marriage and family, struggling with infertility, grieving the loss of a child or mother, or praying for the return of a wayward child, the hurt may feel insurmountable. Sometimes, this leads to feelings of self-pity or despair. 

Is the pain of this day redeemable? For women who are in Christ the Redeemer, we answer with a resounding “Yes!” Here are three truths to help us lift our gaze and live with gospel-shaped hope on Mother’s Day. 

Joy and pain are realities for all.

On Mother’s Day especially, it’s easy for women to feel alone in their pain and struggles. All of us can easily fall prey to the lie that no one is hurting as deeply as we are, and this makes our own pain feel magnified. But, in a fallen world, pain is a reality that goes hand-in-hand with joy. Every woman, regardless of her circumstances, experiences some mixture of the two, and it isn’t necessary or wise to try to compare levels.

The woman longing to conceive a child sees pictures on social media of smiling mothers with their arms full of (what appear to be) smiling, well-behaved children, and she believes that woman’s life is all joy. But pictures never tell the whole story. The exhausted mother of four, struggling through what feels like monotonous work in the home, sees the childless woman with (what appears to be) a fulfilling career, and she covets the freedom and professional success that woman has. But she too isn’t privy to the the whole story. 

Pain is real for all, but for those in Christ, we know it isn’t the end of our story. “Weeping may tarry for the night but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5). The gospel gives us hope on Mother’s Day by reminding us that. . .

Motherhood is bigger than us.

Whether a woman has biological children or not, she must remember that God’s purposes for motherhood are bigger than her. While children certainly bring joy (and pain), they are blessings to steward for a purpose greater than a mother’s personal happiness. God created mothers and motherhood so that his image and glory might be multiplied across the face of the earth (Genesis 1:28). And when his image was marred by sin, God allowed motherhood to continue so that he might send a Redeemer, both human and divine, to bring salvation to the world: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). 

“Mother” is a role, not an identity. As Christian women, we are made in the image of God and created anew in Christ Jesus for the purpose of good worksChrist is our defining identity (Ephesians 2:10). For some, the good works prepared for us by God include raising up physical children in our homes. For all of us, these good works include raising up spiritual children (disciples) within the local church. When we remember that motherhood is bigger than us, we can rejoice on Mother’s Day in spite of our circumstances. We can shift our gaze upward, giving thanks to God for using a mother to bring the Savior of mankind into this world.

Christ redeems all things.

Around this time last year, I drove past a church sign that said, “Join us Sunday as we celebrate mothers!” I cringed inwardly as I imagined  this might cause hurting women to shy away. While the Church may honor mothers, we celebrate so much more!  We celebrate a risen Christ, who is redeeming every ounce of pain his children experience both for his glory and our good. We celebrate a Savior who is making all things new. No woman should avoid this celebration on Mother’s Day Sunday. 

One way Christ has already redeemed the pain of motherhood is by expanding its definition and purpose. In her book (A)Typical Woman, Abigail Dodds says, “You may have been denied biological children, but there is no childlessness in the new covenant. You have been given children beyond counting in Christ to love, nurture, and disciple, as Paul and Jesus did.” In Christ, motherhood goes far beyond bearing and raising biological children.

Although this truth doesn’t negate all the pain women feel regarding issues of motherhood, we have the blessed promise that God is working our pain for good as he uses it to make us like Christ (Romans 8:28-29). And we have the sure hope that this pain is not forever. A day is coming when tears, death, mourning, crying, and pain will be no more (Revelation 21:4). 

So, on Sunday let’s take time to honor our own mothers, both those who raised us and those who have discipled us in the faith. Let’s lift our gaze from ourselves to Christ, worshiping him and trusting him to carry us through our pain and redeem all our unmet expectations and longings. And let’s bless the Lord for the gift of motherhood and his good purposes in it. He alone is worthy!

This article was originally published here.

By / Nov 22

Due to the pandemic, more emphasis has been placed on mental health. Stress, anxiety, and depression are at the forefront of discussions. However, mothers have suffered from stress long before COVID-19 hit. Careers, parental responsibilities, household chores, and guilt — especially during the holidays — can leave moms feeling burned out. Outside factors (i.e., societal upheaval, finances, etc.) only add to stressful feelings.

As a mom, stress can negatively influence the parent-child relationship. Chronically stressed mothers are more likely to be emotionally unavailable for their children and have a higher risk of developing mental health issues. Dealing with chronic stress can free moms to better handle the big emotions of their children and the day-to-day struggles of life.

