The Joy of Motherhood - John 16.21
May 10, 2009
Introduction: Perhaps some of the ladies are able to resonate with what one mother described as the fantasy and reality of motherhood:
The Fantasy: As your little ones sit quietly at the kitchen table and hum along with Beethoven, they absorb their age-appropriate encyclopedias. Meanwhile, you recreate the map of the U.S. using homemade sugar cookies. Ahhh, you think to yourself. This is what life's all about.
The Reality: Your little darlings simultaneously shriek, “Mine!” as they rip the latest Bob the Builder coloring book in two. Between loads of laundry, you smell smoke. You rush to the kitchen to find the slice-and-bake cookies burning in the oven. Fed up, you stand at the counter and remember the days when you thought you'd actually spend your life doing something worthwhile, like being a brain surgeon by day, and lawyer for the poor by night.
Jill Eggleton Brett, "Help! I'm Surrounded by Preschoolers," Christian Parenting Today (Summer 2004)
Surely, if one is not careful, motherhood may seem like a thankless job. The day to day battles that mothers face seem to overshadow the joy of fulfilling the role God has for them.
Jesus said in John 16:21 that “a woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.” I well understand the context of His statement. The disciples were mystified over Jesus’ statement concerning His death and subsequent resurrection. Jesus used the analogy of a pregnant woman giving birth, a very painful and intense process (especially in His day), to illustrate the pain that the disciples would experience at His absence (death). The woman’s joy of holding a newborn after the birthing experience paralleled the joy in the hearts of the disciples at Jesus’ resurrection, a joy no one would take from them (v. 22).
Still, that analogy is effective because of the great truth it carries. Biblical motherhood is punctuated with both sorrow and joy through life. The deep, painful recesses of trial are left behind when one truly contemplates how important motherhood is. The Christian mother is better able to handle the pain life brings because she has a foundation and clear directive from God’s Word with which she is able to fulfill the role God has given her.
Transition: The Bible carefully reveals why the joy of mothering is so elusive in our world today. It does so from the very beginning …in the book of beginnings - Genesis.
The Bible and Motherhood
- Genesis 4.1 records the first birth of a child named Cain. He grew up to kill his younger brother Able. Later in the same chapter we read that Cain’s line produces a man named Lamech who was a polygamist. This man killed someone and followed up the deed with a pride-filled poem for one of his wives. Cain as a precious babe held so much promise for Eve, but then the dark recesses emerged. It ends in a depraved humanity that faces the judgment of a worldwide flood.
- The line of Adam unfolds in Genesis 5 and we encounter Noah. He was the father of the one family that escaped the destruction of the world through a flood due to humanity’s pursuit of evil. However, Noah was not so pristine himself. He became drunk and his son Ham uncovered his father’s nakedness and boasted about it to his brothers. Noah cursed Ham and his line as a result.
- And so it goes… polygamy, lust, adultery, incest, and all sorts of evil once again corrupted humanity even after the flood.
- God called Abraham who serves as the embodiment of faith, but his family life had some problems as well. Sarah manipulated Abraham in order to produce a child through an adulterous union with her handmaid Hagar - no matter the cultural norm of the day, this was still wrong. Ishmael, the son of that union, competed with his half-brother Isaac and tore the family apart. Something that still haunts us today in the Middle East.
- Isaac’s twin boys, Esau and Jacob, became bitter rivals. The family suffered as a result, probably no one suffered more than Rebekah. She lost both her sons when she interfered and prodded Jacob to deceive her husband Isaac. She sent Jacob away to Haran with the question, “Why should I be bereaved also of you both in one day?” While she kept a furious Esau from killing Jacob, she was in fact, bereaved of them both in a day.
- Jacob’s elder sons, as you know, would grow up to sell their younger brother Joseph into slavery and lie to their father about it.
- Every generation in Genesis had its share of family problems and yet God remained faithful. It is wise for us to think about how this all began. Why do families struggle the way they do? Again, we turn to the beginning to understand…
Genesis 3:16 records God’s judgment leveled at Eve for eating the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” Many debate the meaning of the statement, “your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
Genesis 4:7 illuminates this passage with the same verb. Here, God speaks to a self-pitying Cain: “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”
- A comparison of these two verses is necessary. In addition to increased pain during childbirth (this is what Jesus alludes to in John 16), the woman would bear the perpetual struggle between herself and her husband in the marriage relationship.
