Speaker: Ben Marsh
Scripture: Psalms 23

From the series Mother's Day 2024

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Well, good morning. We’re so glad that you’re joining us this morning. My name is Ben and it is my privilege to share from God’s word with you this morning. And did you notice all of those moms that were recorded in that video? Those are all shepherds, kids, moms. We give them a hand for finding the time. And we of course, we want to acknowledge moms today. It’s good. And it’s right because they are a gift from God, whether it be a mom, a grandmother, and aunt, whoever it may be. These women that that pour into each of us, care for us, comfort us. And so it is good and right to recognize them for what they are. A gift from God and appreciate them today. So on, of course, like a day like today, number one, you’re here. So you’ve already done something, hopefully, that Mom wanted you to do to to be in church. But it also raises this question What do moms really want and feel free to answer? Like, what do you want? Actually want quality time, peace and quiet. I missed the one way back there. What was that? Children. Moms want children. Is there are there any moms I hear right now or maybe watch online? 

Are there any moms that said, I don’t need anything on Mother’s Day? Is there anyone okay, if you’re sitting next, one of those moms or. No, that that’s a trap. Don’t fall for it. If you even need to right now, order something. You need to figure it out. You have my blessing to get on your phone and figure it out. Whatever you need to do. Moms want to be appreciated on a day like today. And just a short list. I mean, thank you for your answers. You know, here’s a few. It’s not exhaustive, but we can just run through some of these. Of course, the top of the list time with family and time with family is not just time with family, but it would be nice to have time with family in a clean house. Right. Moms and in a house that maybe you didn’t have to clean and that you didn’t have to ask anybody to clean because they should just know. Right. What about breakfast in bed? Any moms out there have breakfast in bed this morning? Any moment that that happens in my household. God bless my wife, because my kids are so sweet. They love doing this sort of thing. But there is this like kind of fear and trepidation when you’re on the receiving end because you’re not quite sure of what’s being brought to you as edible. 

You know? I think there was one time in our household that we had pancakes that also had very baby carrots cooked inside of them. I don’t recommend. What about something just simple? Like, you know, wake up. Happy Mother’s Day. Look out the front window just to see a new car with a big bow on it. And I’m sorry, moms. It’s not like a sports car or it’s a minivan because you’re a mom. And then, of course, handmade gifts. Moms have a unique ability, no matter what. When kids come forward and bring that handmade gift that their response is always, oh, when other people’s response might be, oh, friend, what is this? What is it? They always love that handmade stuff. You can’t go wrong with jewelry. Also, if there’s young moms, you can’t go wrong with a nap. Something as simple as just a little bit of sleep. And then just peace. Peace in the midst of your family. Peace in relationships. A little bit of peace and quiet. Actually, to sum it all up, I believe that you could to some advantage to really two things. Moms want you to love. God has wired it innately within moms that they are made to love, to, to care for, to provide for. And they also want to be loved. 

And it’s on occasion like Mother’s Day or they want their second half fulfilled to be appreciated, to be seen, to be acknowledged for all that they do. Because all too often they’re the ones that are loving and loving and loving everyone else. And just to feel a little bit of love, come back and be reciprocated in their direction. Because moms do a little bit, don’t they? It’s a little bit. No, he doesn’t think so. Well, there’s actually a study that would say moms, working moms. And this is not to the exclusion of stay at home moms because stay at home moms work full time as well all the time. But this particular study found that working moms clock an average of 98 hours per week, which is the equivalent of two and a half full time jobs. And all the moms look at that and they think that’s low. That estimates not right. I’m at least at 115 hundred 20 hours every single week, two and a half, three full time jobs, which is then why they want to feel appreciated a little bit. But there’s actually another study, another survey that was done roughly around the same time with over 3000 moms. And this was their response with this survey. 

They found that moms who are working those two and a half full time jobs every single week to provide for everyone around them, that 95, nearly every single one of them, 95%, said that they feel unappreciated, unacknowledged and unseen because they’re pouring out, because they’re loving, constantly worried about the needs of everyone else around them. Oftentimes to the neglect of their own, which often leads to this feeling of a deficit, right. That they are loving, loving, loving, that they are not being reciprocated with that same love that they pour out. And actually, this morning, I’d like to take a look at a scripture through a different lens. We’re going to look at Psalm 23, which is a very familiar psalm for all of us. And and it is most certainly about God. But for just a moment, well, let’s walk through it and just acknowledge all that moms do through the through the lens of Psalm 23, because moms sometimes do function in the same way as a shepherd sheep being disobeyed and wandering smelly things that they are sometimes can resemble children. 