Signs of stress

Though we hear a lot about stress, many of us don’t talk about it or understand its effects. What is stress? Stress can be defined as our body’s response to pressure that causes feelings of physical or emotional tension. When we initially encounter a danger or threat, our bodies react with a flight-or-fight response, known as acute stress, causing our nervous system to pump adrenaline into our bodies. If the threat or stress doesn’t subside, our body releases stress hormones. The result of these physiological responses includes: a faster pulse, an increase in blood pressure, changes in airways, extra oxygen to the brain, heightened senses, and changes in blood vessels. These responses are beneficial during times of danger.1Bruce S. McEwen (2007) Physiology and Neurobiology of Stress and Adaptation: Central Role of the Brain. Physiological Reviews, 87 (3), 873-904.

After the stressful event ends, the parasympathetic nervous system will then “reset” the body, stopping the rush of hormones. Problems with stress typically arrive when stress doesn’t cease and our bodies continue to pump stress hormones into our bodies. Acute stress becomes chronic stress.2Sharma DK (2018) Physiology of Stress and its Management. Journal of Medicine Study and Research, 1 (1).

How do you know if you are experiencing chronic stress? Chances are you “feel” stressed, but here are some warning signs:

  • Physical: Chest pain, headaches, GI issues, fatigue, high blood pressure, heart issues, weakened immune system
  • Behavioral: Sleep disturbances, irrational fears, anxiety attacks
  • Cognitive: Rumination, difficulty concentrating
  • Emotional: Irritability, crying, angry, bitterness, mood disorders
  • Relational: Blame shifting, short-fused
  • Spiritual: Disconnected, unrepentant sin, anger toward God, complacency

9 stress-reduction tips

If you can identify with the warning signs, you may be living in a state of chronic stress. So, what can you do about it? You can start by acknowledging two facts: 

  • All stress won’t fully cease to exist on this side of eternity. Stress is a natural consequence of the fall (Genesis 3). Original sin brought the commencement of brokenness into the world, and brokenness causes stress. 
  • God designed us with limitations, and those limitations are for our good. Operating within God’s boundaries can help reduce stress.

With those two things in mind, I want to share a few tips to improve stress levels and live within God’s limitations. It may not be possible to accomplish every suggestion all at once, so start small. Pick one or two stress-reducing items, and do those consistently. You can build upon your progress over time by adding other stress relievers. 

Life-enhancing tasks: God has given us a brain to acquire knowledge. Learning a new skill helps stockpile cognitive reserves. Improvement in cognitive functioning provides a greater ability to deal with stress. For overwhelmed mothers with little free time, try to eliminate a life-draining item first (i.e., social media), and replace it with a life-enhancing task (i.e., educational audiobook).

Thinking patterns: A mother’s perception of her parental role and responsibilities plays a key factor in stress levels. Do you view motherhood as a God-given role or a burden? Believing motherhood is unimportant creates feelings of being trapped, which is stressful. Any thought regarding motherhood as insignificant needs to be taken captive, as it goes against God’s Word (1 Cor. 10:5) and harms the parent-child relationship. Thought logs and journals can help uncover negative thinking patterns or lies that trap us, while memorizing Scripture gives truth to combat negative thinking.

Physical activities: God created our bodies to depend upon certain physical activities. Those activities, as repeatedly shown in clinical research, also help reduce stress. Here are some of them:

  • Exercise: Our bodies were made for movement. Things like exercise lead to anti-inflammatory responses, better physical health, improved memory, increased attention, and overall better brain functioning. Do you have trouble exercising because you are always with children? Put them in a stroller or have them ride their bikes, and get moving with them!3Jackson, EM.(2013) Stress Relief: The Role of Exercise in Stress Management. ACSM’s Journal of Health and Fitness. 17 (3). 14-19
  • Sleep: Sleeping the recommended amount can be tough, especially for moms whose children don’t sleep through the night. However, it isn’t just moms with little kids who are sleep deprived. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 1 in 3 adults do not obtain the recommended amount of sleep, which is 7–9 hours. Sleep deprivation can contribute to weight gain, irritability, lack of concentration, fatigue, and health issues, all of which exacerbate stress. To get better sleep, try committing to an appropriate bedtime and nighttime routine, eliminating electronics an hour before bed, and consulting with your doctor if you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep. And don’t forget to take naps.4https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/sleep&sa=D&source=docs&ust=1637336158909000&usg=AOvVaw2jSfg81f3A9rSXyFa7cCQz
  • Healthy eating: Our bodies need certain nutrients to thrive and feel good. A poor diet can lead to vitamin deficiency, creating a whole host of negative physical and emotional side effects. Eating healthy can reduce health issues, which in turn, reduces stress. 

