Suffering, it seems like a funny thing to write about on Mother’s Day. I had originally planned to write about something else, but God really put it on my heart to talk about this instead. You see, this is the first Mother’s Day I have ever given any thought to all the mammas out there for whom this day is anything but happy. I know I probably should have thought about those precious ladies much sooner, but for some reason, this is the year that they have been heavy on my heart. Maybe it’s because I have had a handful of people close to me who have tragically lost their babies this year. Maybe it’s because I am on facebook and instagram and it seems like every day I read about another mother who either lost a child, is struggling to conceive one, or who feels inadequate to raise the children she does have (can I get a witness here?). I think that suffering and mothering go hand-in-hand, and on a day that’s awash with flowers and chocolates and fancy lunches, I want to take a few moments and reflect on all the mammas out there for whom this day arrives with a heaviness of heart and a painful reminder of the brokenness that this world is cloaked in.
It all started last fall, a precious friend of mine who was 1/2 way through her third pregnancy experienced early labor that resulted in the stillbirth of her son. I remember receiving her call and just breaking down. I had have friends who had miscarried, I’d even had an early miscarriage myself, but none of these prior losses had prepared me for the emotional pain of seeing a close friend lose a child. I sat with her a couple days later as she cried, mourned, and shared the intimate details of the short life of her 3rd baby and 1st son. In the days to follow I found myself wresting with conflicting thoughts; on one hand, as a believer in Christ, I have firm assurance that our lives on earth are only a drop in the ocean compared with the eternity that awaits us. I believe that my friends son is in his true home, rejoicing with his heavenly father and that he will one day be reunited with his mother who wanted so badly to feel the soft warmth of his newborn cheeks. On the other hand, I was angry. It seemed, and still does seem, so unfair and so wrong that anybody should have to have their heart and their hopes dashed in such a soul searing way as losing a child.
As I prayed for healing and for peace for this family, I was reminded that our hearts were never made to experience such loss. When God formed our hearts “from the dust of the earth,” he created us for oneness and for wholeness and for a relationship with Him that was unburdened with the cares of this world. Our hearts hurt when we go through loss and pain because we were made for more. I believe that when we experience the deep heart ache that comes with losing a loved one, especially a child, that the heart of God aches with us.
In just these last couple weeks, I have had three friends and “friends-of-friends” who have had to say goodbye to their children. I know that this day, this holiday in which we celebrate mothering, is a painful and grief-filled day for them. Even this morning, as I was given a little gift at church, I wondered how many mammas saw that gift being passed around and held back tears thinking about the child they longed to hold in their arms. I wondered how many of my friends and fellow sisters in Christ were sitting in chairs beside me with hearts that were overcome with the sadness and sorrow that life’s suffering brings. Scripture makes it very clear that we are to expect suffering in this life. That we will go through seasons of suffering is one of the first truths our Lord felt the need to impress upon his followers. While knowing that nobody on this earth can live very long without going through painful season of grieving and hardship, we can rejoice through it all because, “we do not grieve like those who have no hope.” (I Thes. 4:13)
I feel out of place even thinking of words to offer that might soothe the hearts of the women out there who dread this day every year. I have not had the personal experience of infertility, child loss, or even the pain of going through the loss of my own mother. If that is you, though, if you are one of the women who goes through this day with a deep ache in your soul and a sadness in your heart, please know that you are in my prayers today. There will be day when sorrow and mourning will pass away and that we will rejoice with our children in the presence of our Savior and God and the pains and despair of earth will be far from our hearts. Romans 8:18 says that, “…our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that shall be revealed to us.” NOT WORTH COMPARING. Does that mean it doesn’t hurt now? Of course not. Does that mean we shouldn’t grieve for our loss? Not at all. It just means that the times we suffer in this life don’t hold a candle to the joy to come. Just like there is no point in comparing the intellectual capacity of a newborn baby to a rocket scientist, our present sufferings are going to be so far outweighed by the glory and joy in the presence of God that there is no point in even comparing the two. When the weight of the pain this life brings seems to much to bear, be reminded that, “…our suffering produces, perseverance; perseverance produces character; and character produces HOPE.” (Rom 5:3). Our hope is built on the promise of eternal life and that in a world that seems to be a turbulent sea of dreams dashed, hopes squelched, and loves lost, let us remember that we have His hope as an “anchor for our souls,” (Heb. 6:19). When the waves crash and the little ship that is our faith seems like it is sinking fast, let’s cling fast to the anchor and the hope that is unaffected and unchanged no matter how the conditions of the seas seem to appear.
This Mother’s Day, I want to share this prayer to all the mothers, with earth babies, angel babies, and hearts that long for children. Let us not forget those who greet this day with heavy hearts and unrealized dreams…..
“Gracious God, today is Mother’s Day and we think of how we have been blessed by our mothers. Many of us have been blessed by our mothers in ways that stir deep emotion and loyalty and today we give overwhelming thanks for a strong mother’s love.
But God, I also think that today is a tough day for many women. Mother’s Day does not bring thoughts of solace and joy, but troubles the heart.
God, please hear my prayer for women who are having a hard time as mothers. I pray for the mothers who are estranged from their children, who don’t know where their children are, whose children will not speak to them. I pray for mothers whose children have hurt them and disappointed them and used them. I pray for the mothers who have given so much and their love is threadbare and tired. I pray for the mothers who are trying to do it alone because their husbands have left them or their husbands don’t care. I pray for mothers who realize too late they messed up as mothers and the guilt is overwhelming and they wish they could go back and fix things, but they don’t know how. Everyday they look for an open door.
God, I pray for mothers who have buried their children. I think of the mothers of children who have been senselessly killed. What a grief these mothers must carry, what a burden of sorrow. I think of the mothers of soldiers who have fallen this year in war. Mothers who have lost their children to starvation, to storms and floods, to violence in the street, to disease. In your mercy, comfort them today.
There are other women, God, for whom I pray. I pray for the many women who want to be mothers, but cannot and on this day they feel awkward. May they know you are with them, Lord.
And God, I pray also for those children here today whose mothers have died and they miss their mothers so much. I pray for those whose mothers are sick or far away. I pray for those whose mothers abandoned them, ran off and left them. I pray for those who would give anything to see their mother, but instead feel an emptiness today.
I pray for those children whose mothers were not good mothers, but who were distant or selfish or hateful, who were so preoccupied with their own problems and their own desires that they had no room left for their children. I wish the world were not like this God, but I know it is and that there are children in this room who ache today when they think of their mothers. They do not have happy thoughts; they have sad thoughts. Be with these today, Lord. Comfort them in your love.
Loving God, being a parent is joyous, yes, but it is also challenging. Help the mothers in this room, and the fathers, too. We need your help, we really do. Strengthen us today and tomorrow and every day. In the tender kindness of Jesus we pray. Amen.”
- Edward Wilson