Revive Our Hearts Podcast

How Mothers Present a Picture of Jesus

Episode Resources

Learn more about the Risen Motherhood ministry.

Dannah Gresh: Having a baby changes a woman’s body! According to Emily Jensen, those changes are a picture of the gospel. 

Emily Jensen: As women, the physical impact of childbearing on our bodies is actually an image of the physical impact that Christ endured on the Cross for us; that life giving isn’t free! He paid the penalty for us so that we could have life with God.

Leslie Basham: It’s November 6, 2019, and you’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, along with Dannah Gresh. 

Dannah: Nancy’s continuing her conversation on the gospel and motherhood with Emily Jensen and Laura Wifler.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: If you’ve missed the last couple of episodes, you want to go back and catch those. You can go to ReviveOurHearts.com; you can listen to the audio, you can read the transcripts. . .whatever works best for you. I think you want to hear these women, because the conversation has just been so fun.

Sometimes you won’t know for sure whether you hear Emily or Laura talking; they’re kind of one voice here! But it’s been so fun to be talking with you women. I’m an older woman, and I’m gleaning from your wisdom. I’m being encouraged by your love for Jesus and how you, in the season of life you’re in, apply the Word of God and the gospel of Christ. 

So if you don’t even know what I’m talking about or who I’m talking to, we’ve got Emily Jensen and Laura Wifler here. Welcome back to Revive Our Hearts.

A lot of the younger moms will know your ministry; it’s called Risen Motherhood. We’re linking to it at our website today. Listeners who are not familiar with it can connect with them. And maybe some of you listeners are saying, “I’m not a mom,” or “I’m not a young mom.” You know some young moms, and they need a ministry like this!

Let them know about it; let them know about this series. Let them know about this wonderful book that Emily and Laura have written called Risen Motherhood. It’s co-authored and it expands more deeply than we can in this series into how the gospel informs every area of a mom’s life.

So much of what you gals wrote in this book are not things that I’m dealing with, because I’m not a mom, and I’m not in that season. But the principles apply to the season I am in, so there is a lot of wisdom there for women in every season.

We’d love to give you a copy of this book, and we’re sending it this week as our way of saying “thank you” for any gift that you make to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. When you make your contribution to support this ministry so that we can keep reaching women around the world, we’ll send you a copy of Emily and Laura’s book Risen Motherhood.

At the end of the end of the program today we’ll tell you how you can get that, if you don’t already know. But now I want to go back to this thing of how the culture’s messages for all of our lives as believers—but in particular we’re talking about motherhood—how they’re different from the messages of Scripture.

You ladies have done a great job in your understanding, identifying, “Where is what I’m believing something I’ve gotten from the culture around me and how is it different from what God’s Word says?” This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, from the time twenty years ago when I wrote Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free.

The point was that all around us there are messages telling us things that look good, seem right, but they’re not right. They’re not consistent with the Word of God. And so, I’ve been challenging for years, “Identify what you’ve been believing [I’m telling myself!] that everybody else seems to think is right, but doesn’t line up with God’s Word.”

So as we talk about some of these specific areas that you address in Risen Motherhood, I’d like to just unpack, “What is the culture’s message?” And then, “How does the gospel speak differently into that subject?”

So take something that I know every mother deals with (maybe it’s not every mother, but certainly almost every mother), and that’s postpartum, post-birth body image. I’d love to hear one of you just say when that first became something you began thinking about and how moms tend to feel about this and how our culture speaks to it.

Emily: Yes. Right away when you’re entering pregnancy, you realize your body is going to change.

Nancy: In fact, let me just interrupt you right there. I know that a lot of women today don’t want to get pregnant because of concerns about, “What will this do to my body?” And it will change your body! 

Emily: Yeah. I thought with that first baby my body was going to change, but after I had my fifth child . . .!

Laura Wifler: There are more changes with subsequent babies that you have, it seems like. 

Emily: There is a whole word of changes! I think there is that concern about weight gain and just the shape of certain parts of your bodies that, even if you’re not gaining a tremendous amount of weight, things just shift! I think there are also aches and pains that you can get. I remember when I was pregnant with my twins. I had to go on bedrest for a while—that was five years ago. And I still have a sensitive back today; I get back pain.

So I think there are just a lot of things you really . . . It’s the first time you see, “I’m literally giving up my body so that someone else can have life!” It’s very sacrificial,, and it just invades every part of you. 