Rest: Research suggests relaxation and meditation are two avenues to counteract stress. As Christians, we know God has called us to rest (Sabbath), pray, and meditate specifically on his Word. God even modeled the Sabbath for us when he created the world. It’s okay, even commanded, to rest from our to-do lists.

Community: Throughout Genesis we see all the good things God made, until his statement in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for man to be alone.” God created us for relationships. In fact, our brains are hardwired to need others.5Siegel, D., & Bryson, T. (2012) The Whole Brain Child. Bantam Book. Find other Christians to connect with so you can “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2 NIV). 

Enjoyment: God wants us to enjoy good things. He made the sunset beautiful, food delicious, and friendship necessary — for his glory and our pleasure. Pleasurable activities like vacations, date nights, and coffee with friends are all good things and can help reduce stress. The caution lies in making good things into idols. Moderation and right perception about pleasurable activities are key. 

Ask for help: Acknowledging that we do not encompass every spiritual gift or every skill frees us to ask others for help. Partnering with others reflects God’s beautiful design of diversity and gives others opportunities to utilize their God-given gifts. Trying to do everything independently creates stress, and can be a form of pride, so ask others for help.

Flexibility: Chaos feels hectic and stressful. Why? We were created in God’s image, and he is not chaotic (1 Cor. 14:33 NIV). To help reduce chaos and stress, create a flexible schedule for you and your family.

Finances: Failing to use our finances wisely is a major source of stress. God gives us principles in Scripture that help us steward what he’s given us for his glory. Obeying God’s Word and putting money in its proper place reduces stress. How we use our resources will look different from person to person, but there is no doubt that Christians are not to be slaves to money. The Money Challenge by Art Rainer, and Redeeming Money by Paul David Tripp are two recommended reads for financial management.

Motherhood is a profound, but sometimes stressful, God-given role. He will give you what you need to care for your children. And remember, even amongst the stress, God is using motherhood to sanctify you and your children to look more like Christ.

For more information from Dr. Sarah Rainer on “The Overwhelmed Mom,” check out The Mom Village Podcasts: part 1 and part 2.

  • 1
    Bruce S. McEwen (2007) Physiology and Neurobiology of Stress and Adaptation: Central Role of the Brain. Physiological Reviews, 87 (3), 873-904.
  • 2
    Sharma DK (2018) Physiology of Stress and its Management. Journal of Medicine Study and Research, 1 (1).
  • 3
    Jackson, EM.(2013) Stress Relief: The Role of Exercise in Stress Management. ACSM’s Journal of Health and Fitness. 17 (3). 14-19
  • 4
    https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/sleep&sa=D&source=docs&ust=1637336158909000&usg=AOvVaw2jSfg81f3A9rSXyFa7cCQz
  • 5
    Siegel, D., & Bryson, T. (2012) The Whole Brain Child. Bantam Book.
By / May 7

Mother’s Day can be bittersweet for many. One in 10 couples struggle with infertility, and approximately 10 to 20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriages. For many women who long to have a child, Mother’s Day can serve as a difficult reminder of what they desire, but do not have. The potential pain of Mother’s Day extends further still — for women have chosen an adoption plan for their child, single women who desire to be married and have a family, or women who have had an abortion. And others might be grieving the loss of or navigating a difficult relationship with their mother.

Waiting

Personally, Mother’s Day can be filled with conflicting emotions. I was born with a somewhat rare medical condition that prevents me from bearing biological children. The loss of that dream feels especially poignant this time of year. But I also have a desire to honor my own mother and mother-in-law and celebrate the women in my life who are mothers. Romans 12:15 is often on my lips as I navigate these tensions and seek to “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”

My husband and I are in the process of an international adoption from India. This Mother’s Day, I feel the strange tension of pursuing motherhood but not yet stepping into the role of “mother.” I’m waiting for paperwork to be approved, for a social worker to deem us eligible to be parents, and to be matched with a child. But I know that waiting is not in vain. 

