Ascetic Motherhood & Why Hard is Not More Holy [The Women’s Issues Series]

Motherhood, Podcast Episodes

In segment four of the Verity Podcast series on women’s issues, we talk about a trend in Christian motherhood to focus on the hard, glorifying it to the level of “suffering” and even setting up a legalistic view of hard things as “holier” or more Christlike.

While hard things do come with motherhood, and hard is not bad, neither are we permitted to make new laws out of personal choices. If we make personal motherhood choices that limit our freedom and result in more difficulty than the choices another mom makes, that is not a higher and holier road. It’s simply a freedom issue.

This episode dives into how Christian women have adopted an ascetic mindset toward motherhood that can exacerbate anxiety and depression.

In this episode:

  • Suffering in Scripture
    • Trials are permitted by God and/or are consequences of a fallen world
    • Suffering/trials in Scripture are different than 1) consequences of sin and 2) personal choices on freedom issues
    • True “trials” bring the peace and presence of God
    • Christ sustains for what He permits
  • Asceticism
    • Self chosen difficulty/persecution for the sake of spirituality
    • Not Spirit-led; legalistic
    • Believes enjoying life is “lesser” and that people who enjoy their choices/life aren’t as Christlike (often an unconscious thought/judgment)
    • “Hard = Better; Easy = Bad”
    • Often comes with anxiety, jealousy, and superiority
      • “I’m better because I sacrifice more”
      • “I’m more loving to my kids because I have less sleep”
      • “I’m guilty/anxious if I go on a date/get out of the house/ take a break”
  • The gospel for moms
    • No shame or guilt : Romans. 8:1
    • God’s provision and peace Psalm 34:4-6
  • Article on Asceticism
  • Breast is Best

Listen Now



Welcome to Verity. I’m your host, Phylicia Masonheimer, an author, speaker, and Bible teacher. This podcast will help you embrace the history and depth of the Christian faith. Ask questions, seek answers, and devote yourself to becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. You don’t have to settle for watered-down Christian teaching. And if you’re ready to go deeper, God is just as ready to take you there. This is Verity, where every woman is a theologian.

Well, hello, friends. Phylicia Masonheimer here. In this video, we are actually talking about a topic that’s going to be streamed on the Verity podcast, discussing motherhood and how the gospel meets us in this issue that is so relevant to women. So, specifically, in this particular video/episode, we’re going to be talking about asceticism. What is asceticism and how [unintelligible 00:00:58] so much of motherhood today, both in the church and outside of the church. Now, what we’re going to talk about is our theology of suffering. And again, the definition of asceticism because you might not know what that means, or what that looks like. And once I describe it, I think you’re going to recognize it right away, because a lot of us really struggle with this, especially as Christians.

Now, this is kind of a follow-up on what I talked about regarding breastfeeding. Now, as you guys know, I have a very particular experience with breastfeeding. But that’s not really what this is about. This is a vehicle for the discussion because what we’re going to talk about today in relation to motherhood and the gospel really [unintelligible 00:01:41] every single area of parenting decisions, and motherhood in general. Whether it is the kind of birth you had, how to feed your baby, how you parent your baby, how you teach your baby to sleep, etc., whatever it is, most likely, this issue is going to be relevant, because the mommy wars exist precisely because of what we’re talking about today.

Now, obviously, anywhere you have dissension and grief, and anger and shame, and all of those lovely things, the gospel is going to address that. The gospel is going to speak to that. Because the gospel is not just for spiritual things. It’s for every person in their real lives. And so, as moms, the gospel is particularly relevant. And this is why I love ministries like Resin Motherhood, that constantly bring the gospel back into view in this area that those of us who have children are facing.

And so, why is this happening? I want to start there. Why is this happening among moms? Why are there so many fights online? I’ve talked to several friends of mine who are just about to have kids, they’re pregnant, or they’re at planning stages. And they have said to me, “I am just astonished at the things that are so controversial. I just asked an honest question. And I’m being completely demolished, because of what I’m hoping to do with my kids.” And I said, “Well, prepare yourself because there’s about a dozen more topics that you can’t talk about either.” And if you’ve ever been in a Facebook moms’ group, you know that that can be very true. So, why is this happening?