And a mom being a good shepherd is the one who provides and make sure that that there are clothes in the closet, that there’s food in the fridge, that there’s food in the pantry, that everything is taken care of. And all too often kids have this feeling like they lack nothing. There’s nothing that they lack because mom is the one who provides. They’re also the ones who help calm everybody down, leading kids beside green pastures beside still waters down for nap time, down for bedtime. What about in your household when it comes to bath time? It’s typically mom, but they’re typically not quiet waters, at least in my household. Three little boys. They’re not quiet waters. But when there is the decisions to be made, when there’s a crossroad, we have to decide what to do. Kids can turn to their father. But all too often, mom is so easy to approach that she can offer guidance to her children so that they can make the decisions that are best. And then most certainly with this very familiar verse, even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will not fear you. You are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Moms are comforters by their very nature, and they want to be with their children, have their presence felt with their children. So their children can feel calm and comforted and loved. 

They’re also the ones that provide in those difficult seasons, preparing the table, making sure everything is taken care of. Anointed in your head with Oil Cup overflows. And then hear this final verse. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Moms, I’m convinced, having worked in student ministry for over a decade, that some of you, when your kids graduate, you would gladly move into the dorm across from your child. You would love to follow them if your kid moves to a different state for a job or across the state, I mean, you want to be with them, that you will follow, that you want to continually be with them, that you want to have your presence felt and known with your children so that they can be loved and be comforted by you. This is just scratching the surface that all moms do, that they provide, that they care for, that they comfort, that they continually love. And that’s the ordinary stuff. That’s just the mundane stuff. The everyday pouring out. But then there’s also moments in our life where moms themselves are walking through a dark valley or a difficult season. And so they’re already just in the= everyday life functioning from a deficit. And then now when something gets put on top of that, another stressor, another circumstance that stretches them to their limit. Where do they turn? Where do they go? It’s this morning. We’re blessed to be able to hear actually from my wife. 

We sat down and I asked my wife, Stephanie, to share with all of us a little bit of her experience and journey as a mother and in particular a season in our life that was quite difficult just a few years ago. So right now, I invite you to join me in watching this together. Hi there. I’m here with my wife, Stephanie, and she’s going to share with all of us a bit about her journey in motherhood. My name is Stephanie Marsh. I am mother to three beautiful boys, Zeke, Judah and Owen, who are seven, four and two. I am a special education teacher in the Chesterfield area. I like weightlifting and I like baking powder dough, bread. You’re welcome. Yeah, We all appreciate it. And so with three little boys and what tell us a little bit about that. What has your journey in motherhood been over the last number of years as our family has continued to grow? We had our first boy, Zeke, in Saint Louis and four months later moved to Houston. And there we had Judah and then four months after that, we moved to Michigan, where we had our own home and we didn’t move. I mean, we moved a little bit, but we haven’t moved. Yeah, we’re still here. Yeah. Yeah. So we walked through quite a season back in 2021, right around the birth of our third son. Can you share a little bit about that whole season of our life? And I can help you fill in some of the blanks as well? Yeah. Tell us a little bit about that. 

So a lot of it is very blurry because it was just such a tough go. It started I was pregnant with Owen. We had gone camping and probably just based on his age, dude, I decided to eat something funny or when I was flat. But he got vocal virus, so we were hospitalized twice for that one and went to the hospital. Fever, all kinds of stuff. And got to go back home and then had to go back again because it was coming back. It was just it was a lot to start with, just to die. And then me also being pregnant, I went to my typical doctor’s appointment and they were noticing something wasn’t going exactly right. And we needed to have this baby like soon. And that led to him being born around 3636, me a little bit early, and then on the way out, they let us know that we should go do, I think, an echocardiogram, because they were telling us that he may or may not have a hole in a part of his heart or did. So I remember we did that follow up appointment and then about about a week and a half, two weeks after we brought him home. Then what happened? Oh, I was putting Owen to sleep and I heard Owen kind of cough and it sounded like a funny cough. So I turn the light back on and looked at him and he wasn’t breathing. He had, I think, choked on some sort of, wow, spit mucus, something. And so grabbed him and I ran downstairs and I was like, Ben, I don’t think he’s breathing. And his lips were turning a little bit blue. And it was just terrifying. But as I guess a mother does, somehow I blacked out and just knew what to do. 