As an adoptee myself, I’m aware that my children’s stories will contain trauma. Even if our children are adopted young, there is trauma involved any time there’s a break in the natural family. The issue of adoption and child welfare is deeply important to me. I’ve spent time and energy navigating the complexities of these issues in order to advocate on behalf of vulnerable children. While we wait, we are reading books on trauma-informed parenting, listening to seminars, and gleaning wisdom from other adoptive parents so that we can love our children well. Our waiting is not in vain.

Watching 

We’re also watching the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in India with broken hearts. According to the BBC, “India has seen more than 300,000 new cases a day for nearly two weeks straight while deaths stand at 220,000. Experts say total Covid cases and deaths in India are likely to be much higher, citing lack of testing and patients dying at home without being seen by doctors.” The images and stories we’re witnessing have caused global alarm and attention. I can’t help but wonder how many children will be orphaned because of the thousands of COVID-19 deaths. 

Praying 

As we watch and wait, we do the best thing we know how to do: We pray. We lift up our future children in prayer almost daily. They might not be known to us, but they are known to our Father, and in that, we take great comfort. We pray for their safety and protection. We pray for their biological parents and the challenging circumstances that led them to making an adoption plan for their children. We pray for the leaders in India to make good and wise decisions for their citizens. We pray for the souls of our children, that they might come to know the Lord as their Savior at a young age.

In my waiting, I often echo the words of David, “O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress.” Waiting can often feel helpless, but Psalm 27:14 reminds us to “be strong, and let your heart take courage” as we “wait for the Lord.” I fix my eyes upon the Lord and ask him to fill me with his strength when I feel weak. 

If you find yourself in a season of waiting right now, allow me to remind you that you are never alone in your struggle. Psalm 38:9 reminds us that “all our longing is before God; our sighing is not hidden from Him.” The Lord promises never to leave or forsake his children. He promises to be good and to set his steadfast love upon us. When you feel overwhelmed and discouraged, on Mother’s Day or any time, press into the promises of the Lord. 

By / Apr 15

Editor’s note: Because we care about championing the dignity of every individual’s life, from womb to tomb, we wanted to highlight the beauty of adoption. As you read this testimony, we pray you are gripped with compassion for every baby, mother, father, family, and pregnancy resource volunteer involved in the journey of an unplanned pregnancy. This story was given to us from Lifeline Christian Services, who is doing amazing work in the adoption space. 

When I think about the job I get to do as a pregnancy counselor, the word that comes to mind is “sacred.” Walking with a woman through pregnancy, birth, and adoption is full of a range of emotions and challenges, but mostly it is a privilege. 

For the past six months, I have worked with a birth mother named Becca. She found herself in an unplanned pregnancy, and her world flipped upside down. In desperation, she considered abortion but knew that was not the Lord’s will for her baby’s life. She reached out to Lifeline Children’s Services in May and decided to make an adoption plan for her precious baby boy. 

As I got to know Becca, I learned that her heart for the Lord was so evident in her life. She was walking through the darkest of valleys in many ways, but chose to trust the Lord and seek healing in every way she knew how. Becca faced shame, anger, abandonment, and grief, yet she could say, “I would rather walk through the pain with the Lord than make a decision not in my son’s best interest.” 

As her pregnancy counselor, I became a safe place for Becca to process her decision and feelings. I also learned a lot about God through Becca. Tears come to my eyes thinking about the way the Lord intertwined our lives and draws us to himself. Not only did Becca point me to the Lord, but she made me laugh uncontrollably and taught me more about the world.

Becca’s beautiful baby boy was born on a rainy day in late September, and in that moment, God brought an abundance of redemption into Becca’s life. Instead of feeling shame and anger, she felt a love and peace that she could not put into words. 

While at the hospital, we giggled and cried and dreamed for her son’s life. She chose to move forward with the adoption plan and, after her legal withdrawal time ended, she sent me a message saying, “Praise the Lord who has given me strength.” 

Every birth mother is incredible, but Becca has been someone special to me. Being her pregnancy counselor has been humbling, life-giving, and such an honor. I look forward to witnessing, in the years to come, how the Lord works in Becca’s life. 

Our Father proved faithful again, making what seemed hopeless, redeemed. What a privilege to be able to walk with her and allow the Lord to use me in her life and her in mine.

By / Jan 8

Since becoming a mom, I always feel speechless when people ask me how my week was. I give them a blank stare while I try to think about it. I’m always grasping for something that happened that was a big deal, or an event, or something with some element of excitement to it. Sometimes I do have something exciting to share (or at least my mommy mundane version of exciting—got a toddler potty-trained, anyone?), but most of the time I don’t even remember what happened in the last week, because it’s so muddled up with the ordinary busyness of motherhood. 