Well, if you listen to the breastfeeding episode of the podcast, we talk about this, but I’m going to do a little recap here. The reason this is happening has to do with identity, idolatry, and legalism. So, the mommy wars actually exist because of the unique idolatry of our own children, of our identity as moms. And once you are worshipping that, once you have that particular worship, you actually become what you worship. And everything and every decision that goes into that becomes a part of who you are, because you worship that thing. So, if we’re not careful, we can begin to actually worship our children, worship our identity as moms and in a way, worship the decisions that we’re making for our kids. Obviously, we love our kids. Obviously, we want what’s best for them. But the problem comes when that best is your identity. Because when another mom has a different kind of best, and a different kind of best decision and a way that she loves her kids, what’s going to happen is you will ultimately feel threatened because your own identity is at stake. And so, when we worship this identity as moms and it becomes who we are, then anytime someone else does something different and best is redefined in their family, we feel attacked, and this is why we see the mommy wars.

Now, what goes along with this though is when you have an idol in your life, you also have to set up a form of ritual worship. And I know this sounds so crazy that we’re talking about this in terms of mommy wars and mommy culture but follow me here. You have to have a certain way of approaching that idol in your life. And so, you have to set up some laws, some operating guidelines for yourself. And those guidelines become the measure for how you make your decisions, how you view what you’re worshiping. It’s legalism.

We create our own laws for how you should parent and how you should do this and how to do that. And I’ve done the science, I’ve read everything about it. Therefore, this is the only way, the best, best, best, way. Even when there is science to back something up, we cannot see any alternative when we have wrapped our identity up in that issue. We can’t see that there might be a reason that someone would do something differently. Or we can’t see that, “Oh, maybe something happened during her birth, and she had to have a C-section,” or, “Hey, maybe she can’t breastfeed or she doesn’t want to, and her baby is still getting the best alternative to breast milk.” And that is fine. And it’s great. The problem is we can’t say it’s fine and great if our identity is in that decision. Because if what she did is just as valid as what I did, then maybe I’m not actually doing the best thing. We create our own new legalism that we then measure all of these other moms by, and we say, “Well, they’re not doing this. So, they’re not worthy.”

We would never say that they’re not worthy of salvation. They’re not worthy of Jesus in so many words. But in our actions and in our judgments, and in the way we talk about it, we can present that idea that, “Well, you don’t really love your kids the way that God wants you to love your kids because you don’t co-sleep. Or because you use formula, or you don’t use formula, or you breastfeed till they’re two.” When you’re in these arenas, in the crunchy world arena, the natural world, there’s so much shame and guilt there. But you can see it anywhere else, you can be a long-term breastfeeder and have people shame you for not using formula. You can have it happen with natural birth versus C-section. You could have it happen if you sleep train. I have that happen to me a lot, because we sleep train. It can happen in any arena. Because anywhere you have an idol, you will also have legalism. And anywhere you have your identity wrapped up in what you’re worshiping, you’re going to end up applying that legalism to other people. This is where motherhood is at in the world.

And it sneaks into the church. Because if you don’t keep Jesus as King and as the one on the throne, and you don’t keep your kids in the right place in your life, you’re going to fall into this trap. And so that’s where we’re at, I talk about that in the breastfeeding episode. And we’re going to be now moving into this theology of suffering and motherhood.

Now, you guys know that I have talked about so many times, that we need to be more positive about birth, and I am such an advocate for birth education, understanding pregnancy and birth rightly. I have a whole episode about that. But moving into that having children, I always say, hard is not bad. Hard is not bad. We know that there are good things that come from the difficulties of motherhood, we should celebrate the good, we should be positive, we should talk about the positive. This doesn’t mean there aren’t hard things. We, my husband and I, we currently have three children. The youngest is almost four weeks old. And right now, we’re trying to potty train our second child. And our dog is barely potty trained. So, we’re like juggling all of this stuff right now. And there have been some really exhausting days and nights. Does that mean it’s bad? No, it does not mean it’s bad. It just means that it’s difficult. And we’re in a little bit of a sanctifying season right now. And so, that’s what I’m going to focus on, even though I’m tired, even though I’m not sleeping a whole lot right now.

