Dear mothers in the faith, I know that sometimes it’s easy to grow discouraged. I know that there are moments when you wonder, “Is the work that I am doing having an impact?” Moments where you may dream about another life, one that actually enables you to dream because you’re able to sleep through the night! God sees you, and he hears your prayers.
When Paul wrote to his protégé, Timothy, he said, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well” (2 Tim. 1:5). Many looked at Timothy and saw a young, gifted pastor. Indeed, Paul praises him throughout his letters. But behind this missionary-pastor who loved the church were mothers who loved him and taught him the Scriptures. Paul reminds Timothy of this: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:14–15).
We can’t miss what Paul affirms here: moms are disciple makers who help to hand the faith down to the next generation. Is there anything more needed today? It might seem like a lot of pressure, but here’s another encouragement: moms aren’t responsible for creating faith in their children (that’s enough to crush anyone); they’re just called to be faithful in acquainting their children to the sacred writings. The Scriptures create faith and make wise (Rom. 10:17). It’s like Paul said elsewhere:
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building. (1 Cor. 3:5–9)
Moms plant seeds and water, but God is the one who gives growth. We can’t transform our children, but we look in faith to the one who can. No one knew this better than Monica. If you’re not familiar with her story, she was the mother of arguably the greatest Western theologian to ever live, Saint Augustine. Augustine’s writings continue to have a significant impact on the church today, but for much of his life this theological powerhouse stiff-armed God. In his autobiography, The Confessions, Augustine recounts his mother’s faithful prayers–even when all seemed hopeless.
Nearly nine years passed in which I wallowed in the mud of that deep pit and in the darkness of falsehood, striving often to rise, but being all the more heavily dashed down. But all that time this chaste, pious, and sober widow—such as thou dost love—was now more buoyed up with hope, though no less zealous in her weeping and mourning; and she did not cease to bewail my case before thee, in all the hours of her supplication. Her prayers entered thy presence, and yet thou didst allow me still to tumble and toss around in that darkness. (Book III.XI)
Perhaps the most glorious moment in The Confessions is when Monica learned of Augustine’s conversion. “She leaped for joy triumphant; and she blessed thee, who art ‘able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.' For she saw that thou hadst granted her far more than she had ever asked for in all her pitiful and doleful lamentations” (Book VIII.XII). After years of laboring in the field of prayer, she saw the increase that only God could bring. You might not see the fruit of your labors today, but take heart, God sees and hears you. You will reap what you sow.
Your work, dear mothers, is without a doubt hard, and too often, it goes without praise. I was recently struck by this when I took a walk alone with our four children. Every other person we passed by commented how impressed they were: “You’re a great dad!” and “Wow, look at you!” Sadly, mothers don’t typically get that kind of recognition. Where would the church or the world be without Lois, Eunice, and Monica? Without godly mothers, society truly crumbles, because it’s through mothers that God brings salvation to the world.
Nowhere is this more clearly seen than in what’s often referred to as the protoevangelium (from protos meaning first, and euangelion meaning good news). It’s the promise of the gospel way back in Genesis 3:15, where God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” It was through the Virgin Mary that God the Son took flesh and was born for us and our salvation. God used a mother to bring about the redemption of humanity, Jesus. Today, God is still using mothers to carry that gospel to the ends of the earth.
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