A mother shares how God hears and answers her prayers through the challenges and joys of motherhood.
Nestled among the many comforting promises in Scripture is one of my favorites: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26).
When a new mother hears the wails of her baby, she cares for and comforts her little one. The helpless child, so precious to the mother, can only groan and cry. In the same way, new mothers sometimes do not know exactly what to ask God or possess the words to express what they feel. They cry out to their loving Father, who understands their wordless groans. He knows their emotions and needs far better than they do. With all wisdom and love, God nurtures them.
What a comfort this picture is, as new mothers cope with a wide range of emotions, extreme exhaustion, and major transitions. When they pray, the Holy Spirit intercedes between their disheartened groans and their loving Father’s listening ears. As the Spirit passes their cares on to the Father, he also reminds them of God’s promises. He points them back to Jesus. He works through a family member who texts a poignant psalm, the grade school memory work that resurfaces at just the right moment, or a Scripture notecard displayed by the kitchen sink.
After I had my third baby, I felt the Holy Spirit providing the words I needed—during the joyful moments and particularly during the trying times. As I look back, I can also see how he interceded between my groans and my heavenly Father, who listened, comforted, and intervened.
The evening my son was born, I was flooded with warmth and gratitude. The rush of oxytocin magnified the overwhelming love I had for my new baby, my two older children, and my husband. Happy and exhausted, I snuggled my newest little boy while also aching to see my other kids so I could bask in the beautiful family God gave me. The Holy Spirit interceded to the Father with my grateful groans. The Holy Spirit reminded me in Scripture: “Every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17).
The Holy Spirit deepened my desire to have my son brought into God’s family through Baptism the next day. There were no words for my cries of joy. The Lord cares for my baby so much that he adopted him into God’s family for eternity.
Different groans followed in the coming weeks. A few days after we brought our tiny newborn home, several emotions surfaced at once. I was exhausted, anxious, overwhelmed, and having difficulty expressing my feelings. I had a terrible cold and had difficulty catching my breath. Suddenly the combination of these physical and emotional factors became intense, as I felt a rush of panic, shortness of breath, and the fear that I would need to be rushed to the hospital. While I did not have the words to convey my desperation, I know that the Holy Spirit felt my terror and alarm. He provided comfort almost immediately through my loving husband. The love and safety provided by my spouse reflected Christ’s complete care: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
In the following days, I experienced foreign rushes of dread and irrational fears. I know that the Spirit translated my groans to the Father and that God felt and heard my terror. After I shared my experience with my mom, the Spirit used her to remind me of Psalm 23. This part of Scripture, so familiar that I often overlook it, was suddenly brimming with reassurance. Jesus was walking through the valleys with me, comforting me, personally guiding me. He is not a far-off, removed God, but the One who is always there. He doesn’t always remove the hardships, but he is my steadfast leader and companion through them.
Sometimes I feared that my strongest anxiety would return (a groan I had never experienced or uttered before). These raw words of Psalm 116 may sound a touch dramatic to a pampered 21st-century individual, but they aligned with my fears in these worst moments. “I was overcome by distress and sorrow. . . . ‘LORD, save me!’” (Psalm 116:3,4).
Within the same psalm, the Spirit reassured me that God hears and understands my groans and reminded me of God’s mercy. “Our God is full of compassion . . . when I was brought low, he saved me” (vv. 5,6). God did not immediately alleviate all of my anxiety, but he did something immeasurably better. He highlighted my helplessness. It was abundantly clear that I could not do this on my own. God reminded me that he is all-powerful and all-loving, inviting me to take refuge in his arms. Where I was weak, he was strong.
The Holy Spirit also answered my prayers in more outwardly observable ways. I was able to calm my mind by taking walks, crying, talking to loved ones, and connecting with a counselor and doctors. When my emotions were steadier, I was able to confront my negative thoughts with the truth: “I won’t always be so sleep-deprived and overwhelmed.” “I don’t have to accomplish everything at once.” “I can ask for help.” I also believe the Holy Spirit convicted me of my overuse of social media, which fueled my anxious thinking, occasional anger, and comparison to others. He blessed the use of a Bible app on my phone, leading me to meditate on Psalm 62’s reminder to trust in God to provide salvation, rest, and hope: “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 62:8).
In the following months, my prayers and groans to the Father continued. “Am I a good enough mother?” “I lost my patience with the kids today . . . the guilt is strong.” “How can I provide every practical, emotional, and relational skill to my children?”
I cannot give my children everything they need, but I don’t have to. I can point them to Jesus, who is the source of life and hope. I will fail and fall short, but Jesus more than makes up for my insufficiencies.
In the months since having my baby, God has provided stability, alleviation of the worst anxiety, and countless moments of joy. Challenges and changes still remain. But on this journey of motherhood, I am ever more grateful for the One who does not change like shifting shadows. He is my refuge and strength; his love endures forever. I am so thankful that he loves me—and my children—perfectly. He hears my groans and gives me comfort. He provides support, perspective, and resources. He gives life and hope through Scripture. He gives me himself.
You are not alone
While many are familiar with the phrase “postpartum depression,” a wider variety of mental health concerns often arise during and after pregnancy. These perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) impact as many as one in five pregnant women. Whether a mother believes she may have a PMAD or is simply experiencing challenges from this life transition, help is available. Call 800-438-1772 or visit christianfamilysolutions.org for information about counseling options for yourself or a loved one.
Author: Julie Straseske
Volume 110, Number 05
Issue: May 2023