But when we talk about motherhood, we can end up in one of two very extreme camps without realizing it, and we can justify one of these even with Scripture. So, the one camp is kind of what we are reacting against. And this is selfish motherhood. This is motherhood that’s like, “Well, I’m going to do what I’m going to want to do, and whatever and everybody else, and see you kids. I’m shopping.” It’s kind of this caricature of this selfish suburban mom that I’m not sure how often exists. I’m sure she does exist, but it’s kind of this person that none of us want to be. And so, what can end up happening is women actually swing to this extreme on the other side of the pendulum. They ride the pendulum over to the other side. And what happens is they become their own martyr in a way. They start to feel guilty for anytime they take off. They don’t feel like they can get a babysitter, or that they can go off for coffee by themselves or ask their husband to help if he’s not noticing things. Or that maybe they can’t stop breastfeeding because they have to make it to a year, or they have to make it through the natural birth without an epidural, because they just got to do it, it’s the best thing. Or whatever else it is, any arena, this can happen anywhere. Or they aren’t going to pursue a sleep coach, because the only loving thing you can do is for your baby to wake you up through the night until they’re six. There’s nothing else you can do about it. And sleep deprivation is a badge of honor or vice versa.

Any area, there can be this legalism and guilt that follows us. And what we do is we can actually say we can actually use Scripture and say, “Well, this is my suffering. And I’m more Christ like, because I’m suffering for my kids. I’ve actually had people tell me this, that it’s more Christ like to breastfeed because it’s more sacrificial. So, if I stop, which most of you know that I’m stopping at six weeks, this time, if I stop, and I’m not willing to lay myself down for my kids. I’m not willing to do something difficult and show my kids that I love them. Now, you might be like, “Oh, I would never say that to somebody,” and that’s awesome. But are you believing that? Are you believing that in an area of your motherhood, that the more I suffer, the more loving I am, the harder my motherhood is, the more God is pleased with me, the more I’m like God?

What this is, this view of God is not actually scriptural at all. It is not in Scripture. This idea that you need to pursue difficulty or pursue hardship or trial, and that God is more pleased by that, is asceticism, not a correct theology of suffering. See, in Scripture, what we see is that trials are permitted by God and motherhood actually brings a lot of trials with it. There are difficulties that we are never going to be able to escape. Hard things. I have an autoimmune disease that was brought on by pregnancy. That’s a trial that I didn’t expect, I really couldn’t escape it. It just happened. And these are consequences of a fallen world that God is present with us in that.

Now, the thing about suffering is God sustains for what he permits. So, you know how when Paul said, “His grace is sufficient for me, for His power is made perfect in my weakness.” Paul had asked God three times to remove his suffering, and God said, “I’m not going to remove it, but I am going to give you my grace to sustain you.” Now, here’s the thing. Do you know that phrase that says, “Worry is borrowing from tomorrow–” I’m butchering the phrase, but worry is borrowing from tomorrow. It’s the same with suffering, if you go and pursue difficulty in your motherhood, and you say, “I have to do this, because this is the best thing. No way out and you know what, it’s really hard, but that means that it’s [unintelligible 00:13:16] totally your or better, or God is more pleased, or I’m a better parent because of it. The harder it is, the better it is.” What we’re effectively doing when we’re anxious and upset, and we’re emotional and depressed over that we have to ask ourselves, is that actually what God is calling you to do for your kids? Or is that what you have picked up, and you have decided you’re going to do. Because God gives grace for the trials he permits, God gives grace for what he’s called you to do. He equips you for the things he calls you to do. But if you go and find something, and you decide that’s what you’re going to do, and you’re struggling so much mentally and emotionally in that, you have to ask yourself, “Did God called me to do this?” or, “Is God giving me freedom to stop?”

And this is where– some people don’t want to hear this. But these issues are not moral issues. Natural birth is not a moral issue. Breastfeeding is not a moral issue. You cannot say that somebody who chooses not to do these things is in sin. We can’t say that. And so, when we take our little ruler of this is what perfect motherhood is, and the ideal thing for your kid and hold it up against people, what we’re doing is we are being legalist. And that’s a really hard word, and all of us have to keep that in mind when we’re talking about this. I love being a home birth mom, I love natural birth. And if somebody was like, “I’m considering a natural birth,” I’d be like, “Can I give you all the resources? Let me help you. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” just like people do to me when they love breastfeeding, right?

But what I have to remember is, is God calling them to homebirth? Is God calling them to this? Is this what God is specifically leading them to? Because God specifically leads on this stuff you guys. And if God is not calling you to that and bringing you to that, then it’s not my place to say that’s what you should be doing. God actually specifically leads in areas of motherhood too and in areas of parenting. That’s why we see so many different things among Christians. And that is what people don’t understand. Because if you don’t understand walking by the spirit, you’re not going to understand how people can end up doing different things and how it can look different family and family, under the umbrella of orthodoxy.