And I was just doing my best to, like, use my own body to, like, suck whatever was said, blocking his throat. And then he was taken to the hospital with you via ambulance. And then even in the midst of everything we were facing with Owen, what happened to you? I had, like, a crazy fever, so I had to go home and leave Ben there with Owen and take care of myself. And I got what I needed and took a couple of days at home. And then to join Neal again at the hospital. Within that hospital stay, he started, like, basically vomiting up everything that he consumed. And they just told us it was a really bad case of GERD and sent us home and we just he was so hungry, so hungry. And he was failure to thrive after a while. One night he had blood in his diaper. And so we took him to a different hospital and they found pyloric stenosis, which I guess is hereditary. And he got surgery and was able to hold down food. Yeah. Yeah. When there’s a big one. Yeah. Yeah. So and then that was of course that was the end of all the hospital stays, right? No. Well, no, it wasn’t. No, no, no. Yeah. Shortly after that, if I remember correctly, our middle son who kicked the whole thing off Judah with his vocal virus, he saw that Owen was getting all this attention. So much so then he wanted to do another hospital stay and become a frequent flier at Royal Oaks. Was there with, I believe, something with respiratory. 

Number of days there, then came back home. And then I remember you left. You went to go live with your mom and dad and our youngest to try to keep him away from you, to stop him from going to the virus. Yeah. Which, of course, that worked, right? No. So we went to see I got on. We stayed up there for a few days for you to tell. Judah basically got over his virus just to come back home and, like, basically immediately be admitted to Royal Oak again for Owen, which was a six night RSV. You stay in total. We were admitted to the hospital through the E.R. eight times in about three and a half months and accumulated north of 30 days in the hospital where where did your faith play a role? Where did you see God? At work? In retrospect, I can see God at work, but like, truly, like within the moment, I think I was just in such a state of, like, survival mode on behalf of everyone that I, you know, I didn’t I wasn’t able to recognize that. It felt it felt very lonely. I mean, we’re in it together, but it felt very lonely. But as moms, we will deal with difficult times. There will always be something that every mom has to go through. Multiple things. Probably this was just one of ours. God is with you and He is using you and using this. 

Even if you can’t see it or feel it like I could in theater, feel it in the moment. But at the end of the day, God has your children in his hands. He loves them more than we could ever love them. He loves you more than you’ll ever know. And he is guarding and protecting you. And those babies always. Oh. Can we thank Stephanie for sharing all of our. It’s a little bit easier now to talk about now that we’re out of that season, but I pray and I hope that as we we share that, that you and I think we recognize this, that we do all walk through seasons, whether it is that you’re a mother or you hold some other title in life, that not just in the difficulty of the everyday, but especially in the difficulty of the extraordinarily difficult and surprising circumstances that arise in our life on this side of eternity, that we need somewhere to turn for comfort. Which then raises the question Where do you turn for comfort when you feel as if you are in that deficit, that you don’t feel love, that you don’t feel seen, that you don’t feel appreciated, then where do you turn? And so I invite you to with me, take a look at the song 23 again and again here. Look at it through the correct lens. This isn’t about moms. This isn’t about dads. This is about a god who loves us. 

And that here again, in this first verse that we see all that really we need to see that God, the creator and sustainer of all is our shepherd, our good shepherd. And even when it feels like you are lacking, that you are in want, that there are needs that are not being met, that we can confidently say I lack nothing, that he is the one that provides, that he is the one that cares for, that he is the one that loves us, that he is the one that in the midst of green pastures, he is able to quiet ourselves, our souls, that he leads us beside still waters, that God is the one who guides us when we don’t know which way to turn. And we can’t see that far down the road. And we don’t know what the whole plan looks like, that he is guiding each and every one of our steps for his namesake, and that even if you are walking through the darkest valley, that there is nothing to fear, that there is no evil to fear because your God is with you, that his rod and his staff, that they can comfort you and he is the one that continually provides for you, even in the midst of your enemies, even in the midst of a season that seems like it is overwhelming and overtaking you. And he is still pouring out his blessing on you. 