You know, where you’re maybe serving a friend or a neighbor, it may not impact you physically in the same way that serving and loving your child, by the giving of your very body so that they can have life. It’s a whole new experience!

Nancy: You wrestled with this, Emily, when right after you had your fifth child, one of your other children had a birthday party . . .

Emily: Oh, yes! I actually had just had my daughter and my son was turning two. I had pictures taken with him on the couch, sandwiched between us. I remember looking at that photo and just thinking, “Whoa! I don’t recognize that woman! I look older and tired and significantly heavier than when I got married.”

There was part of me that didn’t even want to post that picture because, “No, I don’t want to look like having children has changed me or had taken a cost on my life. I’m not as beautiful or glamorous as culture would have a mom to be right after she gives birth. I’m not ready to walk a red carpet. You can still see my postpartum tummy hanging over my pants!”

I think even posting that photo was an act of trusting the Lord, for me, and knowing that my physical appearance is not where my worth is found. To know that there is beauty that is deeper than that. That’s Christ in me. It just can be a real battle and really challenging for moms.

Laura: Well, it’s also so difficult because of the pressures put on moms to snap back and have your body-after-baby in six weeks having another “six-pack.” You see these images on social media or on TV or just celebrities, and they look amazing! We don’t see the hard work; we don’t see the efforts that they put in, the sacrifices that they’ve made, or even sometimes they just have a different body type than you do and it would be impossible for you to do the same thing. 

But we say, “Well, I need to look like this woman because if she could do it, then I could, too!” I know sometimes I have friends that naturally do slim up after having a child, and they do almost look like they’ve never had a baby.

We’ll say things like, “Oh, I’m so jealous of you!” or “Uh, I can’t believe that!” And you just kind of want to distance yourself from that. I think there’s an element of being jealous or envious, but then also like despising it almost and wishing you could have that for yourself!

Nancy: And this can be true, by the way, whether you’re having children or not. We have different body types. 

Laura: That’s right, we struggle with the coveting that we have over other women’s bodies, no matter what stage of life you’re in. Or struggling with that body image and saying, “I want what she has! I want to look how she was created.” We’re not okay with how the Lord has created us—how He’s created, as moms, our bodies to respond to childbirth and weight gain and breastfeeding.

You might have a C-section scar. There are a lot of things that happen in childbearing that everyone’s body responds to differently. So often we’re saying, “I want how God created her, and I don’t like how God created me!”

Emily: Yes, I’ve seen the headline before, “She looks better than before baby!”

Laura: Oh, yeah, that’s popular.

Emily: I think that’s something our culture wants, for childbearing to have no impact on us. But as women, the physical impact of childbearing on our bodies is actually an image of the physical impact that Christ endured on the Cross for us. Life giving isn’t free!

He paid the penalty for us. He has scars, and He bled, and He was sweating and weeping and all of these things for us so that we could have life with God. And so, I think we have to be cautious before we just take a big eraser and say, “Oh, I don’t want this to look like I had to sacrifice anything.” 

Because it’s one of many ways, as moms, that we get to show our children and the people around us that we took in our own bodies a price and a cost so that someone else could have life. That is not the gospel, but it is a pointer we can use to those around us to say, “There is a greater Savior that has done this for us!”

Laura: I like that you’re talking about the eraser, because you think about Jesus when He returns to Thomas. Jesus shows him the holes and the scars that are in His hands. He could have erased them; He could have come back with a body that didn’t have evidence of the sacrifice and the pain that we went through on our behalf.

Nancy: Right.

Laura: And that is just such a beautiful example for us, as mothers. I have not had a C-section, but

I have many friends that talk about their C-section scars or other scars from life giving—stretch marks and varicose veins and all these things that we are dealing with. Maybe everyday you see it, and it’s this reminder.

You can either say, “I despise this, and I wish it were gone!” Or you can look at it and say, “This is a reminder of the beautiful life that I was blessed to be able to give, that God allowed my body to do and to go through.” You can make a choice of how you pursue that, and it will make a lot of difference in your attitude and how you value what the Lord has given you.

Nancy: The gospel changes everything, doesn’t it? How you think, how you think about yourself, how you think about your mission and your calling. Continuing a little bit past the postpartum into, now, the season with multiple children (and you both have a lot of little ones). 

This whole thing of self-care. We hear a lot about that and the importance of it. Again, let’s ask what the cultural message is that women are bombarded with, surrounded with when it comes to self-care. Then we can turn to: how does the gospel speak to that?

