I find that the words “what if” are two slippery words. A mother’s back can bend weary by the load of “what ifs”: What if our child continues to struggle academically? What if the cancer treatments fail? What if our wayward child doesn’t repent? What if our child never finds a spouse? What if I am failing as a mother? What if, what if, what if—the devil is delighted when the “what ifs” begin to circle, entrapping us.
It was in such a crippling game of “What If” that God led me to pick up Sara Wallace’s book Created to Care: God’s Truth for Anxious Moms. The book is made up of ten chapters that cover numerous anxieties with which mothers may struggle. The author’s goal in going through these different worries is for mothers to find their strength and comfort in the Lord as they seek to fulfill their callings.
The book begins by addressing the burden that comes when mothers place unrealistic expectations upon themselves that are not specifically addressed in the Bible. Think of a classic example: “All the other moms buy organic fruit. What if my child is inhaling pesticide?” Or, “I have to make baby books for all five kids, and I don’t know where to begin!” Placing these burdens upon oneself is a recipe for crushing mom guilt and anxiety. The only way to break the vicious cycle of anxiety is to “apply God’s truth directly to our expectations” (21).
Chapter two draws attention to the exhaustion that can encompass mothers in seasons of busyness. During these draining times, Sara encourages mothers to fuel themselves with reminders of God’s character. Even when physical rest is low, spiritual rest is found in the truth that God’s only begotten Son died for you.
Chapters three and four cover six priorities that take up most of a mother’s time and energy. When approaching the topic of prioritization, Sara warns, “It’s good to take control of our priorities, but if we’re not careful, our priorities can start controlling us” (42). She begins the section by prioritizing our relationship to the Lord. Sara points out that time in the Word is for us, but not ultimately about us. She states, “When we make God’s Word all about us, it’s easy for us to be disappointed in our quiet times” (43). She cautions mothers against comparing their devotional lives and encourages them to remember that God’s Word can work in us despite our moments of fatigue and distraction. A second priority she covers is marriage. I was very thankful for the emphasis she put on setting aside quality time with one’s spouse. She says, “God created marriage to be a picture of Christ and the church. Marriage, not parenting, is the ultimate picture of the gospel.” In addition to this she states, “When we prioritize our husbands, we’re not just trying to keep them happy; we are putting the gospel on display for our kids” (47). When it comes to prioritizing our children, the author states that the goal is to train them up in the fear of the Lord. This requires “love, comfort, stability, predictability, and consistency” (49). A third priority she mentions is the keeping of the home. When homemaking, Sara encourages wives to ask their husbands which areas they would like to see prioritized. She also wisely states that if mothers take joy in the messes and mundane, their children will learn to take joy in that as well.
I found her chapter on disciplining children to be refreshing. She notes that where our discipline strategy is weak or nonexistent, we are not mimicking the love of our heavenly Father. She says, “Discipline is a beautiful gift to our children. It gives them safety and security” (100). The realistic need for discipline shines through when she says,
This is a battle—not against our kids, but for our kids. This means that our kids will resist discipline, no matter how perfect our strategy is. The problem isn’t necessarily our discipline. It’s our kids’ hearts. When they don’t respond to our discipline, it doesn’t mean the discipline isn’t working. It means that this is a war. We are fighting for our kids’ hearts—and so is our enemy (105).
I appreciated her reminder that success is not measured by immediate results. Rather, heart change happens on the inside, one step at a time. She comments,
We want to reap when it is still time to sow. We also forget that sowing season is a season and that every season has an end. If we put off disciplining now, soon it will be too late. Our kids won’t learn to obey on their own. Obedience comes through seeds of discipline, which are planted by faithful mamas who tirelessly tend to them. Sowing is slow. Its repetitive. It takes focus and intentionality. Yes, we will break a sweat. Yes, we will get dirt under our fingernails. But soon the days of planting will be over. Now is the time to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. Don’t give up. Discipline again and again and again. You aren’t banging your head against a wall—you’re planting seeds of eternal life (109).
The book also covers the topic of criticism. When offering criticism to others, she advises offering it in the context of the relationship over important issues and not just opinions. She also suggests giving criticism in a way you would want to receive criticism. Ultimately, “God uses criticism from others to help us grow and to show us our blind spots. Security in Christ helps us discern which comments to take to heart and which ones to discard. It allows us to respond to criticism humbly and confidently at the same time” (74).
The last chapter offers advice on raising our children in the world with a restful heart. Sara says, “Out of the entire timeline of world history, God picked this time and this place for our children to be born. It’s not our job to prepare the world for our kids. It’s our job to prepare them for the world—the world that God chose for them” (147). She states, “The best way I can prepare my kids for everything ‘out there’ is to prepare them for what’s inside their own hearts” (144).
Overall, I enjoyed the book and recommend it as an easy read. My one criticism would be the author’s reference to two movies in her book. Where I do not appreciate or find it necessary to use these references to provide the reader insight, it did not take away from the overall content the book provided. When I began my reading, I thought I knew the exact anxieties my heart held, but I came to find every chapter had its applications. This proved to be humbling, but also uplifting as I reflected on who God is and what He has done for me. Where I fail, grace abounds more. As the author puts it, “I can talk to my kids about God’s forgiveness all day long. But showing them his forgiveness is different. When I repent in front of my kids, I take their hands and lead them to the cross. I show them the well-worn path I have walked many times. I point out my footprints for them to put their own feet in” (19).
It is true, I do not know if tomorrow stands me on a mountain high or stooped in a valley low. But the fears begin to fade when my heart confesses, “If more pain means more glory, only God can help me to accept that. He can also help me to praise Him for it” (112).
If you choose to read this book, I hope your innermost being can also praise God for creating you to care in the honorable calling of mother. Not because you are going to care perfectly, but because in His perfection, “He created us to care within the perfect context of his perfect wisdom and his perfect strength—not our own. He chose weak and broken vessels to accomplish this task so that he will get all the glory” (8). My desire for you is that Created to Care will draw you closer to your heavenly Father in every unique season of “what if.”