One of my primary missions with the Verity podcast is to supply theology in an approachable and understandable way for the new believer or the longtime disciple of Christ. I know that theology can be overwhelming, and sometimes it feels like you don’t know what book to pick up or where to even start. And that is why I wrote Theology Basics. The Theology Basics is not a systematic theology. It’s not a book that is going to weigh as much as a dictionary. It’s just a simple eBook that introduces the concepts in basic, fundamental principles of theology on the nature of God, the nature of man, authority of Scripture, and salvation. So, if you’re starting out and you don’t know where to begin, this would be a great resource for you. Theology Basics is only $10 on my website, in our shop, and it’s available all the time. So, if you head to, you can click on Shop, and you’ll find Theology Basics, as well as my other eBooks all available right there. I hope that Theology Basics opens a door to your excitement and curiosity about what it means to be a Christian, and how to truly understand what it is that we believe.

Okay, we’ve established that Christ sustains for the trials that he permits, he walks with you through those. Suffering and trials in a correct biblical theology of suffering, they are not consequences of sin either. We don’t sin and then say, “Oh, God has permitted this suffering.” No, if you sin and you have a consequence, that’s the consequence of sin he’s letting you walk through and it’s not a trial. It’s what happened because of a simple choice. So, trials are separate from that. The book of Job really breaks this down. And as I said before, peace characterizes the trials that we face. Now, we might fight for that peace, but God brings that peace in those trials. He says I’m sufficient for you, I’m walking with you.

But when we go when we pick up things that he did not call us to pick up, and we put ourselves through something that he did not ask us to do, or maybe he’s saying, “This is a freedom thing. You don’t have to do this. You can do it, or you don’t.” Either way, a lot of these decisions that are so divisive in the motherhood world are things that we are adding laws to. We’re not seeing that God is saying, “This is freedom. You can decide to do this or not to do this. And it doesn’t mean you don’t love your child.”

Okay, so let’s talk about asceticism then. What is asceticism? It is a self-chosen difficulty or a persecution of yourself for the sake of greater spirituality. And I’m going to read you a little description of this. Ascetic renounce worldly pleasures that distract from spiritual growth and enlightenment and live a life of abstinence, austerity, and extreme self-denial. They believe that holiness can reside only in the spiritual realm and all physical matter is evil. They don’t necessarily believe that flesh is evil, but they do go to great lengths to deny the flesh in order to transform the mind or free the spirit. Asceticism has historically involved fasting, heat and cold, sleep deprivation, flagellation, whipping oneself, and more.

So clearly, most people would be like, “I’m not getting a whip out and whipping myself.” Well, of course not. But are you making decisions in motherhood that you believe are better because they’re harder? Because what that says about your theology of God is that God prefers when you’re suffering, and that he is less pleased when you are full of joy, or he is less pleased when you take an easier road. Remember, we’re talking non-sin issues right now. So, when you’re taking the easier road on something that’s not a sin issue, God is not less pleased with you. God is just as pleased with you. Whether you choose to stop breastfeeding because of your mental health, or you choose to get an epidural after 12 hours of hard labor, as it would be if you made it to that labor, or you breastfed to one year. And I know that some of you might be getting all wiggly inside. I get it. I’m in the crunchy natural birthing world, you’d be like, “Well, there’s so many benefits.” Yeah, there are, there are so many benefits. But you know what? We live in a fallen world. And it doesn’t always work. And we have freedom of choice on non-sin issues. And that has to be something that we emphasize.

And so, another thing about asceticism is that it’s not spirit led. The Holy Spirit does not lead you to this. It’s legalistic. And it believes ultimately that enjoying life is lesser, with lesser value to God. And that hard is good, easy is bad. This often comes with anxiety, jealousy, and superiority. This idea that we are better than. A couple of things that we can verbally whip ourselves with are, “I’m better because I sacrifice more. I’m more loving, because I have less sleep. I’m guilty or anxious if I stop or I take a break, or I go on a date, or I go out with my husband.”