Emily: Sure. I said this on a previous program, but when my three oldest were like eighteen months/sixteen months and younger, I was feeding twins and I had a toddler there just at my knees. I remember thinking, “Oh, I don’t even know how I’m going to get through the next hour!” I was so exhausted! I felt overwhelmed by how much I was having to pour out to them.

I think culture, in that moment, would ring in my mind: “I need to figure out how to get out of here!” You know? “I’ve got to get away for a few hours. I need to go drive by myself. I need to go to the mall.”

Nancy: “Go to a spa.” 

Laura: “Get a pedicure.”

Emily: “Maybe my husband and I need to get away on a vacation!” 

All of those are good things, all of those can be helpful, all of those can be refreshing. I absolutely did get away and just drive around sometimes. But what I would find is that those things had a limit to their ability to refresh me and sustain me. 

Sometimes I would even actually come back feeling worse, because the noise in contrast to what I’d just had, actually made me less content and more dissatisfied, and I just was left feeling like . . .

Nancy: Yeah, don’t go to the mall! (laughter)

Emily: Yes! “I need more time! That wasn’t enough time, and now I need another thing, I need another thing, I need another thing.” Additionally, my soul is still feeling empty.

There was a particular day when my three kids were young, I remember my babies were safe, they were on the floor. I had my toddler playing. I went into my bedroom and I just hit my knees. I remember crying out to the Lord and just saying, “God, You have to help me! Because I don’t know how I’m going to have enough energy to make it through the day! I don’t even know what You’re going to do. I don’t even know what I’m asking for. I just need Your help!” 

And that afternoon was the first time since they’d been born that all three of their naps synced at the same time!

Nancy: Sweet!

Emily: I remember having a couple of hours to clean my home and sit and read the Word. I just realized in that moment that God could take care of me, and He would take care of me if I trusted my needs and my life to Him. I think that’s such a contrast. Culture would tell us, “You just need more time for you!” And God says, “I will care for you!”

He has built into His Word commands for us to steward our body and to take sabbath rest. He’s not asking us to never rest, but He’s asking us to find our rest in Him. I think that’s just been a hard lesson for me, to learn to trust Him with that and not run my own way. Just to say, “Okay, whatever I can do to get out of here and take care of me is what I need!”

Laura: Yes, last year I went through a season of burnout. I always thought burnout was maybe a crutch for someone who doesn’t have enough energy to keep going. Again, I can be Type A and pursue things. But I realized, “No, burnout is a real thing,” and it’s something the Lord had to bring me to.

I had built a house that year. We were running the ministry. My daughter had been diagnosed with special needs. We had moved—living in temporary housing. We were doing all the big life transitions all crammed into one year. And I thought, I can do that!

I remember, each afternoon I would think, I’ve just got to make it until seven, until bedtime! I’ve just got to make it until bedtime, and then I can watch some TV.” I was living for that promise of TV and rest . . . but a cultural version of rest.

I remember, I would watch the TV, I would then go to bed, and I would wake up the next morning and feel like, “I’m still running on a hamster wheel!”

Nancy: And on fumes.

Laura: On fumes, completely! I felt restless; I felt discontent; I felt stressed. I felt as if everything I was doing was kind of meaningless. All I wanted to do was get through another day and be able to go watch TV at 7 p.m. I realized, at a point, “I can’t live like this anymore. This cannot be the story of my life!” 

That was when the Lord just brought me, really, to my knees, to understand that I’m living in my own self-reliance and what I’m filling myself up with for self-care is very empty. And there’s nothing wrong with watching TV—Emily and I both watch TV and enjoy that at times with our husbands.

But the idea of, “This is going to fulfill me and make me feel better! I’ll be happier after I do that,” or “Oh! That’s the promise waiting for me!” That was where I think everything got twisted. I was unable to be sustained by it. I had to understand and implement sabbath rest on Sundays and be able to step back and know that I can take a whole day and rest and rely on the Lord. 

Nancy: How does a mother of little ones do that?

Laura: That’s a great question! It’s something I had to figure out the hard way as well! Sabbath rests are just rests, and true rest is really a dependence on God. It’s a state of the heart, so much less so than if our hands are still moving or we’re still changing the sheets or changing out towels. It’s very much where your heart is resting.

