I cried into the chicken nuggets as I cut them into quarters for my little boy. The day had been challenging. When dinner time came, everything unraveled.
I had been slowly collapsing under the weight of exhaustion from weeks of sleep deprivation, pain from slowly recovering from surgery, parenting solo, and the seemingly endless whining, crying, and actual hurtful words aimed at me from my children.
It hadn’t just been the day. It had been day after day of the same thing. I struggle to mother well as is, but add on children who suddenly stop sleeping and who whine and cry and speak disrespectfully repeatedly throughout the day, and my negative thoughts tortured me until I felt like a hopeless failure.
I had been holding up the crushing weight of all my stressors and negative thinking, but as I cut those nuggets and heard simultaneous crying and yelling coming from both of my children for the umpteenth time that day, I collapsed into a puddle of tears. Those same little mouths hushed as they sat waiting at the dinner table staring at their momma, unsure of what to make of her tears.
I felt defeated.
In my mind I declared, “God, I cannot do this. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t stand another sleepless night. I can’t stand another single whine or complaint or disrespectful comment from my babies’ lips. I can’t do this. ”
The negative thoughts tried to snowball out of control as they had done many times before in my mind. I tried taking them captive with truth and gratitude. It stopped the snowball, but it didn’t change how I felt.
I wanted to declare defeat. I was done. I had nothing left to give. I wanted to give up.
And I’m no stranger to this place unfortunately, whether it’s experiencing the trials of every day moments of mothering or homemaking or being an Army wife or it’s facing giants of like tragedy and loss, I arrive at this place of defeat more often than I would like to admit.
It’s an ugly cycle I’ve been praying to break free from for years.
And here I was again. At this place of defeat.
And then a miraculous rhema moment.
As I cried out, “Lord I can’t do this anymore,” I heard God reply, “Can’t do what?”
When those words fell upon my soul, everything stopped. I hushed my own cries and leaned in to hear His voice.
“What have I asked you to do that you can’t do?”
I recognized the rhetorical question and waited for God to provide the answer.
“The only thing I ask of you is to love Me… Do you love Me?”
My soul quieted and responded, “Yes Lord you know I love you more than anything in this world.”
“I know. And that’s all I ask you to do. Can you and will you love Me? Yes you do.”
I paused, processing. All God asks is that I love Him, and He knows that I do. A gentle wave of peace washed over me, forcing the wave of defeat past, releasing me of its captivity.
I felt the burden of defeat lift. I felt free.
That was it. The simplest and clearest response I’ve ever received from God in the midst of my struggle with defeat: stop struggling to do all the things I think I need to do, that might even be good to do, and simply love God.
For days I had wanted the answers to be for my toddler to sleep again so I could sleep again, for my children to allow me to cook dinner without screaming or crying at me, for them to be grateful for whatever dinner I placed in front of them, and so on. I wanted God to give me what I wanted. But He reminded me, those aren’t the things I need.
“Love isn’t always giving us what we want; it’s being Who we need.” Kaitlin Wernet
I also realized that perhaps the reason for my feeling so emptied and inadequate and so easily defeated was because I hadn’t been filling myself with His word on a daily basis that week. Sure I was sneaking in time to read all the Christian (and good helpful) things, but it wasn’t the same as spending time with Him in His word.
“I’ve come to realize that the true antidote to my feelings of inadequacy is the voice of the Lord.” Katie Stoddard
How quickly we forget that God doesn’t ask for rule following, measuring up, or performance. God doesn’t place these expectations of what I should be cooking my children to eat for dinner nor does He define me by my child’s behavior or label me a failure as a mother when they complain about their dinners instead of giving thanks.
Whatever I’m struggling with and feeling defeated over, the answer to the struggle and the striving and the feelings of failure is the same:
Love God. Love others. That’s all He asks.
Choose to love. Choose to live loved by Him and choose to pour out His love onto others.
Freedom from striving and victory from defeat are found here.
Maybe you’ve experienced defeat in your life a time or two as well? A time when you just felt tired of trying and wanted to give up?
Defeated by the challenges of motherhood. Defeated by the pain of grief. Defeated by unrealized dreams. Defeated by cycles of sin and hurt as a result of your own doing or them being done to you.
Friends let us realize that defeat is just another word for hopelessness, and if hopelessness is a liar, so is defeat.
Let us remember these truths when we want to give up:
When we want to give up, God hasn’t given up on us.
“For I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
“The Lord will fight for you; you only need to be still.” Exodus 14:14
Where we see defeat, God sees victory.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37
“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57
Where we see hopelessness, God brings hope.
“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again- my Savior and my God!” Psalm 42:1-11
When we feel forgotten, God remembers us.
“Yet I will not forget you.” Isaiah 49 15
Where we see an area of our life (maybe our marriage, our children, our dreams) turn to ashes, God is breathing new life into them and bringing beauty to our lives.
The wilderness and dry land will be glad; the desert will rejoice and blossom like a rose. It will blossom abundantly and will also rejoice with joy and singing.” Isaiah 35: 1-2
When we see no way, God is making a way.
“I will lead the blind by a way they did not know; I will guide them on paths they have not known. I will turn darkness to light in front of them and rough places into level ground. This is what I will do for them, and I will not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16
When we feel like we can’t measure up, God doesn’t ask us to perform for Him, He asks for us to love Him.
“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” Matthew 22:38
When we call ourselves failures, God calls us His, His beloved, His children.
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine.” Isaiah 43:1b-2a
Can we believe that if we feel like giving up God isn’t giving up on us or our situation?
Can we believe that where we feel defeated God wants to bring us victory?
Can we believe that the areas of our lives that have turned to ashes will be made into something beautiful?
Can we choose to quiet our voices and lean in to listen to God’s whispers to hear His truth and His hope?
Can we also choose to lean into His love?
When we want to quit and walk away, can we choose to love Him and do the next right thing in love?
Let’s stop striving to live by our own (or others’) expectations, checklists, perfectionism, legalism, etc. and instead live with our hearts set on loving God and expecting Him to show us what this looks like in our lives.
Let’s expect victory where we only see defeat, let’s expect God to resurrect the dead places in our hearts and lives, and for His love to be enough.
“However dry and parched your emotional landscape may feel this season, don’t despair. Because when the rain of God’s reign inevitably falls, your life will bloom.” Lisa Harper
**Some of this week’s revelations and quotes in this post come from the She Reads Truth Lenten study of Isaiah that I am doing. You can check it out here.
Also, Ann Voskamp shared a timely post the day after my tears landed in the chicken nuggets and God whispered this revelation to me: “Help for Parents Who Want to Give Up.”