And then here in this final verse again, surely, goodness, God’s goodness and his love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the House of the Lord that will follow me is far too soft for what the Hebrew word is, is should read more like God’s goodness and love will relentlessly pursue you. It will chase you down and it will find you, whether you be in the green pasture or the darkest valley, whether you be in the mundane and you’re just numb and apathetic, or if you you’re in the extra ordinarily difficult season and you don’t see him, that he is chasing you down.Whether or not you believe in him or not, whether or not it is that you are here in this serving, this this service this morning and mom invited you and you haven’t been in church for weeks, months, if not years, that God is still with you and for you and he’s still chasing you down to let you know that he does, in fact, love you. And he’s not chasing you down with condemnation. He’s not chasing you down with judgment. He’s not chasing you down with a rule book.He is chasing you down with his loving kindness as if he wants you to know that he is with you and he is for you. And he wants to call you back to himself. 

But when you’re in those darkest valleys, I must admit, it is sometimes hard to see him. Maybe you’re there this morning, maybe you’ve been there. And if you haven’t, unfortunate Reality is, on this side of eternity, we all walk through difficult, dark valleys. And it raises this question. Do you see him? Do you see God at work? Especially for those of us that are believers? Do you see him at work even in the difficult seasons? Can you see his hand at work? And when I know to be a true at least in my own life is there are times and there are seasons where you are so clouded by the stress and everything else around you that it is difficult in those moments to see God. But then if you can’t see him and if you you’re not certain of his presence, then then the better question may be, can you hear him do do you hear him? Because we know we can continually and always go to God in prayer. We can always go to God in his Word. But again, with with all the noise and stress that life brings about in this sinful fallen world figure, there are again moments where you not only don’t see him, but there are moments in our deep, dark desperation when we are on our knees and we are calling out to him that we just feel like there’s silence coming back towards us. 

Oftentimes when we are driven to that place to ask God the question, why? Why? Why is this happening? Why is this happening to me? Why is this happening now? And all you hear is crickets and you don’t feel as if God is giving you an answer. It’s in these places. And then this third question becomes kind of a dangerous question. Do you love him when your kid is being poked for the eighth time on a visit so they can find a vein when they’re hooking them up to machine to make sure that he’s breathing? You know, you have a good and all powerful God, does it not raise the question, where is he? Because I don’t see you and I don’t hear you. And I’m wondering, God, are I able to love you? Are able to love a God that allows things, this brokenness, the sin and the pain in this world to happen. We are not alone in asking these questions. All of humanity has asked these questions. Even looking back to a theologian over 500 years ago, he was asking himself this same question. You see, in his case, he was so devout in his belief that he went to go live in a monastery. He became a monk, and he dedicated his entire life to try to please God, to try to do the right things, to try to do all the right prayers, to try to enumerate all of his sins and repent of all of his sins and do so in the right way. 

But he continually found that he just didn’t measure up. And one day one of his superiors came to him and said, Don’t you don’t you love God? You seem so miserable. Don’t you love him? And his response was, I did not love I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners. This is out of the lips of Martin Luther before he had this life changing and really earth shattering revelation of the goodness of the Gospel because he was living under this heavy yoke of the law. He was living under all these expectations to just be perfect. And he thought it was on his own shoulders to make his relationship right with God, that he had to pray the right way, that he had repent the right way, that he could do all the things right, that he had it be just perfect.Mom’s. Can you relate to a monk in a monastery 500 years ago? Because you think that you need to do things just the right way, that your family has to look a certain way, act a certain way, that your house has to be a certain way, that you have standards that you’ve set for yourself that no other person on earth has set for you.

And now you feel not only that you’re in a deficit because you continually pour out, but you feel like you’re not measuring up to some invisible measuring stick that you’ve now created for yourself. And because of that, that weight of the law will crush you because it is impossible to meet that standard under the weight of God’s perfect law towards each and every one of us. We do not measure up. And eventually, if we look at his good and write in perfect law, it will lead us to despair because we will go, God, how? How am I supposed to love you if this is what you expect of me, it may force my arms to look at those around them. How am I supposed to love all of you? It’s all of you expect this of me? See, these three first questions are not the right questions. It’s actually the fourth question in the difficult season in the valley that you need to ask yourself. Do you trust him? Because there are moments you will not see him. There are moments you will not hear him. There are moments we’re left to our own sinful devices where we are wondering where our good and gracious nor powerful God is that we may not feel as if we love Him. 