Sabbath rest for me does look like stepping back and drawing some boundaries, because I struggle with not listening to those boundaries, and I struggle with striving. For me, it looks like saying, “No, I’m going to take a day where I am not pursuing the to-do list, but I am pursuing God and His heart for my family. And I’m pursuing the beauty of the gospel and resting in His creation.” 

I may be busy cooking and cleaning and doing some of those things. But taking that day (which really should be every day) to be very intentional, to say, “Lord, this is Your day, and You have given me this life! You have given me this beautiful family!”

Just to enjoy the good gifts that He’s given has been a great practice for me and to understand that all of the work that matters was finished on the Cross! There’s nothing that I can do today that’s going to advance me further in salvation, that’s going to attain my righteousness. Christ did all of that for me. 

So that, for me, is what true rest is, is resting in Jesus and knowing that He paid it all, and it’s finished!

Nancy: I’m thinking, as you’re talking about this quest, we all have to fill those thirsty, empty parts of our hearts—whether you’re a mother or not. I think about the woman at the well in John chapter 4, and how she’d had all these husbands. We don’t know why, exactly, but she was searching, and Jesus saw that hunger in her heart. 

He used the image of water—because she was coming to draw water. He said to her, “I want to give you living water.” Of course, she’s confused. She has no idea what He’s talking about. She’s thinking about the water in this well. 

And then Jesus says to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water [at this well] will be thirsty again” (John 4:13). He was saying, “There’s nothing wrong with that water, but it’s not going to give the eternal satisfaction that your soul needs.” So He says, “You’re going to be thirsty again.” The proof of that was: here she was back at the well, drawing water again.

“But,” He said, “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him [this living water] will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (v. 14). So it’s, “Where are you looking?” Am I looking to the wells of the world to satisfy me? 

They’re not necessarily sinful things, but they’re not going to fill the emptiness in my heart in the way that Christ—and only Christ—can do for me. I want to talk about something else that every person deals with, but I think especially moms with little ones. And again I want to see what the culture says and then, what does the gospel say?

It has to do with how many things you’re doing as a mom that are mundane. They don’t seem meaningful. Face it, they really aren’t meaningful in and of themselves. You talked about cleaning the house and cooking meals and changing diapers. Things that you do over and over and over and over and over and over again! It’s never done!

It seems so ordinary, and yet, here you are, with this passion for Christ, this love for the gospel. They could seem like really separate worlds. You have this one sphere of your life that is gospel and Jesus and your faith. Then you have this other sphere that is your reality of everyday life which is thankless, non-praised, non-rewarded, the things that you do endlessly and repetitively. What does the culture tell us about the mundane, and then how does the gospel help us to think differently about that?

Laura: As I look at those mundane moments I so often have the thought, Oh, when will I be done with these? or Will there ever be a day when this will come to an end? I think culture perpetuates that by saying, “You were made for more! You were made for something more extraordinary, more amazing. You need the mountaintop moments of life!”

Nancy: The Instagram moments!

Laura: Exactly! That’s the stuff that we’re taking pictures of. We don’t really take a picture of folding the laundry, and if we do, it comes with some extraordinary words or life lessons, you know.

Nancy: Right. If you taught your two-year-old to fold the laundry . . .

Laura: Yeah! Some amazing thing. I’m folding laundry and there are kids running around, and I just kind of feel like, “No one sees this! What difference does this make?” You know, “I’m putting laundry away in the drawers, and I’m just going to be doing the same thing tomorrow!” It can feel incredibly disheartening and sort of pointless, “Why am I even doing these things!?”

I was chatting with a friend not too long ago, and she had just moved into a new home. Something she talked about was, “I just want to be settled in my home so that I can get on to the better work. I can start having people over, and we can start hosting. I’m just ready to be done with all this unpacking and all this mundane stuff!”

As we were chatting, it came out that actually the Lord is doing a work in her life right now. She doesn’t have to wait until she’s able to host and have people over and do all these amazing things that can, on the outside, can make her look like she’s got it all together. 

Actually, it’s in those quiet places, in those moments that are very unseen, that maybe only our children see or maybe no one sees, it is just us and God. But knowing that He sees those things and He is changing our hearts in the midst of that. Those are the moments that I think some of the most extraordinary heart work can be done! And they matter! 

You think about Adam and Eve in the garden. They probably did mundane work. They tilled and cared for the garden, but for them it was all worship. Everything that they did was worshiping the Lord and was focused on God as He walked in the garden with them. I think, so often, that’s what I want my mundane work to look like—every single moment to be worship.

