Dear Radio Friends,
The Reformed Witness Hour celebrates the gift of Christian mothers today by turning to the Word of God in Psalm 113:9. There we read, “He (that is, God) maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD.”
Perhaps on this Mother’s Day, even as a Christian woman, you react to those words, especially “a joyful mother of children,” with a bit of cynicism, or of guilt. “Joyful mothers”? Maybe, after looking at the harsh reality of so much that goes on behind closed doors in your family, you would not call yourself joyful. Yes, with that firstborn in your arms you were filled with joy, but what about the lifelong task of motherhood? And what about the many sins that attend it—the difficulties, the yelling, the resentment, the discouragements? Joyful mothers? Would your children recognize you today? Is not motherhood, as the world would have it, drudgery? Does it not mean to be chained to meals, laundry, cleaning, thankless tasks—so much that is taken for granted? Joyful?
And what about the Word of God itself? Does not God say in Genesis 3:16 to Eve, and in her to all women: “In sorrow thou shalt bring forth thy children”? Has not sin really ruined motherhood, as is evident in post-partum depression and PMS and many other difficulties?
What about children who are born with diseases? What about learning-disabled children—long nights sitting up with them and their homework? Rebellious children? Then, to add to it, the reality at times (may God forbid) of faithless husbands.
Does the Word of God make light of all of this? Does the Word of God intend to mock us? “He maketh thee to be a joyful mother of children”?
People of God, daughters of God, the Word of God (God!) speaks of joyful mothers. It is no myth. God is speaking here of a joy that at bottom is nothing less than the joy of salvation, a joy in God, and a joy that God imparts to the experience of your heart as a Christian mother. It is the joy of which Jesus spoke in John 15: My joy, which no man can take from you. A joy found in the knowledge that you are God’s servant, being used of Him in His kingdom—a joy that God gives to every believing mother today—every woman of God—a joy that is this, that God is your faithful God, who hath given to you a beautiful and a crucial task in His kingdom. It is called “motherhood.”
Our text is an example of the condescending goodness of God. In Psalm 113 the psalmist is thinking of God in His glory and majesty. “Who is like unto the LORD our God, who dwelleth on high, who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth!” (vv. 5, 6). So exalted that He must stoop down low to view the heavens! He must bow to see the stars! So glorious is God.
But this God is not like the detached idols of the heathen, like the Greek gods. Their majesty was seen in indifference. No, for although He is high and cannot be added unto, yet verse 7 tells us that He delights to raise “up the poor out of the dust.” The glorious God, the fullness of blessing in Himself, delights in blessing the lowly and the insignificant, the downcast and the despised. And He delights especially in blessing His daughters, women, mothers, to make them joyful.
Unmistakably and un-ashamedly, the Scriptures of God identify motherhood with joy. “He maketh a joyful mother of children.”
The word “joyful” refers to a great inward happiness, not necessarily to what we might call a bubbly, happy temperament, but to the possession of a great good—a good so great that it floods the heart and gives an abiding inward joy or satisfaction to one’s soul. That is the meaning of joy in Scripture.
Certainly we may show outward happiness. But when the Scriptures speak of joy, they are referring to something within, something deep within, present even in the midst of grief, something, in fact, that grief causes to shine. My soul, says David, “shall be joyful in the Lord. I will rejoice in God all the day,” even in times of trial and gloom. The picture, then, of this joy is that of the heart, of a restfulness and satisfaction of soul in God, an abiding joy possessed by every believing woman. Sarah, Abraham’s wife, said, “God has made me to laugh. All that hear me will laugh with me.” Mary said, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.” Hannah, in the Old Testament, said, “My heart rejoiceth in the Lord.”
Let us get that into our heads and into our hearts for a moment. God gives to you mothers an abiding, inward, imperishable joy—joy rooted in God and in His grace to you as His daughters. Do not let the world squeeze you into its mold. And if there is any area in which the world system is trying to do so, it is in the area of motherhood today. There is a demonic, concerted attack on the dignity and glory of motherhood as created by God. Books, TV talk shows, politics—all proclaim that motherhood, as we understand it, is really depressing. A career is more important. Motherhood, we are told, can be chosen today outside of marriage. Why should an unmarried woman be denied this privilege? Motherhood should not stand in the way of a career. And if motherhood threatens to interrupt your plans, then the world says you may abort your child. Sterile operating rooms in our country slaughter millions of children, of people. And our generation, which in hypocrisy decries the holocaust of World War II and of Hiroshima and marches in protest against the death penalty, condones and defends and insists upon the slaughter of children. Our generation is going to have to answer one day to the Almighty! Motherhood—we are told that that is confining, degrading, restrictive, evil.