Monotony can be disheartening. There are times when I have to put on my cap of duty and just get the bathroom cleaned. Or when I’m tired of taking my boys to the same places to play over and over again. Sometimes it feels as if I just planned my meals yesterday and now I already have to think about what we’ll eat this week, and then shop for it all. Again. 

I spend the majority of my time taking care of my family and my home. I tell my boys to stop fighting, and 15 minutes later I’m saying it again. I begin the evening’s meal preparation, even though I just put away dishes from our previous meal. Care-taking contains a litany of repetitive tasks: changing diapers, infant feedings, nap schedules (if you have one), getting children out the door in time for school, homework, baths, and bedtime routines. Every day is fundamentally the same. 

When it comes to our everyday tasks, life can feel very ordinary; not so special or exciting. We live in a culture that values, and lives for, the big and exciting things of life: such as new babies, weddings, family vacations, or a big birthday party. These are the moments captured on Instagram.

Repetition built into creation

Repetition has a way of blurring our days together. It can make everything feel colorless and faded, and as if those bigger exciting moments are the only splashes of color. But what if we’re underestimating these ordinary days and repetitive tasks? What if we’re missing something? The mundane moments of motherhood are difficult, but the mundane beauties can be missed: cuddling on the couch to read a book together, having heart-to-heart talks, spotting an act of kindness between siblings, praying together, and talking about Jesus and the gospel. These are all sweet parts of this repetition. These are ordinary moments for eternity. 

We need to discover how to spot these daily beauties and cherish them—because God created them. He made repetition.

Think about our world for a moment. Every day the sun rises and sets; every day the moon waxes or wanes; and every day these acts praise their Creator. In his book Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton mentions how the repetition of the sun’s rising might not be due to a lifelessness, but due to a rush of life. Chesterton compares the repetition found in nature to a child’s enjoyment in repeating the same games and songs. He says this is because children have “fierce and free spirits”; their joy in repetition is due to excess of life, not absence.

Chesterton then says,

“For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy . . . . The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.”1G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (Moody Publishers, 2009), p 92

The act of repetition can be a thing of beauty all by itself. For example, we’re called to repeat the Lord’s Supper as a church body (1 Cor. 11:23-25), and as we repeat this act it becomes imprinted upon us—informing us about Christ and about ourselves. We’re teaching ourselves the gospel over and over. As we know from observing our children, things must be repeated if they are to be learned. So, we must come again and again to the communion table—and to worship, prayer, and God’s Word—if we are to become more like Jesus.

Someday we’ll be more fully like God and no longer grow tired of repetition. We will have the “eternal appetite of infancy,” as Chesterton expressed, and will exult in the joyful monotony of worship. We’ll cry, “Encore!” every time we worship the Lamb of God who was slain for our sins. Until then, we are given tastes of this beauty here on earth as we repeat our tasks of mothering. 

The little things add up to big things

It’s the little things we are called to. The day in and day out. The minute by minute. These little moments that can feel so monotonous have the power to shape you and your children. This poem by Julie A.F. Carney called Little Things, that I’ve read with my own children, is a great reminder of this:

Little drops of waters, 
Little grains of sand, 
Make the mighty ocean
And the pleasant land.
Thus the little moments,
Humble though they be,
Make the mighty ages
Of eternity.2Gyo Fujikawa, A Child’s Book of Poems (Sterling Children’s Books, 2007), p 89.

Just as many tiny droplets make up one vast ocean, so all of our days are made up of tiny moments. We don’t always see the bigger picture when we’re teaching our children a Bible verse, or probing their hearts, or spending time with them. Capturing the little things is what motherhood is about. When we train our children (talk to them, ask probing questions, and then pray with them)—or when we instruct them in God’s Word and help them apply it to the everyday struggles in their lives—then we are capturing the little things that will add up to big things. This is the glory found in the mundane. These are the most important times. May we be ever mindful of the Spirit’s work in these seemingly insignificant moments. 

When we read the Bible, we see the Holy Spirit move in miraculous and seemingly impossible ways. His ways seem so big and exciting. But for us today, the majority of the time, we will see the Holy Spirit work in little things. He works on us and our children moment by moment, day by day, little by little. He is changing us one step at a time. He is working through our repetitive tasks to change our hearts and the hearts of our children. He is working through every Bible verse, every moment of instruction, every prayer, every conversation. He works through our actions of serving care and nurturing kindness (even in the times when our heart attitude doesn’t match our actions). 