Emily: Yes, it’s interesting to look at the paradox in the life of Christ for this. I think that’s something that encourages me when I am picking up the shoes off the floor for the hundredth time. (They just spring off the shelves! I don’t know what happens! I know that I put those things back a million times a day.) 

Or something like, I’ve walked into the pantry a dozen times because someone needs a snack again. As soon as they saw that their sibling had a snack, “Well, I’m going back in!” Somebody needed an extra snack or a drink or whatever it is. Those things just feel incredibly repetitive. 

But what we see in the life of Christ is that God did an extraordinary work of redemption through something very ordinary and quiet, even. If we think about the moments of His childhood that weren’t recorded. He grew up in an ordinary home, but He did it through this extraordinary virgin birth.

And then we see in His ministry. He was a carpenter. He goes to parties. He’s dining with people and traveling around. Those are things that we all do, and yet God was working in that to reveal the plan that He had for His Son . . . and to carry this out all the way to the Cross. And so, for us, what’s extraordinary about our lives is Christ in us in the midst of whatever thing it is that we’re doing.

It’s just really neat that this is a picture of God’s kingdom! Right? We all say it’s like the “upside-down kingdom.” It doesn’t make sense! It’s the tiny, tiny seed that produces all this fruit! It’s the hidden, unseen thing that God uses with faithfulness. It’s His Spirit in us, His Son in us that really multiplies that and makes it fruitful.

Sometimes we look back and we don’t even see when or how that happened! I mean, even Laura and I will look back over the last few years and different things we’ve done in ministry, and you know what it was on a daily basis? It’s a lot of emails and typing on the computer . . .

Laura: . . . mundane work . . .

Emily: . . . having a meeting with someone and things that feel like, “I don’t know if this really is adding up to much!” But somewhere you look back and you see that, “No, there’s a lot that God did in there!” We can just point to Him and His work as we did the next email, the next message, the next thing that He put in front of us. So I just think that there’s hope for a mom!

Nancy: And how true that is in the rearing of children

Emily: Oh, yeah!

Nancy: Because you’re not seeing in the incremental moments of the day the ordinariness, the faithfulness to the tasks of running a home, managing a home, that you’re building lives. God is building lives as you faithfully tend to your garden, to your domain. The Lord has blessed you both with a ministry that’s impacting a lot of women, but I think it’s very possible that all of that will pale into insignificance compared to what God may want to do in and through your children. I have no idea what that will look like; you have no idea what that will look like. 

And so, for the mom who may never have a ministry of blogging and podcasting and writing books, that’s like the cherry on top. That’s a piece of the fruit of faithfulness. You women are the fruit today of a lot of mundane, faithful acts of obedience of some older women—including your own moms!—who did a gazillion things to make it possible for you to grow up in safe homes and to be fed and clothed and to be in a context where you could want to pursue Christ and the gospel. 

Nobody knows who your moms are. But they’re hearing the fruit of your moms’ faithfulness in ordinary things, today.

Laura and Emily: Yes! So true! 

Nancy: Even though I’m not a mom, so much of my life women come to me and they’ll say, “I want to do what you do! I want to write books and have a ministry.” I’m going, “You know what? Ministry—whether it’s the ministry of raising children, or doing Revive Our Hearts, or leading a small group in your church, whatever—it’s the fruit of a thousand times a thousand times a thousand of daily repetitive faithful acts wherever God has put you!”

Laura and Emily: That’s right! So true. 

Nancy: So if the dishwasher needs to be unloaded or that next meal that needs to be made . . . As Elisabeth Elliot famously said, “Do the next thing!” Well, we want to continue this conversation, and I love how you’re helping us see what the gospel looks like in our thinking, how it informs our thinking in these very practical areas of life.

So I want to encourage you to get hold of the book Emily and Laura have written called Risen Motherhood. That’s available to you as our way of saying “thank you” for your support of Revive Our Hearts when you make a donation of any amount at ReviveOurHearts.com, or by giving us a call at 1–800–569–5959.

Let us know that you would like a copy of Risen Motherhood, and we’ll be glad to send that to you. When we come back the next time on Revive Our Hearts, I want us to talk about how moms with lots of little ones can also be feeding and fueling their marriage . . . and sometimes that can seem really difficult in that season.

We’ll talk about that and other topics of Risen Motherhood on the next Revive Our Hearts. I hope you’ll join us!

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to encourage the next generation. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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