My husband and I, we go on a date within the first six weeks of a child’s life. But other people choose not to do that. That’s totally fine. But I have had people say that it’s selfish if I got a babysitter within those first six weeks. Well, why is it selfish? Why would that be selfish? What about that is selfish? My baby is cared for and taken care of and being watched by people who love them. And I’m going out with my husband and cultivating that marriage relationship. What about that is selfish? But when we have this measure, and we use it against other people, what we’re doing is we’re actually speaking from resentment and we’re speaking from bitterness. Because perhaps, in our motherhood, we don’t want to make time for that. Or we are driven by guilt maybe. And so, we feel too guilty to go on a date. And so, we resent the woman who didn’t feel guilty and went on a date. Do you see how crazy this is? This is not scriptural and not biblical. There is freedom on these issues. And so, if someone decides not to go on a date to their child is seven months old, that’s totally fine. But you can’t judge the woman who does go on a date within the first month of her child’s life and say that she’s not loving, because what you did was harder than what she did.

So, this kind of division goes away when we recognize where’s my identity? What am I worshiping? Am I applying the law to someone else that actually doesn’t apply to them? Am I considering that my decisions are supposed to be led by the Spirit, and that means that the Spirit might lead someone differently than me? Those are things that we have to be considering. And honestly, I think if we rejected this asceticism, rejected this unbiblical guilt and shame, we would see less postpartum anxiety, less postpartum depression, or at least lasting as long as it does. Obviously, this isn’t a complete solution, because a lot of that’s hormonal, but there are still many elements that make it worse, and so many moms are saying I feel unsupported, or I feel like I never sleep, I feel like this and this, will, because they’re making so many decisions out of guilt, and comparison and shame and the idea that if it’s harder, it’s better. So, if it’s harder, and I’m more miserable, and I’m maxed out, and I’m exhausted, then I’m doing the right thing. That I’m more Christ like, the more I’m suffering, the more I must be on the right track.

You guys, there are hard, suffering type of things that happen in motherhood. But they do not necessarily mean that you have to keep going in that. You don’t necessarily have to suffer to be a good mom. There will be seasons of hardship and seasons of easy, and easy is just as pleasing to God as the hardest as long as you’re walking with Him and walking in his leading. We do not have to martyr ourselves in order to please Him. If God wants you to be a martyr– the martyrs in Scripture, let’s talk about the real physical martyrs. They didn’t go into it saying, “I want to die for God.” It was, “I’m going to follow God where he leads me. And if he leads me to die, in a lion’s den, I will die.” But they weren’t out there looking for lions’ dens to die in. We do not have to martyr ourselves as moms. We do have to follow God’s Word and His leading and his call to spirits leading so that we can see, “Okay, you know what? This is a hard season. God’s going to sustain me in it.” And you know what? I don’t care what anybody thinks, I’m going to go on a date with my husband, or I’m going to breastfeed till my child’s three and Aunt Susie can stop making comments. It doesn’t matter. It’s my freedom issue. I’m going to co-sleep, and I’ve researched it and that’s my decision.

And this is not an arrogant way, like, “Get out of my face.” It’s not an arrogant way of presenting this. It’s simply I’m at peace of my decision, and I know that what I’m doing is a freedom issue. So, if someone else does something differently, I’m not going to feel threatened. I’m not going to feel threatened by the fact that her best choice for her kid is not the same as my best choice. And this is why things like breast is best aren’t always helpful long term. Oh, here’s a little [unintelligible 00:25:27] So, you guys get to actually see him in action. [unintelligible [00:25:33]

But one of the things, when you think about this, I want to list– hit me in the back with the purple– when you think about this, because I’m living this in front of you right now. The sacrifice of, “Oh, I’m being interrupted as I’m working to take care of my baby. Oh, my goodness, what a sacrifice.” Those are things that are just a part of motherhood. They’re a part of what we do, because we love and care for our kids. But when we exaggerate that into a trial, “Oh, I can’t get anything done because I have my kids” Well, let’s ask a question of ourselves in that moment. Am I taking the steps that I can control? Am I prioritizing the things that make it possible for me to do some of what I want to do? For instance, in my personal life, I feel better as a mom if I get up, do my makeup, it takes me 10 minutes, and get dressed for the day, even though it’s leggings and a cardigan [laughs]. And a nursing tank top. I feel better if I do that. So, am I going to pretend that I’m a victim of my kid, and say like, “Oh, I can’t do that, because I have kids. And I’m just being Christ like here suffering because of my kids,” and complain about it and be negative about it. Or I can say, “I’m going to find a way during this next nap to just do my makeup really quick, and get dressed so that I feel better.” Do you see the difference here?