- Genesis 4 uses the identical words and grammar found in Genesis 3. The desire of the woman in Genesis 3 is not a sexual or emotional desire for her husband. It is a desire to usurp his headship in the home. God is saying to Eve: “Your desire shall be for your husband - his role, his position - but he shall rule over you.” Sin’s desire to master us is parallel to the woman’s desire to master her husband. She will seek to control him; compelled to do so by a curse, a curse brought upon herself through The Fall.
- God adds that the husband would rule over his wife. His rule would often be cruel and dictatorial. Eve would attempt to control and usurp Adam and he would respond by imposing an authoritarian rule over her. Adam would suppress Eve in a way God never intended for him to do so. This is the nature of sin.
- This foundational curse is important to understand because it is alive and well today. It rips homes apart and has done so since sin entered the world.
Illustration: Fox News ran a story about a recent billboard advertisement for the law firm Fetman, Garland & Associates targeted young, wealthy, married couples of Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood. Its message was simple and tainted with the curse upon sinful man: “Life's short. Get a divorce.” On either side of the words were sexually-charged images of a man and a woman.
A city leader had the billboard removed after just one week, citing a technical reason—the firm had not filed the proper paperwork with the city.
With its many bars, restaurants, and dance clubs, the Gold Coast is a popular party spot, making it a prime location for the law firm to broadcast its services. In an interview, Corri Fetman said the sign “was supposed to be lighthearted … thought provoking … not boring like law firm advertising is.” She insisted it was not created to trivialize marriage. In her mind, the ad was “no different than any motivational book that says live your best life.”
Some agreed with the philosophy of the sign. On an Internet news message board, one reader wrote: “I love it. Kudos to the firm and the marketing idea! As an attorney, I am not at all offended by this billboard. Frankly, I find it refreshingly honest and insightful. Hey, it's true—if people are unhappy, there are plenty of options out there—get a divorce and get on with your life.”
Another poster had an entirely different view: “For those that [think] this is clever or humorous, how about placing a 5-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy in the background, clutching daddy as he is leaving the house?”
Associated Press, "'Life's Short, Get a Divorce' Law Firm Ad Causes a Stir in Chicago Neighborhood," FoxNews.com (5-4-07) and Jim Avila & Chris Francescani, "Billboard Jungle: Chicago Divorce Ad Comes Down," www.abcnews.com (6/1/07); submitted by David Slagle, Atlanta, Georgia, and Brian Lowery, associate editor, PreachingToday.com
Indeed, that would send a more accurate message relaying the destruction divorce truly causes. But we live in the day of blurring distinctions and roles in society. It is a day of everyone doing that which is right in their own eyes. The evidence of The Fall is all around us.
No evidence is more telling than the destructive fallout of the feminist movement…
Illustrations of Feminism:
Listen to this Declaration of Feminism: “Marriage has existed for the benefit of men and has been a legally sanctioned method of control over women. The end of the institution of marriage is a necessary condition for the liberation of woman. Therefore, it is important for us to encourage women to leave their husbands and not to live individually with men. Now we know that it is the institution of marriage that has failed us, and we must work to destroy it.”
- Most feminism is not as forthright as that statement. Modern feminists simply deny a wife’s duty to submit to her husband. Why? Because the dark recesses of the curse powerfully promotes within women a refusal to sacrifice perceived rights.
- In discussing the enticement the world is having on our society through what is called fulfilling employment, Rita Carver writes, “In today's world one wonders if mother is not headed for extinction. . . . Some of our feminist sisters have declared that as non-working mothers we are only maids doing the job any eight-year-old could accomplish” (quoted from Civilization in Crisis, Richard A. Fowler and H. Wayne House, Baker Book House, p. 6).
- A listener of a Christian radio program wrote saying that she had discovered thousands of books had been taken from her public library. Investigation showed that these books were the ones based on the traditional roles of father and mother—father the breadwinner with mother staying at home to rear the children. Now the shelves were stocked with books that portrayed the contemporary woman who pursues her career outside the home. The children are at a day-care center and the father is equally involved in their upbringing. The woman portrayed in that manner is in every respect equal to a man.
- Scripture warns about this bent toward self that plagues our society:
2 Timothy 2:24 - 3:7 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
- What is the key element that represents the world in the last days? Self-love! It is contrasted with the servanthood, something that must be recapture by and represent the Christian mother.
- Related to this self-love in 2 Timothy 3 are three things that stand out in connection with the family: (a) children who are “disobedient to parents,” (b) “without natural affection” (is the Greek, astorgos from astorgh, family affection, love of kindred, [G. Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, T. & T. Clark, 1973, p. p. 65]), and (c) “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” When these three exist, the family is destroyed as a protective force in society. Thus, in the radical feminist movement, all of these can be observed.
