I n the midst of a painful providence, what’s a Mama to do? That’s a good question. Mamas like doing. And yet we are encouraged to practice scholé, restful learning, in our lives. What exactly does that look like, especially in the midst of a significant trial? To be honest, it is an idea I thought worthy, but elusive—until now. The meaning of scholé came to me in the midst of a raging storm of unrest.
Like most mamas, I am a doer, a mama of action. Daily life places many demands on my time as I bend and stretch to meet everyone’s needs, often forgoing my own. I like to fix things, and I often see immediate results. When my son skins his knee, I fix it with a kiss and a bandage and off he goes. When my daughter struggles with her schoolwork, I give her a hug and help her understand the assignment. When the family is hungry, I fix dinner. I’m a fixer, and I have lots of experience fixing things.
And yet there came a time in my life when I could not fix a painful providence. Since I spend so much of my daily life “doing” and “fixing”, my husband and children depend on my significant contributions in creating a happy home. But this time, no amount of scurrying about to fix things made a difference. My words of wisdom brimming with godly counsel brought no resolution. My unceasing prayers to Almighty God seemed unanswered. Our happy home was anything but. What’s a Mama to do?
Frustration overcame my soul because I could not fix the problem. Utterly exhausted, I retreated to my room feeling the weight of a dark providence. I cried out to God begging Him to remember His promises. When the unsolved problem pressed painfully upon my aching soul, I felt alone and began to forget the very promises I was asking God to remember. At that moment Satan was attentive. He tempted me with lies, the same malicious maneuver he used to tempt Eve in the Garden. And yet I was not fully cognizant of his evil scheme as he roamed about my room seeking to devour me (I Peter 5:8). I was overwhelmed with despair. What’s a Mama to do?
I suffered greatly under the weight of the trial because I failed to remember that God will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). I reduced my fellowship because I felt like a terrible mama and everyone now knew my shortcomings. The secret was out: Mama is a failure. I knew that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and I was acutely aware that I had fallen short as a mama. I remembered how I used to fix things, but my previous track record brought no comfort. I reminded myself that all things work together for good to those who love Him to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), but this promise brought little relief to my weary soul. I could imagine no good coming from this. I drifted into deep despair, weeping on my pillow at night, wondering if God, whom I have loved since I was little girl, even remembered my name (Isaiah 43:1).
I asked my dear husband, who is a faithful and kind father, to pray for me. I remembered how we had decided before we became parents that our children would never know a day without the proclamation that Jesus is Lord. Scriptures hang on the walls of our home whispering the truth of God’s Word. “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). As I glanced at this verse, I noticed that my husband was not struggling nearly as much as I, even though he, too, was walking the path of this painful providence. I wondered at his steady and unyielding faith in Almighty God. In contrast, I wondered why I was such a mess.
I begged my children to pray for me as the “fixer” struggled through each day, barely able to fix dinner. I shared my trial with my pastor, a praying man who faithfully shepherds his flock, trusting that his prayers would surely be heard by the Almighty. I confided in a few trusted friends entreating them to remember me as they went boldly before the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). I recalled giving encouraging counsel to others who were bearing the burden of a difficult providence. I remembered how biblical counsel graced my lips, how easy it was to encourage others in the faith, how strong I was…until a painful providence knocked down my door and marched straight into my life uninvited. I tried desperately to heed my own counsel but to no avail. I understood how vexing it was to live out my faith in current circumstances. What’s a Mama to do?
This spiritual unrest went on for a long, long time as I wrestled with God, trying to understand the suffering in my life. My doing took a turn down a lane of intensive learning as I fought to understand this difficult providence. I depended greatly on my faithful husband whose counsel pointed me to Christ and corrected flawed thinking. He was Satan’s skilled nemesis in this endeavor. I immersed myself in the Word. I meditated on God in the night watches begging Him to help me (Psalm 63:6). As I lay awake in the cover of darkness, I redeemed the time by praying for my children (Ephesians 5:16). I followed the rabbit trail of footnotes in my study Bible. I took a theology class on Calvin’s Institutes one year, and then a survey of the Old Testament the next. During Sunday worship, I filled my journal with notes and prayed for discernment.
