The Truth About Mess & Stress In Motherhood

mess

Mess. Stress. Two words every mom knows…intimately.

We almost wear them like a badge of honor. Or at least like an inescapable part of life we should accept.

But I don’t buy that, dear one. I really don’t.

Let’s look at the lies that are becoming prevalent today and approach them with Biblical truth and grace for true freedom. And find out what we should be looking at.

Your Mess Isn’t A Masterpiece

Yes, kids make messes. Yes, your life gets busy and there are other priorities that come before housecleaning (and rightly so — good for you, discerning this!).

No one will argue with that, least of all me (with 8 kids, I am no stranger to chaos, my friend).

The Challenge With Mess

There was a time when church-going, Jesus-loving women made an idol of orderly homes. They reveled in their routines, clean floors, and immaculate counters.

Facebook feeds showed clean floors, creative dinners ready when Daddy got home, and kids with sparsely Scandinavian-styled play spaces. Minimalism became the maximum goal.

And then a new generation arose and called it out as a form of legalism that provided a misplaced sense of identity and worth in homemaking abilities instead of in Jesus.

In many cases, this was true.

And then there was a pendulum swing to the other side. Pictures of pristine surfaces were replaced with clutter and smiles of happy children.

It became a masterpiece created with layers of laughter and sticky fingers and time spent on loftier pursuits. Mess became every bit the idol that cleanliness was, but it was more cleverly disguised.

The Gift Of Mess

And then there’s the flip side.

Moms who seemingly have it all together sharing snapshots of their chaos so that no one elevates them to super human status.

They are trying to encourage other moms who feel like they’re drowning with photos of their own mess to help them see the they aren’t alone and it happens to all of us.

This is the gift of sharing your mess.

And it’s a good one. Truly, sweet. After all, we don’t want to feel alone, even in our mess. But if the only message is “I’m a mess, too” then it’s still a disservice.

The Distraction Of Mess

What if the discussion we’re having is the wrong one, sister?

What if a stance on mess v. cleanliness was a clever way for the enemy of your soul to cause division in the body of Christ and separate you, even just a tiny bit, from the body meant to encourage you closer to Jesus?

When the conversation moves from encouragement to condemnation, we’ve stepped out of God’s purpose.

When the focus moves from who we are in Christ to the home we create for our family, we’re steeping our lives in legalism and missing the point.

Is a clean home important? Sure. Is a saved heart eternal? Absolutely. Let’s not blur the lines between the two, though.

While the state of my home very well may reflect the state of my heart, attacking the state of my home (or reveling in it!) isn’t changing my heart.

Let’s remember what matters.

Your Stress Isn’t A Gift

I used to think that my stress was a gift, a reminder of my need for Jesus.

I used to actually say that out loud to remind myself. “I’m so overwhelmed, but that okay – it’s a gift; it’s reminding me that I need Jesus. My weakness reminds me of my need for His grace.”

After all, in our weakness He is strong. That’s Biblical, right?

The Disobedience Of Stress

Matthew 6:33 tells me to seek God first. And in Matthew 11 He issues a precious invitation:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30, ESV

While it’s clearly stated in Scripture that in this world we will have troubles and Christians should expect that there are times they will be persecuted like Christ, those are not the same as day to day stress.

Daily stress (over all the things on our to-do list) is caused by failure to Sabbath rest. It’s acting in your own strength when you should be standing in His rest.

It often comes from saying “yes” when your Shepherd is nudging you to say “no.” It often happens when you start to “do” because “good moms do….” or “godly wives do…”.

And it’s wholly avoidable. There’s hope!

The Confusion Of Stress

Here’s another important truth about stress:

When we confuse our actions with our fruit, we get stressed. 

Our actions are what we choose to do. Our fruit, however, is the natural result of who/what we choose to love.

Focusing on doing, doing, and doing some more will exhaust you. But focus on loving God and your family and let the rest follow? Your actions will be life giving to you! They will empower and encourage you instead of drain and stress you!

Let’s stop getting it backwards, my friend.

We don’t put the fruit on our tree and make ourselves holy. We allow God to make us holy and the fruit grows from His work in our lives.

It’s not your stress that points you to your need for God; it’s your sin that reveals your need for a Savior. And you’d never call sin a “gift,” would you?

Your stress doesn’t give you the hope of the Gospel, so don’t revel in it. 

It’s not a gift, but it is something that God uses for your good and His glory because you love Him. Just because He takes your stress and turns it into something beautiful because He loves you doesn’t mean it’s something to marvel at.

What is a gift? An easy yoke. A light burden. Rest in Jesus, not your circumstances.

The Source Of Stress

Stress doesn’t come because of the bills on the counter; it comes from wondering how they’re going to get paid.

Stress doesn’t come from children; it comes from wondering if you’re a good enough mom to raise them well.

Stress doesn’t come from a messy home or busy schedule; it comes from feeling inadequate and exhausted.

Stress isn’t an external force; it’s an internal struggle.

And yes, that struggle should make us run with fierce abandon into the arms of Jesus. Yes, absolutely yes!

But the gift isn’t the stressful reminder that you need Jesus; the gift is the sufficient grace and new mercies you receive that allay that stress.

The Gift Of Grace & Truth

Let’s remember to start our days receiving His mercy, steeped in His grace, and reliant on Him. Then we can receive the gifts He has for us without the stress. Then we can revel in being present without a mess.

So let’s have the real conversation.

It’s not about your mess or my stress; it’s about God. It’s about our need from Him and the love He lavishes on us. It’s about living a fruitful life.

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This piece originally appeared at Graceful Abandon, published with permission.

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Lisa Yvonne
Lisa Yvonne is a Jesus-loving wife, homeschooling mom of 8, overseas missionary, and author who encourages Christian women to bring the life-changing truth and grace of the Gospel into every single part of their day to day lives. You can find her at Graceful Abandon or on Facebook.