What day would you consider the worst day of the year? Perhaps the anniversary of the death of someone special or a day that reminds you of a national tragedy like 9/11? Most people wouldn’t choose Mother’s Day because it is considered a day to celebrate. However, there is a growing segment of our society and even our church community that see Mother’s Day as a reminder of loss. I recently had a young woman who has not yet married tell me that Mother’s Day is, in fact, the worst day of the year. She is reminded that her siblings have children. Her friends have children. Going to church that day is difficult because the mothers will be asked to stand and she will once again remain seated—not qualified for the honor given to so many others.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Proverbs 13:12
There are millions of women in America who desire to be mothers but have not yet married or been able to conceive. God created women with a maternal desire in their heart, yet when that desire is deferred for any reason other than her own choice, there is a grief to which people with children cannot relate.
How can we serve this community of women as we approach Mother’s Day and how can a woman who is longing to be a mother find hope and encouragement?
There are valuable lessons to be learned from Hannah, the mother of Samuel, whose story is recorded for us in the first chapter of I Samuel. She is introduced in I Samuel 1:2 with this simple, yet sad, commentary: “Hannah had no children.”
Hannah’s grief was demonstrated by her heart’s cry for children in verse 10. “She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly.” She was made to feel inferior by other women, and scripture even records: “the LORD had closed her womb.” Her husband tried desperately to shower her with love and extra care to fill the void in her heart. Even as a God fearing woman, Hannah felt as if God didn’t care about her desire either. She makes a comment to Eli in verse 16: “Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman…” This summarizes how many women who are childless feel—worthless.
You may be wondering how Hannah’s story gives encouragement to women longing to have children today. After all, she finally had been “blessed with a child” and healed of her grief.
But wait! She turned around and gave up the child. This hardly seems a logical response to the answer of such a deep cry of her soul. However, after a closer look at her heart, we see a woman whose desire was not merely to bear children. Rather, it was her longing to honor God and her family by contributing to the covenant relationship of God with His people. Her deep need was not entirely biological, but rather spiritual.
In chapter 2 verse 5, as part of Hannah’s prayer of praise (as she offers three-year-old Samuel to live in the house of Eli), she says: “The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn.” Having children (the act of giving birth) isn’t what necessarily brings joy and fulfillment.
God’s command to Adam and Eve in the garden to be fruitful and multiply wasn’t given simply to increase the population. God intended this to be the way to continue the reproduction of image bearers who would reflect His glory here on earth.
Given the responsibility we all share as God’s image bearers, we have the opportunity to have a different perspective on motherhood.
Did you know that the woman who lobbied to make Mother’s Day an official U.S. holiday never had children nor was she married? Anna Jarvis thought of Mother’s Day after the death of her own mother in 1905 as a way to honor mothers for the sacrifices they made for us. It was not intended to be a day to celebrate whether or not one is a mother. We aren’t all mothers, BUT we all have mothers.
Proverbs 31:28 says: “Her children rise up and call her blessed.” Let’s consider all the women in our lives who have sacrificed, invested, and encouraged us in our journey of faith and service to God. My biological mother is certainly on that list. So is my wife—not just as the mother of my children—but one whom God has used to grow me spiritually. My sister is also on my list. She has encouraged and set an example of godliness. On the other hand, many others may not have a loving relationship with their biological mother. Perhaps they never even had the chance to know them. So the one they remember on this day may be someone else entirely.
This year, may we broaden our perspective of mothers from those who may have cooked and cleaned for us in our homes to focus on all the godly women in our lives—those in our homes as well as those in our local church. Let us remove the stigma of the childless, and instead encourage and show appropriate gratitude and honor to all women who are seeking the heart of God and walking faithfully with Him. Who will you rise up and thank God for this Mother’s Day?