I studied the doctrine of providence. “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) became my battle cry as I confessed that I did not fully trust the good providence of God. As I struggled to sort out my faith, I reviewed the catechism: “What are God’s works of providence? God’s works of providence are His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all His creatures and all their actions” (The Westminster Shorter Catechism Q & A #11). I read books on suffering and listened to podcasts. I prayed the Word when I could not coherently utter my own words, trusting the Holy Spirit to intercede for me (Romans 8:26). Little did I recognize that all my life the Almighty had been preparing me to disciple my own soul with the truth of His Word in the midst of this painful providence.
I revisited Romans 8:28-29: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…” As I studied these verses, I submitted to the truth that God was using this suffering for my good and for His glory as He shaped me to be like Christ. As I shifted my focus to what Christ has accomplished, I relinquished the expected outcome of my feeble efforts, knowing full well that the Holy Spirit quickens the hearts of men. Mamas don’t. Mamas can’t.
As I yielded to the Word and trusted the Spirit, I realized a severe error in my thinking. I was expecting God to work my will rather than trusting God to work His. I had to repent of this grievous sin. Dear Mamas, if you are tempted in this same way, I implore you to join me in redirecting our affections to Christ rather than toward the idols of motherhood that are easily constructed when our wills take precedence over God’s.
God blessed my efforts to understand His providence. He turned my doing into trusting. And trusting was no passive effort. The discipling of my soul was some of the most active and satisfying work this mama has ever done. While I trained my heart to rest in His providence, I learned to trust his timeline, not mine. The Christian soul is tethered to God’s Word, and the shorter we keep that rope of remembrance, the stronger our hope of deliverance. This deliverance does not mean our troubles vanish and everything is set aright. No, that perfect resolution awaits us in glory. However, as I remember to trust His promises, I can rest on the Rock amidst the raging sea. While the storm is still stirring, my soul can be still.
When confidence in God prevails in my soul, I’m actually useful to my husband, my children, my church, my community. I’m useful for Kingdom work. By God’s grace, I can be faithful even though I am flawed. When I’m stuck in the muck and mire of a misery of my own making, I’m not much help to anyone. I must not allow a painful providence to storm through my soul producing despair. On the contrary, I must trust God to work His will in my family as sufferings strike our home, ever mindful that depending on Christ destroys despair.
My loved ones were ever patient with me in these dark hours. I am grateful that they came alongside and raised my hands toward heaven when I was weak and weary. I think of how Aaron and Hur did this for Moses (Exodus 17:12). I have sought forgiveness for my lack of faith in the home, and God is redeeming all that has transpired. Relationships are being restored as we repent and reconcile.
As I reflect upon my journey, I realize that scholé, restful learning, is a blessing to the believer. Now that my soul is no longer held captive in the raging storm of doubt and distress, my eyes have been open to an important work of the Lord. As my husband and I lay precept upon precept upon the souls of our children teaching them the truth of the Scriptures, God is building a strong foundation in mine. In His strength and in the spirit of Spurgeon, “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” I trust that God is building a strong foundation in the souls of my children as well; He is still writing our story and theirs. There is much hope for the next chapter and especially for a triumphant ending. I choose to rest my thoughts there.
When facing a painful providence, what’s a Mama to do? She is to stand firm on the Rock of her salvation and rest in the good providence of Almighty God. That’s the best scholé of all!
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Kimberlynn Curles was born and raised in Georgia. After she was graduated summa cum laude from Auburn University with a B.A. in Speech Communications, she married her high school sweetheart, Wayne, and they will celebrate their thirtieth anniversary this year. They have classically educated their six children at home for more than twenty years, and Kimberlynn is a founding board member and the Director of Teacher Training at Providence Prep, a Scholé Community in Purcellville, Virginia. Her family attends Ketoctin Covenant Presbyterian Church. Kimberlynn is learning to live out scholé by cultivating goodness, beauty and truth in her own life as a way of blessing her family and honoring Christ. She enjoys reading, writing, hiking, and birding. As such, her favorite things include: books, boots, and binoculars.