Four years ago, I read a Bible verse that changed my life.
It was the Spring of 2008 and I was a college student at William & Mary. I’d been married for just over a year and was struggling to balance my roles as student and wife. At school, I felt weird because I was married. At women’s events at church, I felt weird because I was still in college and I didn’t have kids yet. At church, I felt weird because I was married to the youth minister and felt like I was living under a microscope. Anything I said or did was being watched and I often got to hear commentary on any choices we made. It felt like, everywhere I turned, I didn’t fit in. I felt discouraged and alone, like I’d never find the connection and friendships I so desperately craved.
One night, my husband was out late, leading a high school guys’ small group and, while I waited for him to come home, I decided to prepare for the next morning’s Bible study. As I sat down, I wondered why I was even bothering. I probably wouldn’t even make it because it started at 7am and I didn’t like mornings. And, if I did, I’d probably just sit alone and quiet in the corner again, listening to them talk about their lives with children and jobs… a life I didn’t know yet. I knew that if I said anything vaguely authentic, I’d spend the rest of the day worrying if it was okay I said it or if it would get around the church that “the youth minster’s wife struggles.” Maybe someone would even make another snide comment to me about how my husband was “just now” getting to work when he came in the doors to the church at 8:30.
But, the title of the book we were reading was Peacemaking Women and I figured if anyone needed to read that, it was me. I didn’t feel at peace with my friendships at school, my relationships at church, and definitely not with my husband or with myself… so, a study on Peacemaking Women was probably just what I needed. Maybe I’d figure out how I needed to act to make myself feel accepted somewhere.
As I sat on the couch and read, I came across Zephaniah 3:16-17 –
“Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.”
As I read, I felt my eyes welling up with tears. And, suddenly, I couldn’t hold it back anymore. All my loneliness, all my anxiety, all my sadness came pouring out as I sat on the couch and cried.
How could it possibly be true that God would rejoice over me with gladness? Could he really exult over me with loud singing? Is this even in the Bible? Does this actually apply to me?
Not much later, Beach Dad came home to find me sitting on the couch crying. He asked what was wrong and I held up my book to him. I read him the verses and asked between tears, is this really true? Does God really feel this way about me?
I’d been going to church for a few years, I’d even gone to Christian college for a year, and I’d spent the past year married to someone in ministry. I’d definitely heard the good news of the Gospel before, but this verse – this good news – felt entirely new to me. It felt life changing.
In the midst of feeling weird everywhere I turned, feeling like I didn’t have value at school or at church or in any of my relationships, the news that the God of the universe would rejoice in me felt too good to be true.
I’d love to tell you that, since then, I’ve never felt alone or like nobody cared about me again. But, that wasn’t the way that verse changed my life. If anything, since becoming a mom, I struggle with these feelings even more as I’m giving more of myself than I ever have to two little people who, while I know they love me, don’t usually act like they delight in me.
This side of heaven, we’re always going to have those feelings and I certainly have my fair share of feeling like I don’t matter, like anyone exulting over me with loud singing (let alone God!) is crazy talk.
But, four years later, still in the midst of my insecurities and my imperfect relationships, that verse still brings me to my knees. It still makes me wonder at how much God loves me. It still encourages me that, no matter how alone or insignificant I feel, in God’s grace, I truly am deeply loved and delighted in. And, it gives me hope, that even when I feel alone and insignificant to the world, I matter to God.
If you’re like me, as a mom, it can feel like so little of our lives gets noticed or appreciated. Day in and day out, we make meals, change diapers, clean up toys… just to return to the dishes, diapers, and disarray all over again. Day in and day out, we plan fun special projects and trips to the park, just to carry our children out of the park kicking and screaming or to hear them say things like “I did not have fun. I wish Daddy were here instead.”
At the end of the day, it often feels like we haven’t accomplished anything but to keep our children fed, clothed, uninjured, and entertained… and mommy guilt whispers in the back of our minds that we didn’t even do a good job at that.
But, looking at Zephaniah 3, we can feel encouraged.
As I read these words, I’m reminded that God loves me… not because I am a great friend, wife, or mom. Not because I clean my house really well or plan perfectly beautiful crafts for my daughters to do. But, just as I am – lonely, insecure, and sometimes angry – God rejoices over me, he exults over me with loud singing, he quiets me with his love. And, because I’m already loved, I can continue to love my family… to pour myself out, when I feel like I have nothing left to give.