But can you trust him? That’s the all important question for each and every one of us to be able to answer, especially in those seasons that we do have a God we’re able to trust because we have a God who sees you. We have a God who hears you. We have a God who loves you. And he didn’t just love you by speaking over you. He didn’t just love you through signs and wonders. He loved you in the flesh. This season, as I look back on that video, I love the words that my wife said. So I don’t know if you felt the weight of this, but in the midst of that season, in the midst of the three and a half month almost dead center there when our youngest son wasn’t breathing. And I remember the fear overtake me because I thought I was living through the moment where I was going to watch my own child die, that my wife did what she had to do. And she said these words. She used her body to save him. Do you not realize that you have a God who has done the very same thing for you? It’s not just in words, it’s not just in deeds, but it’s in his very body. It is God in flesh who has come to you to take upon himself all of your sin, all the times you have entrusted him, all the times you haven’t loved him, All the times you have not seen him, all the times you’ve questioned and wonder years of where is this God that I hear about that is loving and good All those times, all those times you continually fall into the same patterns of sin over and over again. 

He doesn’t just wipe them away with words, but he wipes them away with the blood from his very flesh  he’s nailed to a tree and he dies. The death that we all deserve. So then, in our deepest, darkest moments that we don’t have to wonder where is God in this moment and what isn’t he going to do something about it? He has done something about it 2000 years ago on a cross that now all of your deep, dark, broken moments may still be deep and dark and broken on this side of eternity. But through his flesh, through his body and through his blood, they are all redeemed. And first, Peter is says this, that we will have these moments, though you have not seen him because we don’t get the benefit to see him in the flesh. You love him, but the only way that you’re able to love him is that you know what follows though. You do not see him now. You believe, you trust, You place your faith in him. Faith in a good and caring and loving God. And through this belief that you are able to rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. Obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls that even in the deepest, darkest valley, that you know, this is not the end. 

That life, forgiveness, salvation have been secured for you in Christ Jesus. And so now, no matter what your situation may be telling you, no matter what, all your senses may be telling you that you don’t see God, that you don’t hear God, that you’re not experiencing him, that you need to know this. Your perception does not determine God’s presence. His word does have. He says he’s with you. He’s with you. It doesn’t matter if you don’t see it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t hear it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel his presence. He said he is with you. He is with you. And mom, I believe you need to hear this as well. This morning. Not only is God with you, but he is he has changed your very identity because all too often when you become a mom that functionally is your identity. Now you are the one that needs to care for. You’re the one that needs to pour out. You’re the one that needs to provide for everyone else in your life. Maybe it’s not just moms. Maybe there’s others, lots of others of us here in this room this morning, or those that are watching and waiting online that feel that same way, that there is some identity that you’re living into, that you just feel like you don’t live up to it. 

When moms hear this, you are a daughter before you are a mom, you are a daughter of the most high God, but ever before you are a mom and that is your primary identity has been secured for you in Christ Jesus. For those of us in our moms that you are a child of God before you are a son, husband, father, work, or whatever it may be, your identity is now his child, and if you are his child, then you are loved. And so rather than functioning from a deficit, rather than answering the question, What do I really want? What do moms really want? Well, they want to love and to be loved, you have to reverse it. If you are God’s child, your first duty is to be loved by him, to rest in him as your good shepherd, to acknowledge the God who laid his life down for you, that his loving kindness would call you to repentance and draw you back to him. That you would feel and experience that love, even in the difficult seasons, even in the darkest valleys, when you don’t see it, that you can still cling to it. Even when you don’t feel it, you can still have this deep down assurance, confidence that he is steadfast, that he is sure this is the only place that any of us can function. To truly love others is to live into that identity as God’s child first. Knowing that you are fully loved, that there is not another finger to raise. There is not a job to do. There is not another checklist to mark off that God has done it all for you in Jesus. And then from there, what is it that He’s called you to do? Moms? What is it that he’s called you to do?Everyone else. He’s called us to love others for know full well that he, our God in the flesh, has loved you first. Amen.