All Wives

Unlimited Motherhood & Your Great Undoing

April 1, 2024

“Stop it, Jess. If you bring up the A- word one more time, I’m going to lose it.”

My husband rolled over while yanking the comforter tight around his body. No goodnights exchanged. No I love you. Only the dead silence I had grown accustomed to. I lay staring up at the ceiling. This was not a new argument. My daughter Mara was three years old and exhibited all the red flags of autism. Although we had no official diagnosis, I was determined to fix it, he was determined to forget it.

Unable to sleep, I snuck out of bed and I withdrew to the one place I knew I could find answers: the Google search bar. A YouTube video popped up of a child hopping in front of a TV. The clip lasted nine seconds, but I watched it over and over again. You could have swapped out his head with my daughter’s. Their mannerisms were identical. I no longer needed an official diagnosis, genetic testing, or a trip to the developmental center.

I knew my daughter was autistic.

I wandered back to my bedroom while this mantra played on repeat in my head: If this is what I get for following you, Jesus, I’m out. 

Something in me died that night.

I think it was hope. Maybe it was faith. I’m still not sure. But the void left behind was flooded with anger. Anger toward God. Anger toward my husband. Anger toward my kids. Anger toward the UPS guy who failed to deliver the kids’ Halloween costumes on time. Anger toward the old lady in the Cadillac in front of me who took a decade to turn right and never used her blinker.

This uncontrollable rage was new to me. Good girls don’t yell at God. Yet the pain of life snapped the strap which had bound my truckload of emotions for far too long. I was undone. 

As I drifted off to sleep that night, with a wad of tissues surrounding my head like a halo, God turned the page of my story and forced me into a new chapter—a chapter with the bold title The Great Undoing.

The Invisible Pressure

We all have limitations. Some are pronounced, while others are whispered behind closed doors. Yet every limit is birthed from a point of pain.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

—2 Corinthians 4:8–9

But I feel crushed, Paul.

Maybe you do too. Maybe you replay the agony of saying goodbye to a loved one in an impersonal hospital room filled with tubes and wires. Maybe the marriage destined to last forever collapsed. You’re left bumbling through your words as you attempt to explain the mess to your teary-eyed children. Maybe your teen has you at your wits’ end and is nowhere near the young adult you dreamt they would be when you rocked them in your arms. Maybe it’s the little things adding pressure to your soul—a promotion you toiled for only to be overlooked. Maybe it’s the exhaustion you feel day in and day out as you care for the tiny humans under your roof.

To top it off, pain creates an invisible pressure. Each heartache stacks upon the next. You can stuff your sorrows for years, but they stubbornly refuse to vanish or resolve on their own—rather they build. Eventually, you find yourself like me, screaming curse words at the air while simultaneously handing God your letter of resignation.

I’m done with you, God.

His response?

He smirks and replies, “Good, now we can begin.”

The Great Undoing, in Actuality, Is the Great Qualifier

The truth is that your ability to be used by God isn’t based upon your wholeness but your brokenness. God desires to redeem the pressure pain creates—like a chisel in his hand—to soften our hearts.

No one understood this backward truth better than King David. After committing adultery with Bathsheba, murdering her husband, and losing his newborn son—David was undone. Yet God was not done with David. He transcribed these wise words:

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

— Psalm 51:17

So how do we reverse the vicious cycle of pain? Surrender. The answer is simple, but the application is difficult. Something inside us has to stop fighting. Imagine allowing the Holy Spirit to pin your shoulder to the mat while you cry, “Uncle.”

Your ways God, not mine. Your plan, not mine. Your life, not mine. 

Surrender starts the day we make the conscious choice to drop our seed into the ground and bury it. This one decision changes everything. It’s like when you go swimming at a friend’s house and the water is cold. First, you dip your toes in. Then you dangle your feet and sit on the edge. Eventually, you may slither down the ladder, wincing every step of the way. It feels like a long, slow death. This is how I spent most of my life: calculating every decision and wincing every step. But the day I surrendered my daughter to God, a freedom came rushing in as I ran across the deck and flung myself into the pool, yelling, “Cannonball!”

This moment may sound petrifying. I get it, I’m a recovering control freak. But control is an illusion. All of our efforts to avoid heartache will fail. All of our intricate plans to construct a safe and happy life will collapse. And when they do, we will find ourselves just like a seed that refused to go into the ground—alone. The life we truly desire is on the other side of the Great Undoing.

Yet one thing did remain: the hand of his Father.

This is surrender.

I didn’t arrive at this place overnight. God is a gentleman. He doesn’t demand immediate submission. Sometimes all you are able to muster is one baby step. This tiny stride still counts as forward motion. Worshiping with my daughter was my first wobbly step.

Will you welcome pain onto the property of your life? Will you sign the building permit and authorize the enemy to construct a callus of unbelief around your heart? Or will you allow the pressure of pain to crack open your soul as you raise your white flag?

Your will be done, God, not mine.

Our limp is no longer a sign of weakness, but rather a badge of surrender.

Grab Unlimited Motherhood, here.

Jessica Hurlbut is a wife, pastor, writer, podcaster, and mom of five – two autistic, two adopted, and one typical teen boy. She and her husband, Greg, are lead pastors of New Testament Church in upstate New York and oversee a network of churches in the north country. Jessica and her husband also host a weekly podcast, Full Spectrum Parent, the only faith-based autism parenting podcast. Learn more at

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