There’s genuine suffering. And then, there is, “You know what? If I can, I’m going to make this happen. If I can’t, I’ll be at peace with it. But I’m going to choose to make it a priority.” For me, that’s something that’s important. For you, it might be something else. But the point here is we’re not ascetics. We’re not people who are out in the desert, whipping ourselves and starving ourselves and walking around naked because, “Oh, man, I had kids.” Instead, we can say, “You know what? I probably will get interrupted while I put on my makeup. It will be different than it was when I was single and had no kids. It will be different than when I was first married. But I’m still going to make it a priority, because God is not hoping that I’m going to martyr myself. God is not more pleased if I go without more things.”

And so, my encouragement to you is no, you don’t have to be Phylicia, who prefers more of a scheduled day, who likes to wear makeup, who has home births. But whatever decisions you are making, remember a couple things. God is not more pleased by the hard than He is pleased by the easy. He loves you. He loves you. And if He wants you to do something hard, He’ll lead you in that. He will direct you and He’ll guide you and He’ll sustain you in that. He’s not going to sustain you though if you’re out picking out sufferings that He never called you to. He will sustain you if you ask him to. But what He’ll tell you in your relationship with Him is, “I didn’t ask this of you. Why are you so anxious? Why are you so guilt ridden? Why are you so full of shame about this? Did I ask you to do this? Did I ask you to put herself through this or to deny yourself in this way?” The idea that the more I deny myself, the better mom I am until we burn out and we’re angry and resentful, what about that is scriptural? What about that is the joy of the Lord?

And so, I want to conclude this by reading a couple verses. In Scripture, we see a couple things about genuine suffering. First, Peter 5 says that, “God confirms, restores, strengthens, and establishes for the trials that he permits.” Romans 5 says that, “True suffering leads to endurance and good character.” James 1 says that, “Our testing makes us mature.” And John 16:33 says that, “There are trials in this world and we will experience tribulation, but there will be peace. There will be peace because Christ over comes.”

Now, regarding joy, what does the Bible say about enjoying life? Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Who’s ever felt like dried up bones? A crushed spirit, I think we can make choices in our life. And we can sustain a theology that actually crushes our own spirit, instead of letting God give us a joyful heart that is brought into our motherhood. I enjoy being a mom, I enjoy it. But I do think that there is an aspect of that that is because I do take time to do things that I enjoy, and I feel completely free from guilt to do that. To get dressed, put on makeup, to go on a date with my husband, get a babysitter, I do sleep, train my babies. And so, I tend to sleep through the night sooner. And that’s a part of our family lifestyle, and a choice that we make for their health and ours. So, those are things that we do in my home that help me be a joyful mom. For you, it may be very different. But these are freedom issues, remember, and we get to enjoy that instead of thinking, “Oh, if I choose the harder road, then God will be more pleased or I’ll be a better mom.”

Another verse that we see is 1 Peter 3:10, which says, “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.” So, be focused on keeping the tongue from evil. But notice that it says people are desiring to love life and see good days. Do you want to love life and see good days? Because clearly, this is a desire that God expects and he says, “Here’s how to get there.” Choose righteousness, and you will love life and you will see good days. You can want to see good days. As a mom, you can want to love your life and be happy. We have so reacted against this shallow Christianity, this like, “Just be happy. God just wants you to be happy,” we react against that. And now, we’re unconsciously adopting this theology that says, “God just wants you to be miserable.” That’s not that’s not what the God of joy wants. That’s not the God of joy wants. He doesn’t want you to be in sin, but he also doesn’t want you to be miserable. He’s the author of joy.

And I think this verse really sums it up. It says, Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life and in your presence, there is fullness of joy.” Fullness of joy. So, if in God, there is fullness of joy, then why would he be anti-joy, anti-happiness? You know that the word “blessed” means happy? So, anywhere you see the word “blessed” it in Scripture, one of the other interpretations of it is happy is the one like in the Beatitudes.

And lastly, John 16:24, Jesus said, “Until now, you have asked nothing in my name. Ask and you will receive that your joy may be full.” This means we will spiritualize this, “Oh, ask for the big things. Ask to be holy.” Yeah, that’s true. And He wants us to be holy, that is a way to joy. But, you know, you can ask about other things, too. I talked about praying specifically all the time, how important it is to pray specifically, because then you get to see God’s faithfulness, and that makes your joy be full. You can pray for things specifically over your birth, over your motherhood, over your postpartum. It’s not always answered. It’s not always easy. You guys have seen me walk through an autoimmune disease. But it doesn’t mean I don’t pray for it. And it doesn’t mean I don’t have joy, because God is the fullness of joy. 

