I've sat through many well-meaning Sunday services that celebrated motherhood on Mother's Day. As a child, I remember lining up with all the other children, being handed a rose to pass to my mom. I remember Proverbs 31 being pounded into us as if only those who met every example of a virtuous woman was worthy of being praised, even then feeling the weight of expectation. I remember the crafts we'd make and the songs we'd sing and the general focus on mothers who had a child in the congregation. I remember the special bouquets for the oldest mom and for the mom who had most recently birthed her first baby.
I was too young, however, to remember if the congregation seemed a little thinner those weeks. I was too young to remember the women who would excuse themselves to powder their noses when the service got sentimental. I was too young to remember the broken hearts that were inevitably aching.
Thirty years later, I have gathered pain of my own through waiting for a baby, the bitterness of miscarriage, and suffering through a child's sin. I have also held my friends' hearts as they lost their own mothers, grieve the crumbling of their dreams, and mourn aspects of motherhood that are real and deep.
Good things should continue to be celebrated, yes! God created the gift of motherhood for His glory, and that we might know Him more. The honor bestowed upon women to be life-formers and life-givers and life-shapers is a beautiful thing. Rejoicing in the goodness of God through that particular grace is a wonderful, worthy thing.
Yet we must be incredibly cautious that, if we celebrate the good thing of motherhood (most especially in the context of a church service), it can often celebrate the created over the Creator, bringing the attention to a woman and her joy rather than the Author of all joy, and can often result in the collateral damage of ignoring or wounding a woman experiencing deep-set grief.
And so, for those reasons (and an abundance of others) I am so very grateful for my local church body. Motherhood was not overlooked this week, and I had several sweet friends wish me a happy mother's day with a smile and a hug. But there was a pursuit of unity that reached beyond the visible mothers and reached into those who were there for a greater purpose than to be acknowledged for the fruit of their womb. For those who came to church to know God more, they saw Jesus. This is the daily goal of our congregation, and worship is the theme in every ministry, including the Sunday service.
Rather than a trite sermon on mothers of the Bible, or how a woman should be honored by her children, our precious pastor spoke on Ruth in the most beautiful way. As he started into this small book of the Bible he focused on the first chapter. The chapter where everything was hard. Where everything seemed hopeless. Where everything was bleak and unlovely. And in that first chapter of Ruth we see how anticipation was met with brokenness, and expectation was met with grief, and even 'coming home' was a sorrow.
But, oh, the HOPE!
When grief is a result of disobedience, there is purpose in the pain, and the brokenness is built to make us become more like Christ.
And when our sorrow is simply an outcome of our sinful, broken world, there is beauty even there, as God is actively involved in every small detail. God is at work in EVERYTHING. Our pain is purposed for His glory, and when we respond in humility we will be changed.
Yet we must remember that our pain is not our own. It is uniquely bestowed on us, yes, but as it is handed to us by a good, loving God, we are called to steward it just as wisely and well as any other gift from Him. How we respond to our pain is a reflection of how we respond to God's heart and our trust in Him.
We are called to steward our pain just as wisely and well as any other gift from Him. How we respond to our pain is a reflection of how we respond to God's heart and our trust in Him.
Additionally, we must remember that our pain is often not just for our own refining, but for the encouragement of others. Jesus often chooses to bless us with pain so that others may see us reflect Him in our grief. Perhaps this heartache you are experiencing was built specifically so that the individual who wants nothing to do with Jesus will be inextricably drawn towards Him, because they see your trust in His heart and your insatiable joy amidst the very real pain.
I saw several posts on social media today, capturing the grief many have towards Mother's Day. Yet in that pain there was so much beauty. I saw women come together to hold each other's hearts. I saw them encourage each other through shared sorrow. I saw a connection that was not there before, that was brought about simply because of shared pain.
Oh, that we would see our pain as a platform for the glory of God, rather than a scourge. Because that pain is real. The grief is legitimate. The sorrow is often overwhelming.
BUT GOD. He is good, and wise, and all-powerful, and loving and eternal in His faithfulness and constant in His promises, and He DELIGHTS in working growth and glory in purposed pain. No woman but one who trusts the Lord can praise Him amidst her pain.
No woman but one who trusts the Lord can praise Him amidst her pain.
Our greatest calling is to showcase Christ. And what better place to do that than in our pain, where all others fear to tread?
If you have survived Mother's Day you are probably still hurting. And sister, I feel your heart.
In the midst of our pain and as we continue to grieve, let us hold hands with our sisters in Christ and live in the victorious promise that every pain is purposed, and that we CAN trust the heart of our Good, Giving God. As we weep, let us worship. And in that, others will see Jesus.
As we weep, let us worship.
Listen to Dr. Jon Stricklin's sermon HERE.