“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
Recently a friend of mine shared an honest Facebook post about her recent miscarriage—their third (including twins) in just a few short years. Another shared about the birthday of their daughter who died at birth; Hailey would have turned 18 on May 4th. Yet another shared her ongoing struggles with infertility and the sadness and stress she and her husband were feeling. All real people. All hard situations.
The world is a complicated place when it comes to motherhood! Get married, buy a house, start a family: the Triple Crown of achievement and success in the world, only made possible when that last crown jewel called motherhood is accomplished! This can especially feel true in the church, where perception can unwittingly dominate that the most admired, valued and honored women are those who emulate “Proverbs 31.” In our hearts, we know that all women deserve to be cherished and honored, but we can place unrealistic or unmanageable expectations on ourselves (and on other women, too).
While we all love a good baby story that includes happiness and joy, the flip side includes a story of sadness and heartache, with the latter seemingly discarded like a dirty diaper. Who wants to enter a land of grief and despair when the smell of a fresh baby lingers and happily whisks our emotions away? Is there anything that smells better than a newborn baby? Why can’t we just celebrate Mother’s Day and focus on happiness?
The answer is that we can and should honor and celebrate women who are mothers! It is a glorious and important role, and the Bible tells us we should honor our mothers. But it’s also true that we should honor those women who (for whatever reason) are not mothers. We should not be afraid to enter into the hard places with them, if for nothing more than to say “you are not alone on this journey.”
Many women skip towards motherhood like a carefree child on a summer day, oblivious to anything but the happiness surrounding them. The conception process is easy. The wait is short. The birth is smooth. The dream is fulfilled. Someone breaks out the cigars and champagne!
But for many others, the road is full of potholes, fatal accidents, broken parts and broken hearts. The conception process is hard. The wait is excruciatingly long. The birth is tragic. The dream remains elusive. There are no cigars or champagne toasts for these women.
Maybe this is a coworker, your neighbor, or the husband and wife sitting next to you in church.
Maybe this is someone you love.
Maybe this is you.
Though the struggle comes in different ways, Mother's Day can be especially hard for women (and men) who have experienced loss through miscarriage, abortion, infertility, infant loss, or the loss of a dream (childlessness). How could any hope ever come from any of that grief?
The story of Hannah in the Bible (I Samuel 1-2) tells us about a woman who, above all things, wanted to be a mother just like many of us. She was a woman who experienced a physical yearning and sadness, while also hoping and praying that God would grant her the desires of her heart. She stood in that place of hope and pain and engaged it all with God.
Though perhaps in different ways, many women have been on their own Hannah journey.
Lindsey Dennis, part of a national ministry called Hope Mommies, states in her e-book entitled “Heard”: “It’s easy to look at Hannah’s story and think, Well of course she was glad; she got to know for certain she would have a son even if she would give him back to the Lord. We don’t get that specific of a promise—or do we? While God doesn’t give us a guarantee that we will have another child, bring home a healthy baby, or see Him heal our sick babies, we do have a promise that extends beyond this world: Jesus. Jesus now and to come—the promise of all things made new (Rev. 21:5), the promise of our present suffering producing an eternal weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:17-18) and so many other promises manifested in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. In the midst of deep suffering, we can miss these promises while wishing for a promise that our circumstances would be different. It’s in these moments that we must cling to the promise that God is at work and,
“He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
It's noble and honorable to look like a Proverbs 31 woman. But it’s even greater to look like Jesus, to cling to His promises and trust Him in the midst of crushed dreams and impossible odds.
HOW TO ENGAGE THIS TOPIC
Not all women smile on Mother’s Day. Here are two ways to engage this hard topic:
If you or someone you love has experienced loss through miscarriage, abortion, infertility, infant loss, or the loss of a dream (childlessness), we invite you/them to our Hannah Service of Grief and Hope
on Saturday, May 11th, from 5-6pm in the upstairs of the Activity Center on the Bethel Richland campus. This is a unique worship service, open to anyone in our Tri-Cities community, that will honor grief and point us to Jesus as we mourn and hope together. Jennie Parks, executive director of Hope Mommies, will share her story of loss and hope. We will have a variety of books that we’ll give away for free, and a few activities that will honor your/their current journey.
2. Consider reaching out to someone you know who might be on her own Hannah journey this Mother’s Day. It might be hard or scary to bring it up, but it will immensely bless this woman. Perhaps drop her a phone call, a text, or send a card or flowers; anything that would bring hope and encouragement to her weary soul. Just acknowledging her painful journey will be a huge gift.
We want those on a Hannah journey to know that we see you, we honor you, and we care. You aren’t alone on this hard journey. At Bethel, we honor and cherish all women, no matter your life stage or life circumstances, because we know and trust the One who is our Hope.
“I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea, ‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help!’ You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear!’ “You have taken up my cause, O Lord; you have redeemed my life.”