How Satan Undoes a Mom
Spiritual War in Motherhood
In 1914, as the storms of a “world war” began to blow across Europe, and millions of men rushed to enlist, Ivor Novello and Lena Ford wrote a patriotic anthem aimed at the women who were left behind.
Let no tears add to their hardship
As the soldiers pass along. . . .
Keep the home fires burning
While your hearts are yearning
Though your lads are far away
They dream of home.
The public sentiment of the time assumed that women had a role to play in the war, though they would not be fighting and dying. The men went to fight on the front lines. The women ensured there was something at home worth fighting for.
We Christians are still at war. Our wartime has gone on for thousands of years and will last until Christ comes to end it. The difference is that in this war — the spiritual war — the home is located in the heat of the battle, and we mothers are in combat roles.
Why Satan Targets Mom
Our enemies in motherhood are not flesh and blood; our enemies are “the rulers, . . . the authorities, . . . the cosmic powers over this present darkness, . . . the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Our enemy is not in Europe; he is “going to and fro on the earth” (Job 1:7). He “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
“Mothers are stewards of the home, where Satan hopes to do his worst work — and often sees worse defeat.”
Satan’s warfare on woman and her seed is not a side project. It is a major part of his strategy. To Satan, mothers represent the unrelenting multiplication of hated human images of the hated God-man who is coming soon to end his evil reign. Mothers are stewards of the home, superintendents of the precious time called childhood, where Satan hopes to do his worst work — and often sees worse defeat.
Innocence, flourishing, joy, productivity, gratitude, meek service, earliest wonder, and maddening physicality all have a special place in a home with children. And Satan violently opposes all of them.
How Satan Targets Mom
Satan and his ilk look for strategic places to attack, areas of vulnerability. Many of his favorites are common to all mankind, but there are some modes of attack that are particularly successful with Christian mothers.
1. Satan makes suffering an excuse for sinning.
A woman’s spiritual health during the grueling years of motherhood depends partly on her ability to see the difference between her spirit and her body. She must learn to inhabit her female, fallen body with humility and wisdom.
Sleepless exhaustion or morning sickness can bring with them confusion about what sort of malady we’re dealing with. It feels spiritual, because it affects our mood and, at times, impairs our ability to perform and serve in the ways we usually can. There is a real spiritual temptation that comes with physical suffering, but the presence of physical suffering doesn’t mean we’ve already lost a battle.
Satan, of course, can demoralize us with suffering. But he also can leverage suffering to get us to actually sin. He would rather us not know that it is, in fact, possible to suffer physically without sinning in anger, self-pity, or despair. Satan would have us believe one implies the presence of the other, or necessarily leads to the other. There are many ways to sin in our weakness, but the physical weakness itself is not the sin. We need to learn (and relearn) the difference.
The same goes for other illnesses and hormonal changes throughout life. Our bodies are female, and they are under a particular form of the curse. Motherhood will be physically hard in some unusual ways. But our physical state need not be the gauge or the steering wheel for our spiritual state. Satan would love nothing more than to keep us in confusion about what ails us.
2. He whispers, “Did God really say . . . ?”
Women, from the very beginning, have been a special target for a certain pattern of deceit. Satan still favors the question that felled Eve: “Did God really say . . . ?”
One of his favorite ways to seed this destructive question in our day is through social media and podcasts. The Internet is a new way that women, even those working at home, can regularly access a steady stream of advice, solicited and unsolicited. Our friends offer advice on how to deal with husbands and children. Images, shows, and books offer advice on what is good and beautiful, what can be expected (or demanded) out of life. Women, who love to give and seek advice, have a daily choice to make about what advice we look for, what we listen to, and what voices influence our daily decisions.
The whispers are everywhere if we listen for them: “Did God really say, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35)? Seems like all this giving might kill you.” “Did God really say, ‘Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord’ (Ephesians 5:22)? That seems impossible and probably unhealthy.” “Did God really say, ‘Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name’ (Psalm 97:12)? Seems obvious that to give thanks when you don’t feel thankful would be inauthentic. And what about the women around you who don’t have anything to be thankful for? How would it make them feel?”
Some of Satan’s best work is accomplished by women talking to women, in the floating world of disembodied souls on the Internet. So every Christian woman who would grow in wisdom actively pursues sound doctrine (Titus 2:1), letting the word of Christ dwell in her richly (Colossians 3:16), regularly meditating on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable (Philippians 4:8).
Perhaps one of the best ways we can steward our attention and our hearts is by turning from some of the online forms of exchanged advice, and instead seeking out flesh-and-blood relationships formed on the basis of passages like Titus 2. A woman who knows she is being discipled by someone (or something) at all times is a woman who can see her need for good discipleship, and humble herself to ask for it in the local church.
Soaking in the word of God, learning from mature Christians, and praying fervently — these are all ways we oppose Satan’s devices in whispering, “Did God really say . . . ?” Waiting for truth to find us is not sufficient; we must actively resist his lies by feeding ourselves with what God has said.
3. He blinds us to our nearest enemy.
Satan often doesn’t mind our being vigilant about outside threats. Most mothers are. But he has a vested interest in keeping us from doing active battle with the threat that is closest to home — our own flesh. The world, the flesh, and the devil are all against us in this war. We can’t do effective battle with any of them unless we’re willing to do battle with all of them.
“Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh,” Paul says. “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:16–17). This simply means that as we pass through the years of parenting, we should expect routine rounds of repentance: to God, to our husbands, to our children. It shouldn’t surprise or dismay us that this is part of our warfare. We should see it as a normal part of the Christian life.
We should expect growth to come over time, as our affections develop. As the years go by, our obedience should look more and more like grateful enjoyment of normal life, walked out lovingly, joyfully, peacefully, patiently, kindly, faithfully, gently, and with self-control (Galatians 5:22). These are the natural fruits of the spirit.
What Threatens Satan?
Our lives are not primarily a battle against phantom menaces out in the world who threaten to influence our children. Our children, like us, are conceived in iniquity and born in sin (Psalm 51:5). The enemy of our children’s hearts is already here; it’s already inside the camp.
“Make no mistake — our children, no matter what they hear us say, will know what our hearts truly love.”
Our children will get the most benefit, not from our public statements about what morally outrages us, but from our souls being watered by God’s word and our hearts being filled with yearning for Christ himself. Make no mistake — our children, no matter what they hear us say, will know what our hearts truly love. Satan would have it so that we never find out what our hearts love. He would have us preach a gospel to our children that never reaches our affections, our sin, our desires.
What threatens Satan? A mother’s soul overflowing with Christ — a soul feasting every day at the table he has laid for us:
Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters. . . .
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food. (Isaiah 55:1–2)