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Core Christianity: Tough Questions Answered

When Nurturing Life Feels Like Dying

by Liz Wann posted June 16, 2021

Sometimes, parenting can just be too much. There are many times when I reach my breaking point. It’s not just the physical needs of my children that are demanding, but their emotional, mental, and spiritual needs as well. I’m playing the peacemaker between my two sons, I’m counseling, I’m discussing heart issues. Just a day of working through behavioral issues can be enough to drain me.

So it’s not an overstatement to say that often, parenting feels like death. It’s a constant laying down of our lives.

We tend to think that life precedes death, but in the kingdom of God the reverse is true: death precedes life. Jesus taught that we must die to self in order to experience any true life in our hearts. 

And what beautiful new life it is. The hard things of parenthood are like sandpaper, rubbing back our rough edges and making us smooth. The Holy Spirit is using parenthood to refine us.

Parenting Involves Dying to Self

So when does parenthood feel like death to you? 

It may be the disappointment of unexpected circumstances. It’s a type of loss. For me, that looked like a ruined birth plan, a traumatic labor and delivery, a newborn in the NICU, baby blues, and sleepless nights. I didn’t expect to feel sadness and loneliness when I brought my baby home.

There is also a feeling of dying to self when we live out the mundanity of daily parenting. The ordinary small things of family life can be like the annoyance of a dripping faucet. 

Or maybe for you, it’s suffering in parenthood that can feel like death, whether that’s through living with chronic illness, dealing with postpartum depression, or walking through crises of parenting. But when we embrace the daily deaths we face as mothers and fathers, we can humbly offer our struggles to God. He will meet us in our depression, anxiety, stress, sleep deprivation, anger, frustration, and lack of patience. This is exactly where he wants us. This humble embracing of death is fertile ground for new and deeper life.

Know His Resurrection

Amidst all the pain of parenthood, we can hold on to a promise: when we become like Jesus in his death, we come to know the power of his resurrection through the Holy Spirit. This was true for martyrs being burned at the stake and, in a far smaller way, is true for new mothers facing sleepless nights. It is true at the end of our lives and throughout our days on earth. We must bury ourselves like a grain of wheat, so that our death will bear fruit (John 12:24).

But through the dying, beauty is birthed. God uses the curse of death to bring new life. And it’s the only way to the joy of true life. As Paul says: “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:21–22).

Adam brought death, but Jesus went through death to bring us resurrection (a spiritual resurrection in our souls and a bodily resurrection to come). Because of Jesus, we now have this daily cycle of resurrection in our souls, because “our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).

Growing In His Likeness

Christ came to bring abundant life for us (John 10:10), but he purchased that life by tasting death. He calls every one of his children to walk this same road (Mark 8:34). He gives us tastes of the abundant life of resurrection when we choose to follow this road.

Changing how we look at our lives as parents helps us to see glimpses of God working in our lives. When I see my daily acts of self-denial as those of a mother following in the footsteps of Christ, I feel flickers of “resurrection” hope. Dying the daily deaths of motherhood has also been the means by which the Spirit imparts the peaceful fruits of “resurrection” in my heart.

A humble heart is ripe for the fruit of the Holy Spirit to flourish there. The fruit of Jesus’ death has covered the globe and continues to grow wherever the gospel is spread. If we, like the grain of wheat, let ourselves be buried and die, God will grow through us an abundance of fruit for ourselves and others.

Be Humbled by The Challenges of Parenthood

I’ve seen this in my own experience of parenthood, in so many ways. 

I didn’t expect “death” when I first became a mother. I was surprised by the dark struggle. Motherhood has humbled me. It has shown me how weak and needy I really am. This is a good death to die, and I die it daily. I die deaths through sleepless nights, nonstop service, countless interruptions, and sacrifice of my time and energy (let alone sacrifice of my body and mental capacity).

The way we respond to these daily deaths is crucial for their purpose in our lives. Bitterness and apathy will only make them worse, but humble acceptance and desperate cries to the Holy Spirit for help will turn these deaths into “resurrections”. If we view these deaths as opportunities to draw close to our Father, they are worth it, just for that.

Every day I’m reminded of my weakness and my great need for Christ to work in me and my children. But my “resurrection” moment in motherhood came when I saw what God was killing in me: my self-sufficiency.

Motherhood has shown me that I’m not strong enough and I’m not good enough. There is nothing in me, in and of myself, that can make me be enough. When we admit that we’re weak parents, we have a fuller realization of how strong a God we serve.

This is the place of death, where God swoops down and displays his resurrection power to us through the work of the Holy Spirit, who raised Christ from the dead. In him we are strong enough for all the daily deaths of parenthood, and we can look to him to bring the fruit of new life in our souls.

This post is adapted from an excerpt of the book The End of Me by Liz Wann. This short, easy-to-read book encourages mothers to depend on Christ when they reach their limits. This article originally appeared here.

Photo of Liz Wann

Liz Wann

Liz Wann lives in West Philadelphia with her husband Josh and their three children. She is a regular contributor to DesiringGod.org, Revive Our Hearts, and ERLC.com. She is also editor-in-chief at Morning by Morning. She can be found online at LizWann.com.

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