by Jane L. Fryar
Hannah knew the pain of childlessness (1 Samuel 1:1–17). She lived without children in a culture that celebrated children, a culture that saw children as the social safety net for one’s old age, a culture that considered childlessness a curse—and possibly even a punishment from God for hidden, heinous sins. More than many of us today, Hannah knew the torment of wanting a child, and yet remaining childless.
Hannah knew the joy of childbirth, of motherhood. Even before she conceived, the promise of God to grant her the son for whom she had prayed buoyed her spirits and renewed her hope (1 Samuel 1:18). Her psalm of praise, written when the Lord kept that promise, stands side by side with the most moving hymns of all Scripture. “My heart exults in the LORD,” she exclaims. “There is none holy like the LORD; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God” (1 Samuel 2:1, 2).
Hannah knew the loneliness of an empty nest. She knew it much sooner than most moms. In keeping with her promise to dedicate her son to God’s service “all the days of his life,” (1 Samuel 1:11), Hannah took her son, Samuel, to the tabernacle in Shiloh a few short months after he took his first baby steps. Every year in a series of exceptionally poignant visits, Hannah returned to Shiloh, taking with her a new “little robe” (1 Samuel 2:19), a robe she had sewn for her son during the previous year with her own hands.
Hannah knew the worry of watching her teenage son subjected to influences and temptations from which she could not protect him (1 Samuel 2:12–17). Though these threatened to lure him from the faith, in the end Hannah experienced the satisfaction of watching the son God had given her maturing in his calling to serve as priest and prophet for the Lord’s people.
From the depths to the heights to the depths and back again, Hannah knew nearly every sorrow, every joy a woman then—and now—can know. Her story gives those who lead in the church today key insights about encouraging all women and especially mothers on Mother’s Day. A few thoughts drawn from her life:
Children are a gift from God. They come to families as his blessing. We live in a culture that pays lip service to the value of children and of motherhood, but which in practice tends to downplay this blessing, encouraging women in subtle and not-so-subtle ways to “aim higher,” to set “more ambitious,” “more worthy” goals for their lives. Mother’s Day gives the church an opportunity to affirm this high calling for what it truly is—a unique and precious service, a service honored by our Savior, the King of kings, who lived out his early childhood dependent upon his own mother, Mary, to protect, feed, clothe, and teach him about life and about his heavenly Father.
Not all women who want children have them. A woman’s “highest calling” is the calling God himself gives. God does not call all women to be wives and mothers; he calls some, instead, to serve his people in other ways. Mother’s Day can stir up a unique and deep pain for infertile couples and for those who have experienced a miscarriage or an abortion—even if that loss happened decades ago. When we in the church are sensitive to this deep ache, we will find ways to celebrate the contribution and calling of mothers in the congregation, while still ministering to the women (and men!) who live as singles or in families without children.
Few mothers have perfect children. Even in the best Christian homes mothers wonder and often worry about the future. Mother’s Day observances provide leaders in the church an opportunity to encourage families who struggle with financial worries, autism, learning disabilities, the relentless pressures of busy schedules, and the sins and disappointments common to family life. What an opportunity Mother’s Day provides to remind everyone in every kind of family, especially those burdened by guilt and sin, of the peace Jesus won for us on his cross! What an opportunity to point the fearful and the worrying to the love and compassion of the Savior, love and compassion that will never end!
Many mothers know the bittersweet satisfaction and loneliness of an empty nest. Those with sons and daughters in the military, far from home; those with children in college or working across the continent; those with children estranged from the family for whatever reason—all these mothers will wake up on Mother’s Day with varying degrees of pride and pain. As we in the church remember these mothers, we can look for ways to reassure them of the all-sufficient grace of God, the Lord who protects, enfolds, and cares for all of us and all our children, wherever they may be.
To help you acknowledge and encourage all the women in your congregation on Mother’s Day, and especially the mothers, CTA has created a number of meaningful and cost-effective gifts. While you’re ordering, don’t forget that Father’s Day will arrive sooner than you think. Why not order gifts for men and dads at the same time you place your order for women and moms?
All of us at CTA are praying that God will use these special days this year to encourage all the moms and dads, all the women and men of your congregation, in their faith and in their callings to serve one another in love, especially in their families.