Now listen. All the people of God, listen! I do not want you to miss this truth. Scripture informs us of this truth: Motherhood is a joy given of God.
What is the source of this joy? It arises from three considerations. First of all, motherhood is the gift of God in bearing and delivering a child of the covenant. A believing woman is given the joy of witnessing a wonderwork of God—a work that must produce awe and rejoicing of the heart before God. The text emphasizes that motherhood is a work of God. He maketh the barren woman to keep house and to be a joyful mother of children. This is reminding us that pregnancy and birth are exclusively the work of almighty God. Yes, He sometimes does withhold children according to His will and grants His promises of love and grace when He withholds. But God is telling us that every time pregnancy and birth occur, it is His wonder of life.
Now, I know that all the medical and technological innovations and learning of men seem to rob us of this miracle of God. We hear of test-tube babies, in vitro fertilization. But the fact remains: life is created by God alone. And medicine and science cannot explain it. Ecclesiastes 11:5, “As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.”
Now pause, women and mothers, and all of us, to consider. Ponder these things in your heart. God forms another life out of you and gives to that life a soul. God uses your body to nurture, your organs to make room, so that this child draws his life from you and comes forth from you. And all of this is the wonderwork of the wondrous God. It must produce a humble joy—not boasting, not saying, Oh, look what I did! but look what God did.
The world, of course, sees a child as an extension of self, to bring pleasure to oneself. But the child of God boasts in the profound work of God in the gift of a child.
Secondly, the joy being referred to here is the joy of being found in the will of God. And that is biblical joy. What does it mean? It means that our God assigns to each one of us a station in His glorious kingdom, a place that is marked out with gracious care. That place can come to us in the church, home, family. And He says to us in that place, “Occupy till I come.” Work out here your salvation. And He gives us the talents for that place—talents that are not all the same, but wisely fitted for us.
The joy of heart that God gives to believing mothers is to receive their place from God thankfully and to seek to perform the will of God in that place. Motherhood is the will of God for you mothers. God’s will for you is that you nurture, rear, and give life to children and care for your husband. Outside of that will of God for you there is no joy. We can see that in the modern woman today, who rejects with disdain God Himself. There is no joy, but there is a deep, abiding grudge, bitterness and emptiness, a resentment. But the child of God finds joy in being in the will of God. ’Tis joy, we say, to do Thy will.
God’s will, which brings joy, is motherhood. It is the nurture and it is the care of children. That is a joy that comes not in spite of the task of being a mother. It is not a joy that is added to the task. But it is a joy found exactly in the task. The Savior Himself said that “he that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” When you are, as a mother, pursuing the will of your Creator and Redeemer, then your Creator and Redeemer, your Lord, rewards you with the experience of joy—the joy of being in His will.
Finally, the joy of a mother is found in this: you understand from the Word of God the importance of the task He has given. You should never say, and we ought not allow the statement, “I’m just a mother”—as if that is drudgery. Never say that! But let us have some joy. Let us have some amazement in the statement, “I have been blessed to be a mother!” Let us hear some thrill in the voice.
Through mothers God is preparing a church to praise Him. There is nothing more awesome than this, for God loves His church. And the end of all things is when His glorious face is going to shine reflected in the church that Christ saves. But Christ is now preparing that church in a very significant and indispensable manner through the instrumentality of believing mothers. This is the Scriptures. God is so gracious, so good, that He takes weak and sinful women, whom He loves in Jesus Christ, and He sanctifies them by His Holy Spirit and gives to them a crucial place in His kingdom of grace. Are you going to envy the world’s women? Oh, no! Honor those whom God hath honored. God takes sinful and frail and sometimes crabby women and prepares the children of the kingdom through them.
Are you joyful? How do you respond to the Word of God? We ought to respond today with humble thanks: “Oh, Lord, when I consider Thy works, the works of creating life within me; when I consider, O Lord, the privilege of serving Thee in Thy will; when I consider the importance of being a Christian mother and how Thy mighty hand prepares my children even for their eternal place—O Lord, I stand before Thee in humble joy!” Are you joyful?
“Joyful,” in the Scriptures, as I said before, is not always jumping up and down, but it is a contentment; it is a resolve; and it is a peace of heart. God calls me to do this and I am thankful that the Lord calls me to do this in my home.