Feeding your child when they are hungry, changing a dirty diaper, bathing your child, and scrubbing the dishes all show your child Christlike service. You are their first glimpses of a Savior. But we don’t always see it until those little workings of the Spirit bear fruit and flower into something bigger (Gal. 5:22-23). We have to have faith in the Spirit’s work when we can’t see the big picture in the ordinary moments of motherhood. We can ask the Holy Spirit for help, so we can remain steadfast and faithful in the mundane tasks before us everyday. 

This is an extract from The End of Me by Liz Wann, which helps moms find resurrection life in the daily sacrifices of motherhood. This short, easy-to-read book encourages mothers to depend on Christ when they reach their limit. The book will be available in March 2021 on The Good Book Company website, Amazon, and wherever books are sold. 

  • 1
    G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (Moody Publishers, 2009), p 92
  • 2
    Gyo Fujikawa, A Child’s Book of Poems (Sterling Children’s Books, 2007), p 89.
By / Apr 24

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people are in quarantine and adjusting to new rhythms and routines. Personally, it’s taken a lot of trial and error to figure out how to successfully work from home, communicate well with my husband, and alleviate feelings of going stir crazy. For those who are currently at home, we have a little extra time on our hands, even if we’re still working because we aren’t commuting or attending extracurricular activities. Life has quieted and slowed down, and that’s given us more time to think, process, and feel. Busyness can often be used to distract ourselves from addressing difficult circumstances or emotions. But when that’s stripped away, we can be faced with a flood of emotions.

The quarantine can intensify longing and loss

Walking through a season of childless can be difficult in “normal life,” but in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, feelings of loss or longing can feel intensified. Many of us are spending much more time on social media, and that can lead to heightened feelings of comparison or jealousy. Jokes have been floating around social media about a baby boom that will occur in nine months, implying that couples merely need more time to conceive a baby.

This week is National Infertility Week—a time to raise awareness about the 1 in 8 couples affected by infertility. Countless couples have walked through the heartbreaking reality of struggling month after month to conceive. Others have walked through the painful grief of miscarriage and loss. Many single women might be feeling the desire for a husband and to be a mother. Women who have had an abortion might be feeling intense grief right now. Childlessness takes on many forms, but each man or woman experiencing it grieves the loss of a child, or the loss of the dream of parenthood.

God might not answer our prayers in the exact way we want them to be answered, but we can trust that he’ll be faithful to his promise never to leave or forsake us. We can trust that he’s working all things together for our good and his glory.

How to fight discouragement and disappointment 

I read through the book of Psalms almost every month. This practice has taught me how to bend my emotions around God’s truth and that it’s good and right to bring my feelings and emotions to God in prayer. The psalmists are extremely honest with the Lord and are frequently seen crying out with raw and honest questions and concerns. God is big enough to handle all of our emotions, and we don’t ever need to feel like we need to pull ourselves together before going to God in prayer. He promises to bear our burdens and invites us to bring our sorrows to him.

I’d encourage you to spend some extended time meditating upon and memorizing Scripture. Choose some promises to commit to memory, and fill your heart and mind with God’s Word. Here are some verses to meditate upon:

“And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:10)

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

“I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.” (Psalm 116:1)

“The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.”  (Psalm 145:9)

The cross changes how we grieve

Jesus’ death and resurrection not only guarantees that anyone who places their faith in Jesus will be forgiven from their sins and have eternal life with him, it also changes every aspect of our life on earth. The cross was the ultimate declaration of God’s love for us. If we’re ever tempted to question God’s love for us, we need to look to the cross. While we will experience sorrow and loss on this side of eternity, God promises that we don’t grieve without hope. God might not answer our prayers in the exact way we want them to be answered, but we can trust that he’ll be faithful to his promise never to leave or forsake us. We can trust that he’s working all things together for our good and his glory. And we can trust that a day is coming when there will be no more grieving or suffering.

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4.

God doesn’t promise us answers, but he does promise us his presence. May we long for the day when there will be no more death or sorrow, but until that day, may we develop a deep trust of the Lord.

By / Mar 5

Courtney Reissig shares some advice for working moms. Courtney is a wife, mother, writer, and speaker.

Follow Courtney on Twitter: @courtneyreissig