By Brittany McKenzie
If you’ve ever been around an infant, birthed an infant, babysat an infant, or even glanced at an infant, you are well aware of the utter exhaustion they cause in their completely dependent state. As my father reminded me, humans are the only species on Earth incapable of doing anything at birth; i.e. feed or clean themselves, or move independently. Apparently something else they don’t know how to do at birth is sleep. As a mom, I literally have to teach my infant how to sleep. Schedules, swaddles, sleep sacks, dream feeds, back is best, the list goes on and on. And then right when you think they’ve figured things out, the “Four month sleep regression” hits.
A few weeks ago, my already-not-sleeping-well-infant entered this dreaded phase. It was in these painful, exhausting nights that God met me. My prayers to Him sounded something like this, “God you know I need sleep. I have two other kids to care for. Please God. You said you would be my ‘ever-present help in time of need’. I need help, like now!”. It also warrants mentioning that sleep deprivation is used as a form of war torture. And that’s exactly what it felt like. Night after night. Did God help like I expected? Nope. And with unmet expectations, so went my faith, and suddenly I felt myself doubting the goodness, faithfulness, and loving nature of God. As I bounced and bounced, cried and begged, I became weary and discouraged, unable to pray.
And then the ‘still small voice’ of the Holy Spirit broke through my despondency and uttered the familiar phrase, “My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2Cor12:9). Such a familiar phrase you almost breeze over it in Scripture. And what did Paul say in just the verse prior? “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.” Paul was desperate and crying out to the Lord to rid him of his suffering, too. Christ Himself also uttered prayers and petitions to the Father to remove the ‘cup’ of suffering from him but to no avail. However Christ followed his prayers with the surrender, “Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). God had plans to sanctify Paul (and Brittany) through suffering according to His will. No ‘rest for the weary’ in my case. God wanted me to test Him. Was His Grace going to be sufficient to carry me through the challenging days of parenting two toddlers and an infant?
I remembered Israel and their wandering in the desert. They ended up there because of their lack of faith in God’s promises. In Deuteronomy 1:27, we see the Israelites grumbling against God, doubting his character, his motivation, his provision. Why would He bring them out of Egypt only to abandon them in this new land? Suffering, hardship, and pain all challenge us to question, doubt, and become suspicious of God’s character. Yet, God was merciful and provided manna, daily food portions, to His people in the desert. Would God provide me the ‘daily manna’ I needed in my ‘dry and weary land’ of sleep deprivation and utter exhaustion? It was here I found a new surrender, a new application to scripture. During a 3 a.m. bounce session, I decided to take God at His word. “I won’t beg anymore for You to get my infant to sleep. I will hold him as long as he needs me and I will trust You that tomorrow, You alone will provide my daily bread, my manna from heaven, and sufficient grace to do what you’ve called me to do. I won’t fight you anymore. I will stand on the promise that today, tomorrow, the next day, You alone (not my changing circumstances) will provide the needed Grace to endure.”
So here I will be, in my small little corner of the Earth, raising and wrestling my three boys, baking daily apple manna, or banana manna, or pumpkin manna, but utterly relying on God’s promised sufficient Grace. ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:24).
Brittany was born in Iowa but spent the first 32 years of her life in Indiana. This past December, her and her husband Elliott of four years relocated to Greenville, South Carolina. She is a nurse practitioner by trade, but stays home with their three young boys, while seeking to build relationships and invest in the local church plant of Christ the Redeemer.