Look & Live: Good news for the mom who keeps blowing it

Written by Caroline Cobb
Published on November 20, 2020

Throughout my life, I’ve fallen into what some have dubbed “the performance trap.” 

In my head, I have these standards for what it means to be a “good enough” mom, wife, friend, employee, and even a “good enough” Christian. 

In college and in my young adult years, it was easier to make the grade. But as I got older and pressures mounted, being “good enough” in every role and relationship became more and more difficult to achieve. 

In motherhood, especially, I found that I kept falling short of the standard I had in my head for how a “good Christian mom” should be. Parenting was a pressure cooker, and the everyday stressors of three young kids brought my sin to the surface again and again. I would lose my temper, grow impatient, raise my voice. I so badly wanted to make an A+ on the “good Christian mom” exam but found that I never did. 

In fact, some days it felt like I completely blew it. 

Typically, I would respond to failure in one of three ways. 

Often, I would go for the “try harder/do better” method: pulling up my proverbial bootstraps, googling new parenting books, saying with determination “I’ll be better tomorrow.” 

Other times, I would wallow in my failure and sin, apologizing over and over to my family, heaping shame upon myself for not making the grade. 

Sometimes, I would want to just give in and chalk it up to my Enneagram number or God-given personality, saying “this is just the way I am. I can’t change.”  

I’m not enough

But these three responses to failure are out of line with the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Though I walked with Jesus, I functioned as if the good news of the gospel were not actually true.  

God brought me to the end of myself in this season, to the point where I realized no amount of trying harder, wallowing, or giving up was cutting it. I became acutely aware that I was not going to get an A+ in all of my relationships and roles. In fact, I’d often get a F. 

But as I came to the end of myself, God rushed in with the good news of the gospel:  

In Christ, we meet God’s standard. 

It is not “try harder, do better.” We are not enough, but Christ is enough. Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  

In Christ, there is no need for wallowing in our sin.

Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We acknowledge our sin, then run quickly to the work of Christ in his death and resurrection. We repent, yes. But we do not need to wallow. 

In Christ, we’re free from the enslaving power of sin but will still struggle with the presence of sin. 

Although we may feel defeated at times, the resurrection guarantees we are not powerless slaves to sin, unable to change (Romans 6:6–14). The Spirit will continue to sanctify us, convict us, and empower us to repent, day by day, until the Day that sin will be banished forever. The fact that we see our sin at all testifies to God’s grace at work in our lives (I John 1:6–10). So, we do not give up because we keep messing up! Rather, we lean into the sanctifying work of the Spirit, fix our eyes on Christ, and glory in the gospel. 

Cling to the cross

Consider God’s people in Numbers 21. 

Wandering in the wilderness, they begin to complain, and God responds by sending a plague of serpents. Many were bitten by snakes, slowly dying as the poison coursed through their veins. 

What should they do? Should they stare at their snake bites, wallowing in their poisoned state? Should they try to figure out how to heal themselves, googling books about snakes and determining not to get bitten tomorrow? Should they simply give up and give into their fate?  

No! 

After acknowledging their sin, these snake-bitten Hebrews were instructed to look at the bronze serpent lifted up, and live. John 3:14–15 says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.” 

Jesus was lifted up on the cross for our sake, burying our past, present, and future sin with him in that tomb and rising from the dead on the third day. He met every standard for us in his life, then died for every standard we could never meet. This is the gospel!   

Now, when I see my sin bubble to the surface in the pressure cooker of motherhood, I try to resist the cycle of self-condemnation and “try harder, do better.” Instead, I want to cling to the cross, run to the resurrection, and glory in the good news. I confess my sins to God but resist the urge to obsess over them or wallow in shame. I apologize to my children, pointing them not to a perfect mom but a perfect Savior.  

A Seed, A Sunrise

Jesus frees us from the tyranny of performance, allowing us to rest in his perfect performance on our behalf. Our lives of worship, obedience, confession, and repentance are not attempts to be “good enough” or “good Christian moms,” but Spirit-empowered responses to the gospel of Jesus and the glorious worth of our God.

With every album, my heart is to help people savor this beautiful gospel as they listen to songs that tell the stories of Scripture. My latest project, A Seed, A Sunrise, explores the longing of Advent and the joy of Christmas, and is being released into what has been a pressure cooker of a year for many of us. 

This year has shaken idols, uprooted comforts, exposed our sin, and brought a new awareness of the brokenness around us. As we close out this difficult year, my prayer is that this album would help you look to Christ, remember his gospel, anchor your hope in his return, and live. 

Live perfectly imperfect

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Caroline Cobb

Singer-songwriter Caroline Cobb loves to use music to help God’s people rehearse and remember God’s Story. Her forthcoming album A Seed, A Sunrise explores the longing of Advent, the joy of Christmas, and the anticipation of Jesus’s return, and builds on previous Story-telling albums the Blood + the Breath (2013) and a Home & a Hunger (2017), the latter being named among “The Best Albums of the 2010s” by The Gospel Coalition.

Read more about Caroline

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