- We must be careful how we answer the dilemma faced in society:
What can the biblical mother give to her relationship that will remedy the difficulties she must overcome? When she searches the pages of Scripture, she will find that society will be repulsed by the remedy. It’s found in one word: Submission.
Ephesians 5:22-23 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.”
- The husband is given headship in the marriage and the wife is to arrange herself under his authority.
- Headship for the husband includes the duty to protect and provide for his wife even as Christ protects and provides for the church.
Titus 2:4-5 “…that [older women] admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”
Colossians 3:18 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”
- Submission is not an option; it is mandatory for true joy in Christian mothering. Violating this command undermines everything positive God reveals regarding the Christian home.
Proverbs 14:1 “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands.”
- Submission is toward your husband (Eph. 5.22, 24; Col. 3.18; Titus 2.5; 1 Pet. 3.1, 5). My wife has no duty to submit to any man merely on the grounds that he is a man and she is a woman.
- The only other institution outside marriage that limits leadership to men is the church. Men are to have teaching and administrative authority over the local church.
1 Timothy 2:11-12 “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.”
- The context of this passage demonstrates that it refers to leadership in the church. In 1 Timothy 3, pastors and deacons must be faithful men not women.
1 Corinthians 14:34-35 “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. 35 And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.”
- Scripture makes clear that male leadership governs the church. However, Scripture does not teach that every woman must submit to every man in every situation.
- All of God’s people, men and women, are commanded to submit to their pastors in the church:
Hebrews 13:17 “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”
- Women do not treat every man in the church as if he were in authority over them.
- Pastors in the church do not have the authority to intrude into the family and establish authority over a woman in the context of home and family life (unless carrying out Matt. 18 for a clear violation of Scripture). I have no authority to make decisions for church members and no right to command them regarding extra biblical issues in their private lives.
- Therefore, Paul commands women to ask their husbands questions at home. Answering spiritual questions is the husband’s duty.
- Submission is an emblem in the Christian marriage that communicates the church’s response to Jesus Christ. It is an expression of the grace of God to man. If women fail to submit, they rob grace from their children and husbands.
- God gave women a role to fulfill. He did not put them in an impossible place of subjugation. The remedy is found in the submission of the wife to her own husband by the grace of God!
Becoming a woman robed in biblical submission is very difficult today. Many think these women have lost their minds. They’ve checked their brains at the door of the church and entered into a life of slavery.
However, Christian mothers have not entered a life of slavery; but one of sacrifice. They’ve given their lives away and in the process gained them. The world would never understand that. Those without Christ would never understand that. But an attitude of sacrifice and submission are the key ingredients to joy in Christian motherhood.
Conclusion: Deep in the mountains of Niigata Prefecture, in the snow country of northern Japan, lies the tiny town of Takamachi. Heavy snowfalls can isolate towns and hamlets in the area for days.
During the worst blizzard to hit the area in thirteen years, work crews were attempting to clear the roads in and around Takamachi. On a Thursday, since the snowfall seemed to be letting up, Mrs. Tomiko Takano ventured out on an errand with her daughter. Her husband had left the house earlier to join the road clearing crews.
While Tomiko and her seven-year-old daughter Izumi were outside clearing a path to the road, an unusually high pile of snow on the roof suddenly gave way. Mother and daughter were buried beneath nearly ten feet of snow.
When Mr. Takano returned later in the day he saw that his wife and daughter were missing. He immediately launched a search. They were not found.
The next day, a work party clearing snow from around the Takano home heard a soft whimpering from a huge mound of snow beside the house. Frantically, they dug toward the sound and discovered Mrs. Takano's frozen body curled around Izumi. Because of her motherly love, Tomiko Takana gave her own life to save Izumi's life.
Bob Boardman, "No Greater Love," Discipleship Journal (March/April 1986)
There is no greater love than the love of sacrifice. It is the love which is fully displayed in the finished work of Christ. It is also the love that beckons the Christian mother home …a love that calls for submission and sacrifice; a love that produces the next generation of sacrifice. A love wanting and truly needed in our world today.
452 - I Stand Amazed in the Presence
Father, bless mothers today with an understanding of your will. Sweep away the confusion, and give clarity in this crucial area of family life. Give husbands a Christlike heart as they lead their homes and the ability to love, cherish, and adore their wives. Bring joy to the hearts of our mothers as they reflect upon the grand themes of Scripture and truly understand the importance of their calling in your sight! Father, we ask that the comfort and stability of biblical motherhood would once again become commonplace in our country. But your mercy and grace must begin here in our church and in countless faithful churches throughout the land. So, we ask for it - in Jesus name and for His sake. Amen.