They say not to cry over spilled milk. Whoever said that must not have been breastfeeding.
For my unmarried and childless readers, this experience may not be relatable at the moment. So you’ll have to take my word for it when I say breastfeeding is harder than it seems, at least for some women. I am one of those women.
When you are the sole supplier of your baby’s sustenance, there is a great amount of pressure to make sure you’re doing it right. Every mom wants to know her baby has enough to eat. Adeline has been steadily gaining weight and growing like a weed, so I had no reason for concern. But last week, for what seemed like no reason, my supply suddenly seemed to drop. I couldn’t tell if Addie was just eating more or if Mommy Moo Cow was having an actual supply problem. So I did what any rational new mother would do: freaked out and tried all ten things on the list of Ten Ways to Increase Your Milk Supply.
I drank a gallon of water (and I hate water). I baked a dozen banana-flax muffins and ate four in one day. I didn’t go for a jog or even take the baby for a stroll. Did I mention I drank a gallon of water? I pumped after every feeding (and for those of you yet to experience pumping – picture a mammogram machine with a vacuum hose attached to it), but there were so many unknowns! I couldn’t tell how much the baby was eating, if I should have more or less, and the universal answer was, as usual: “Every woman is different.”
So I cried over milk, and it hadn’t even spilled yet.
“I’m a failure.” I sobbed to Josh. “I can’t even feed my baby. I did everything right and nothing is working.”
“You’re not a failure, babe – ”
“Well I sure feel like one. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. I hate this! The next baby, I’m not doing it. It’s not worth it.”
And in a display of maturity, I stormed into the bedroom to cry by myself.
If there is one thing I learned through pregnancy, it’s that the things we think aren’t worth praying about are the very things we should be praying about. As I sat on my bed in tears, I remember thinking: God doesn’t care about my breastfeeding problems.
But He did, and He does, and He cares about your “insignificant” problems too.
We all have moments where we feel like utter failures. It doesn’t have to be in motherhood, either. I remember the time I got called into my director’s office for missing an important project deadline.
“Can you explain why this wasn’t finished?”
Nope, can’t explain it. Floor, please swallow me now.
I felt like a failure: a bad employee, a lazy loser.
There was the time three months into my dating relationship with Josh that he confronted me about my selfishness. “Look, I love doing what you want to do, but you always resist doing things I like, and there has to be some give and take.”
Major girlfriend failure.
So what do we do when we feel as if we’ve failed? The first thing to recognize is that while feelings are real, they aren’t the problem. They are a symptom of the problem. To what, then, do feelings of failure point? Quite often, they point to a heart that finds value in what is accomplished, trusting in human strength instead of the faithfulness of God.
I’ve been studying Numbers in my quiet time (or not-so-quiet time, depending on the baby’s mood) and this morning Numbers 13:30 talked about overcoming. Numbers 13 depicts the Israelites’ first venture into the Promised Land. They sent a scouting party of twelve men to find out what the land was like: how big the cities were, how foreboding the enemy, and how fruitful the harvest. The party came back with good news and bad news: the good news was the land was fruitful! The bad news was the cities were fortified and the people were giants. Eleven of the men were convinced a victory was impossible. But one man stood up.
“Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it. For we are well able to overcome it.” Numbers 13:30
Caleb saw everything the eleven saw. He experienced the same circumstances. But he did not allow circumstances to dictate his faith in God, and he knew God’s promise would be fulfilled not by human strength, but by the strength of God Himself.
This chapter in Numbers gives us some important principles to take in as we deal with feelings of failure in our own lives:
- God’s promises outlast our circumstances.
God promised Israel victory over Canaan, but only Caleb believed Him. The other eleven spent 40 days (and possibly a good portion of their lives) overwhelmed by the situation before them, living in defeat before failure had even happened! Caleb’s optimistic outlook wasn’t foolhardy courage; it was confidence based on faith in God’s ability and trust in His word. Caleb believed God could do what He said He could do, no matter the circumstances, and no matter how much potential for failure lay ahead.
2. God’s power surmounts the insurmountable.
Every day of our lives, our actions prove whether or not we believe God is who He says He is, and that He can do what He says He can do. God says He will provide, protect, bless, adopt, and love us – Scripture is laced with His promises from the Old Testament to the New. We choose whether or not we believe Him.
Do you realize how illogical it is to disbelieve God’s promises? We who place our faith in Jesus Christ for our eternal destiny cannot afford to doubt God when it comes to His word. If God will not provide, protect, bless, and love us – how can we trust Him for salvation? If you cannot trust God to sustain and satisfy you in your singleness, how can you trust Him for life after death?
And if I believe God care enough to raise Jesus Christ from the dead for me, why do I believe He doesn’t care about my breastfeeding problems?
We have to acknowledge these points of faithlessness in our hearts and submit them to the Lord, asking Him to “help our unbelief” (Mark 9:24). God has the power to help us. He has the power to make an overcomer out of a failure. Caleb trusted in God’s power as well as His promise.
3. God’s love sustains through any situation.
God chose Israel to have a relationship with people; to commune with them, and to use them to show forth His goodness and glory to the rest of the world. God loved Israel, the same way He loves us today. Their victory in Canaan would be a beacon to the entire land, advertising that the Living God was with them – a God of hope and strength. So when Israel doubted God’s promise, power, and love, they weren’t just shortchanging themselves; they were tarnishing their witness and living as if God were as lifeless as a Canaanite idol, powerless to come to their aid.
But why would a loving God allow difficult, even painful, situations to confront us? Because we live in a fallen world where sin touches every part of our lives. But sin is not from God, created by God, or endorsed by God. Sin is the antithesis of Jesus Christ, and as such, the only hope we have in difficulty, trial, or pain is the One who can sustain us through it. Bad things do happen to good people; that’s the nature of our world. But we must remember that we too are touched by sin, and undeserving of the marvelous love God has shown us. As Iain Diuguid so aptly put it:
“If [humans] are in fact much worse [by nature] than we ever thought, then the astonishing aspect of the world is not that bad things happen to good people but the good things that happen to bad people… God’s patience with sinners is the really mysterious side of providence.”
Only God is truly good (Luke 18:9). Only Jesus was free of failure. In spite of this, He loved us enough to pave our way to holiness with the cross. In every situation, we can trust that same love to sustain us.
That means God sustains you when you feel you’ve failed at your job, your marriage, your relationship with your parents, your future, or your past. It means that facing the potential for failure doesn’t need to be intimidating, because we can say with Caleb: “I will go up and conquer, because I am well able to overcome.”
The Apostle Paul had moments of weakness and failure. Isn’t that comforting? But Paul didn’t wallow in his feelings; he turned them over to Christ:
“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. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10)
So how do we find strength in weakness, and how does that apply to the “insignificant” areas of our lives (*cough* breastfeeding)?
When we feel inadequate and anxious, we don’t treat the symptoms. We claim the promises we have and we place faith in their validity. So even in as small a thing as feeding my baby, I can say in Christ: “I don’t feel equipped for this calling, and I feel like I am failing. But I know that God has given me a household, and promised to make me a “joyful mother of children” (Psalm 113:7). This situation is stealing my joy. So I trust Him to provide me with the wisdom, knowledge, and resources to find a solution, because my God has promised, my God is powerful, and my God is love.”
He does not leave us alone.
Your Canaan will look different than mine. But remember who your God is, and “go up at once… for you are able to overcome.”
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Dear Girl, the Only One You’re Failing is Yourself
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