The line is so familiar. I’ve been singing it since I was small. I sing it to my children often: Little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong.
The weakness of little ones can hardly be denied, especially by mothers. Children are small, vulnerable, and desperately needy–totally dependent on another for everything. As their primary caretakers, it’s easy for us as mothers to slip into thinking that we don’t share in our children’s weakness. In fact, I think many of us enter motherhood singing the line as it is written but maybe believing our own version: Little ones to me belong, they are weak but I am strong.
We are the strong ones, right? After all, we’re the ones who grow new life and nourish it from our own bodies. The ones who wash dishes, change diapers, tackle laundry, cook meals, read books, parent hearts, and train a future generation toward independence. We’re the ones who juggle doctor’s appointments, haircuts, soccer practice, homework, and school programs. We stay up late and get up early to do all the things. We’re the ones who keep all the balls in the air…until we drop one…or two…or all of them.
I didn’t get very far into motherhood before I realized I’m not as strong as I would like to think I am. And that’s by design. When we’re “killing it” in any area of life, we’re prone to start believing we have no need for a Savior. Exposed weakness is a gift that brings pain in the moment but makes the good news of the gospel very sweet.
No mother feels strong when she faces the daily avalanche of laundry or when she completely forgets an appointment. No mom feels “super” when every child needs something at once, and she doesn’t have enough hands (or energy) to go around. How strong is the mom who loses her temper and speaks harshly to a little one? Or the mom who ignores the sibling fight in the playroom while she scrolls Instagram? What about the mom who feels overcome by anxiety, discouragement, or exhaustion? What is the hope for moms like me who realize we aren’t much stronger than the little ones in our care?
Mothers in Christ to Him belong, we are weak but He is strong.
The good news of Jesus Christ is the hope for needy moms. My pastor said today, “Receiving Jesus gladly means first despairing of our own ability to save ourselves, then clinging to him for rescue.” Strong, perfect moms have no need for Jesus, but he is hope and salvation for all of us who know we’re not enough. How?
He lived the life sinful mothers cannot live.
No, Jesus was not a mother, but that doesn’t mean he is unable to relate to the many temptations common to mothers. Jesus is well acquainted with the exhaustion that comes from meeting constant physical demands (Mark 5:24). He knows what it’s like to always be “on call” and to get very little time alone (Matthew 14:13). Jesus knows the daily fight for time with the Father (Mark 1:35). He knows the temptation to find joy and satisfaction in the pleasures of the world and the approval of man (Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus knows what it’s like to mediate sibling rivalry (Mark 10:35-45) and to comfort weary, fearful “children’ in the middle of the night (Matthew 14:22-27). He knows the sorrow of loss (John 11:35), the sting of being misunderstood, and the agony of betrayal and separation (Luke 22:54-62, Matthew 27:46-47).
The man Christ Jesus can relate to every one of our circumstances and temptations, but, amazingly, he cannot relate to our sin. He was tempted in every category we are tempted in, yet never responded sinfully in thought, word, or deed (Hebrews 4:15). He lived the perfect life God’s holiness requires.
He died the death sinful mothers deserve to die.
Unlike Jesus, we don’t respond to the many temptations we face as mothers with faith and holiness. Sadly, we often respond with fear, anxiety, apathy, pride, selfishness, impatience, laziness, idolatry, and a host of other sins that deserve God’s just judgment. We are weak. But God does not crush us as we deserve because he crushed his strong and perfect Son in our place. When we are faced with the shortcomings and failures of our mothering efforts, we don’t have to live with the despair of constant mom-guilt. We only need to look to the cross where Jesus took every ounce of our guilt upon himself and paid our debt in full.
Mothers receive the life and death of Christ by faith.
The perfect life and substitutionary death of Christ are both credited to the believing mom by faith. When we turn away from resting in our own perceived strength and rest in Christ’s perfection alone, God declares us righteous! When he looks at us, he sees us through the perfection of his Son, and then he uses every circumstance of our lives (including motherhood) to progressively make us look like Jesus. Though it seems paradoxical, the more we grow in Christ-likeness, the more boldly we declare our own weakness and his perfect strength. Our growth in holiness means we see it more clearly and rest in it more fully with each passing day. And, full of the hope of the gospel, we can now sing with our children: “Moms and kids to Him belong, we are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves us. Yes, Jesus loves us. Yes, Jesus loves us, for the Bible tells us so.”
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. -2 Corinthians 12:9