So, what I want you to take away from this is hard is not bad. Hard is that bad. Motherhood has hard moments. But we also do not need to intentionally choose hard to please God. You have the freedom to make some choices that bring you joy, bring your family peace, that remove anxiety, that help you rest. The better mom is not the more burnout mom. You may be a good mom who sometimes is burned out. But burnt out is not the badge that says, “I’m awesome.” [laughs].

The last thing I want to mention, I hear this phrase sometimes, especially in the birth world, usually directed towards natural birth moms like myself. They say there’s no trophy for a natural birth. There’s no trophy for going through pain. I’ve heard people say the same thing. There’s no trophy for breastfeeding to one year. And what it really is, what this phrase is its resentment and insecurity talking which goes back to what we talked about at the beginning about your identity being wrapped up in your kids and in your choices because you worship that. Your idolatry is in your family. And therefore, you resent anybody who might say, “Oh, I have had a natural birth. No, I’m really proud of myself for making it.” Well, there’s no trophy for that. Or, “I breastfed to one year, I breastfed till two years, and I’m really proud of myself for making it.” Well, there’s no trophy for that. It’s resentment and insecurity. And so, how do we deal with that? How do we process that?

Well, here’s the thing. For me, personally, there is a trophy for having three successful unmedicated births. That to me was something I was proving to myself, something I really wanted to do. And that has been an incredibly spiritual experience for me. For someone else who really, really wanted to breastfeed, and they made it to a year, they made it to two years, there can be a trophy for breastfeeding. She proved herself that she could do it. The problem is when we try to steal other people’s trophies, because we feel threatened by their decision. So yes, don’t martyr yourself over freedom issues, and don’t try to steal someone else’s joy by downplaying something that was important to them.

But you have to be secure in yourself, in order to not do that. You have to be able to listen quietly to the story of someone’s birth that went the way yours didn’t, and not need to knock their trophy down in order to feel better about yourself. I have to be secure enough to hear my friends talk about breastfeeding long term and love it and be like, “No, I stopped at six weeks and I’m really happy about that.” I have to be able to do that. And the only way we can be able to do that is if we are not worshiping our motherhood.

And a big part of this too is empathy and sensitivity. I have several friends who have had very traumatic births, I have several friends who most likely will have scheduled C-sections that they did not want. Do I hop in their living room and talk about my home births and my natural births and how great it was and how it’s so spiritual and I just can’t imagine doing it any other way? No. I think about the fact that they have a different journey. And I can enjoy the fact that I had my natural births, and that I did prove something to myself, I can enjoy that in my own world, on my own blog. But I don’t need to go and put that on other people. If somebody wants tips on it, wants help with it, I’m there. Just like people who love breastfeeding are there when somebody wants help and tips and etc.

The only way for peace in between moms in this world is through the gospel. And the gospel destroys idolatry and legalism. It all centers on Christ? Who is the King of our life? Who do we serve? Who do we worship? Do we worship our kids? Do we worship the badge of honor as the most exhausted, most burnt out mom? Or do we worship the King? And remember that we’re all in one community. We’re all part of this one community supporting one another. You might not always understand, I obviously can’t. I’ve never breastfed till a year. I don’t know what that’s like. Someone else might never have had a natural birth, they might not know what that’s like. And even more so, it’s important in those moments to be more curious than trophy stealing or trophy punching, which I think is what’s happening here.

So, again, hard is not bad. But we also do not need to intentionally choose hard things, choose hard to please God. That is asceticism, and it is not a theology of suffering.

So, this particular recording of this video will be in IGTV. And I believe this will clarify some of what is discussed in the breastfeeding episode which touches on asceticism but doesn’t get into it in detail. I hope this encouraged you guys and gave you some things to think about, maybe some things to dismantle the mommy wars a little bit and know more of why it’s happening. Idolatry, legalism, and asceticism. We don’t have to be martyrs to be good moms.

Thank you for joining us for today’s episode of Verity. You can connect with fellow listeners by following me on Instagram @phyliciamasonheimer or on our Facebook page by the same name. Also, visit for links to each episode and the show notes.

[Transcript provided by SpeechDocs Podcast Transcription]

    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop