Motherhood and Other Hurts

Earlier this week I met with a few colleagues in ministry.  At some point our conversation turned to questions about how our respective churches would acknowledge Mother’s Day and the challenges that honoring mothers in worship entails.  As a pastor, let me share that publicly recognizing mothers in the midst of a worship service is fraught with dangers.  On any given Sunday a typical congregation includes single women of all ages longing to be married with children, married women who are facing infertility issues or stressed over an unsatisfying work/family balance, mothers who are overwhelmed with the needs of children with disabilities or raging hormones, women with expiring biological clocks, mothers of prodigals who haven’t shared a kind word with their child in years, mothers of the deceased and mothers of moderately well-adjusted offspring.  What is the best thing to say before this varied audience who are all seeking comfort and strength before the throne of God?motherhood

First, we can affirm that God is sovereign.  Despite the ubiquitous presence of sin, God remains in control of all creation.  God is able to work through people “whose quiver is full” and whose “womb is closed” and His blessings are unrelated to any individual’s physical or relational condition.  Certainly children are a blessing.  So is the unconstrained time and treasure to serve others.  God knows our trouble and is able to perfectly satisfy every longing heart.

Next, we can affirm that God is compassionate.  Throughout scripture God is the champion of the widow and the orphan; particular to the subject at hand, God commands the people of God to care for those among them who are females without family.  God hears the prayers of the childless and, occasionally, miraculously provides a child while, always, providing comfort.  God promises to dry every tear shed by the faithful and replace what sin has consumed.

“And she made a vow, saying, “LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”  1 Samuel 1:11

Last, but not least, we can affirm that our greatest hope is never fully realized on earth.  Not all pleas and prayers find a positive answer on earth.  And all that God does provide – food, shelter, life (and even children) – do not truly belong to us; we are simply stewards of God’s blessings.  Everything we possess is simply on loan from our Creator.  All these temporary blessings develop a longing for God’s permanent and eternal blessings.  One day, all that God promises will be realized by those who trust in Him, not on earth, but in the heavenly places.  When we are gripped with longing, we can be encouraged that the Lord will satisfy our every pang.

Wherever you find yourself this Sunday and however you choose to identify yourself, allow me to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day.  Join me in acknowledging the mothers among us and the blessings – of all kinds – that the Lord provides through them.    And for those who will be hurting this weekend, I pray that the God of all comfort and hope will remain close to you as we acknowledge those who have been otherwise blessed.

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