One of the most humbling sets of verses in the whole Bible for me is Philippians 2:14-18. Paul writes these words right on the heels of his passage about how Christ Jesus emptied Himself, laid down everything for our sake, and went to the cross:
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.” Philippians 2:14-18 ESV
Paul implores us here to have the same mind as Jesus did and count others more significant than ourselves. We do this when we lay down our lives, our desires, our goals and dreams for one another – and when we do it without grumbling.
A few years ago, I was heavy-pregnant and standing in the back of church, hearing a sermon being preached on those verses in Philippians. I can’t remember if it was actually said this way, but I was hit very hard with the clear realization that God is calling me to be poured out as an offering.
My offering to the Lord is my everyday life, lived faithfully. Every toddler tantrum that I parent through, every reading lesson I give, feeding a baby, cooking dinner, folding laundry – all of it is for Jesus.
I am being poured out, and as I raise my children to know Christ, this pouring out is for the strengthening of their faith. And I do believe that the continual pouring out, if done faithfully, will ultimately lead to gladness and rejoicing in Christ.
My temptation though, is to mentally hang onto all the things I’m laying down and keep a checklist of how wonderful I’ve been all day: I didn’t yell; I was cheerful and patient; I spent time with each child; I sacrificed my time and energy. Go me!
This list-building just leads me to indulging feelings of being underappreciated, which just leads me further into bitterness: Don’t they all know how much I’ve done and how wonderful I’ve been?
But the truth is, while I might be laying down my life in one sense, if I’m grumbling by keeping a list of the things I’ve done or given up, it isn’t real sacrifice. Fixing my eyes on all my accomplishments and cataloguing my own righteousness really just leads to grumbling. I’m not dwelling on the work of Christ, or serving my family out of love and gratitude for all He has done for me.
And at the end of the day, all I have to show for myself is pent-up, self-congratulatory bitterness and then nobody has been blessed. Not my family, not me, and certainly not the Lord.
Always enough Jesus
But how can I be poured out when I feel empty? When the latest parenting issue has left me feeling completely drained? How can I possibly have anything to give when I am certain, deep down in my soul, that there’s never going to be enough of me to go around?
There’s no short, easy formula for always having it together or a checklist for making sure I always feel filled with what I need. But I know Who to go to so I can be filled up.
The truth is (and this is what I keep having to tell myself), there is never going to be enough of me to go around. But there will always, always be enough Jesus for all of us.
This is our comfort and reassurance, and our reason to be glad and rejoice in the ways God calls you and me to be poured out.
The promise is real
There are heavy seasons in life when rejoicing seems far away. For you, it might be sleepless nights, chronic pain, miscarriage, the physical death of a loved one or a relational death, depression, the struggle to meet everyone’s expectations, fighting to keep a brave face in the midst of a painful trial, or loneliness. But you’re not alone.
You have a Savior who has promised to never leave or forsake you. He calls you to come to Him when you are heavily burdened with cares, and He promises rest. It’s sometimes challenging for us as mothers to see what rest looks like, but these are real promises that you can trust and hold onto.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 ESV)
And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14 ESV)
“…I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 ESV)
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)
“cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7 ESV)
Whatever stage of motherhood you are in, and wherever you are called to be poured out, go to Jesus to be filled up. If He has called you into motherhood, then you can be certain he will sustain you with His Word and Spirit. The struggle is real, as the saying goes, but you can rest knowing that God’s promise is stronger, and God’s promises always win over our struggles.
Fill your mind and heart with His Word, surround yourself with people who will speak God’s truth to you, and ask Him for strength and confidence in what He has called you to. He delights in answering those prayers.
Rejoice in your calling, because a calling to be poured out is a calling to be like Christ Jesus, offering ourselves and rejoicing in God’s strong, faithful promises.
Bethany Barendregt is a wife, mom of five, and one of the founders of Women Encouraged. She cohosts the WE podcast and loves writing on what God is teaching her about being faithful, finding joy, and living in the welcome of Christ. You can connect with her through the Women Encouraged community on Facebook and on Instagram @womenencouraged and @bethanybarendregt. She also writes at her blog Joy Lives Here. A version of this post first appeared on Bethany’s blog in 2015.