How to See the Hard of Motherhood as a Challenge, Not an Affliction
by Abbie Halberstadt
All suffering is hard. But not all hardship is suffering.
Oxford Languages dictionary says that to suffer is to “experience or be subjected to (something bad or unpleasant).”
Conversely, a challenge is a “task or situation that tests someone's abilities.”
That’s a crucial distinction to make, especially when I am seeking, first and foremost, to tackle the question of finding the good in those testing circumstances rather than the conundrum of why some of us suffer more than others.
Thankfully, the Bible has much to say about what our response to difficulty should be (take the Lord’s telling Joshua to “be strong and courageous” no fewer than three times in as many sentences as He gives ol’ Josh the daunting task of driving the pagan peoples from the Promised Land). My goal is always to return to the truth of Scripture, no matter how far into the weeds of worldly culture we have strayed.
One of the reasons I feel compelled to lay out so clearly the differences between hardship and suffering is that popular motherhood messaging hammers us with the assurance that much of what we encounter from our children on a daily basis is not merely a challenge but instead, true affliction.
Our children are not “something bad or unpleasant we are being subjected to,” to borrow from the above definition of suffering. And yet, when we view “dealing with” their more challenging traits as suffering rather than as a hard-but-good opportunity to grow in Christlikeness, we gravitate toward a Motherhood of Martyrdom—an attitude sure to bleed into the way we treat our families.
Not only that, but the more we muddle true suffering in with hard mothering days, the less likely we are to find comfort in verses like 2 Corinthians 4:17, which says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory that is far beyond comparison. Therefore, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Suffering is real. Hardship is inevitable. But conflating the two within the context of motherhood is a surefire way to “lose heart” and lose sight of the unique opportunity every hard day gives us to throw ourselves onto the safety net of Jesus’ new morning mercies, firm in the knowledge that it will never break.
Abbie Halberstadt is a writer, fitness instructor and homeschooling mother of ten children, including two sets of identical twins. Abbie lives by the motto that “hard is not the same thing as bad” and encourages women to dig deep to meet the challenges of everyday life through her blog and Instagram posts. She, her husband, Shaun, and their children live in the Piney Woods of East Texas.