He makes a joyful mother of children. Let us give God praise for that! Let us rejoice today in that. And as we rejoice, let us first of all guard this Word of God from a weakness, a weakness that is found at times in mothers. Let me explain.
I believe that Christian mothers who love their Lord Jesus Christ with all their heart and desire to be pleasing to Him, yet, as they come under the difficulties of being a mother, very often are tempted to morbid introspection, to excessive self-criticism, and to hopelessness, when they see their shortcomings.
This is what I have in mind. You have had a busy day. It began at six o’clock in the morning. You had to make the breakfast and the lunches and you had to get your kids off to school and your husband off to work. After that, you straightened up the house. You put the little ones down for their nap. You watered the marigolds. And after the little ones woke up, you gave them lunch and you went to the park. You returned in time to make and serve dinner. After that there was the homework, baths, bedtime stories, and the prayers. Finally, at 10, 11, you fall into bed exhausted. But you cannot sleep. For suddenly you remember how short you were with your daughter about her room, which was messy after you told her to pick it up. And you yelled. You remember how disappointed your son looked when you told him that you did not have time to color because you needed to fold the laundry. You think of the fact that you have gained five pounds. You have not had time for your husband. You had little time to pray. And you conclude that you are not a good mother, you are a horrible wife, and you feel the tons of anxiety and depression crushing upon you.
What does God say? God says that whenever we have sinned, we must confess that sin to God and, if need be, to the child tomorrow. Tomorrow will be sufficient. You do not need to wake the child up. But the Word of God says this: “You must not look to yourself, but you must look to your God, the God who delights in you and the God who is pleased to use you.”
I commend to you a verse in the Scriptures (Phil. 4:8), “If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise (if there be any good report, if there be any good thing), think on these things.” God does not condemn His daughters. He is the God of all mercy and the Father of all comfort. The living God does not pile upon you accusations, so many and so heavy that you cannot get out of bed in the morning. No, look to your heavenly Father, who loves you, who has justified you in the blood of Jesus, who cherishes you and has promised never to forsake you, and who says, “I make you a joyful mother of children. I will use you for the good of your children.” Look to God.
When we see, then, the blessings of motherhood, let us praise the Lord. And let us do that with irrepressible praise for God’s grace and goodness today. Do we do that? Do we do that today? Do we do that as those who know the truth of the covenant, who know the truths of the promises of God? Do we do that today for our Christian mothers?
Man, husband—what does God hear from your heart today about your wife and the mother of your children? When you see all of her work in the home and the marriage, the work of a wife and mother, what does God hear? Does He hear simply a grunt, “Well, yah, yah, I’m certainly thankful for my wife.” Or does He hear, rumbling in your heart, praise of how merciful God has been to you in giving to you such a wife and such a mother for your children? Do you praise and thank Him? Do you praise God, as a husband? I am amazed sometimes that husbands cannot, apparently, verbalize thankfulness. How many times, when I have asked a husband, “Do you ever thank your wife and show that you appreciate her?” he responds, “Well, she knows. I don’t need to tell her.” Yes, you do. That is the way God has made her. You need to tell her that you love her. You need to tell her that you pray for her. You need to tell her that you are thankful and praise God for her as your wife and as the mother of your children.
Do we do that as children today? Do we do that as young people, teenagers, young men and young women? Are you thankful for your mother? Children, are you thankful for your mommy today? Do you thank God for her, not just today, but always?
I remember my children telling me when they were younger how uncommon it was for kids to have lunches with homemade cookies, and then my thoughts went back that my mother would always make my lunch, and when she would put a cookie in that lunch, there was a part of my mother’s love in that cookie. Of course, today, the attitude is, “Why waste time with all of these mixes and baking stuff when we can use lunchables?” You know, it can even be seen in a lunch—the love and care of a mother. Children, do you thank God for your mother? Girls, teenage girls, do you thank God for your mother, or do you just argue with her? How long has it been since you thanked God for your mother, teenage boy? Do you praise God for her?
Let us hear the Word of God and let it mold us: God makes joyful mothers. The world raises its eyebrows. Another child? You are going to have another one? Don’t you know how they come? You are going to ruin your figure! Let us pray to God for our mothers. Let us call them blessed gifts of God. Let us exalt God who delights in showing such mercy to those who are nothing of themselves, those whom He raises up and makes joyful mothers of children.
Let us pray.
Father, may Thy Word be our joy, our comfort, our encouragement. Lord, we thank Thee that Thou hast so shown Thy love and presence in the gift of believing mothers. To Thee be praise and honor through Jesus Christ, Amen.