Article May 11, 2017

To the childless on Mother's Day

Mother’s Day can be one of the most joyful days of the year. Americans will buy flowers, cards, fancy meals, and gifts in an attempt to physically show our mothers how much we care about them. But for many, it’s one of the most painful days of the year, too. Perhaps we’ve lost our mother, or our mother wasn’t what we needed her to be. Perhaps she was physically present, but emotionally absent. Or most painful of all, maybe we long for motherhood, but it’s elusive. We’re the often forgotten group—we’re the childless.

As a childless woman, Mother’s Day can be a painful reminder of what I don’t have, and what I long for. Whether your season of childlessness is temporary or permanent, whether you’ve walked through miscarriages, infertility or barrenness, remember that you’re not alone. One in 10 couples struggle with infertility, and even more have lost precious little ones—either in the womb or outside of it. It can be easy to feel alienated and forgotten on Mother’s Day, because everyone is busy celebrating, and your heart is busy breaking.

There are a few thoughts I’d like to whisper into your weary soul this Mother’s Day:

1. Cry out to the Lord: The Bible is filled with raw and emotional cries to the Lord. In many of the psalms, we see David’s honest groans, because the pain in his heart is more than he can bear alone.

“O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.”  Psa. 38:9

“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses.” Psa. 25:16-17

“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?” Psa. 13:1-2

The Lord knows the pain of your heart. Cry out to him. Don’t hold back in your sorrow or your suffering. Prayer is one of the greatest gifts, because it allows us to pour our weary souls into the hands of our Savior. You don’t have to clean yourself up before you pray; you can come to him upset, crying, frustrated and sad. Tears give emotion a way out, and the Scripture informs our emotions of truth. These two go hand-in-hand as we journey through life’s difficult paths.

2. Surround yourself with people who love you: Don’t walk through this day alone. Let close friends and family know that Mother’s Day is difficult. It’s okay to ask for help and tell others that you’re hurting. People don’t often know you’re hurting unless you tell them. Allow the church to wrap around you and care for your soul. Invite tender and gentle people to share in your sufferings, to love you, listen to you, sit with you while you cry and to be present. Sometimes what we need most is a hug, a listening ear, and a shoulder to cry on. It might feel difficult or uncomfortable to allow people into your grief, but the Lord gave us community for a reason. We were designed to live life together, as a band of believers, all working for the same goal—to glorify the Lord as we walk toward heaven.

It’s easy to feel like your lack of children defines you. Childlessness can be all-consuming. But if you’re a Christian, the core of your identity is rooted in Christ.

3. Stay off social media: Social media has a way of stirring up discontentment and dissatisfaction. This is especially true on a day that vividly reminds you of what you lack. Your soul will benefit greatly from a break and a breath of fresh air. Consider pushing pause on your phone for the day or even the weekend. You might think it’s no big deal, and hopping on facebook for 15 minutes to relax might seem like a good idea, but scrolling through post after post of mothers and children probably won’t do your soul any good. It’s better to err on the side of caution than to find yourself in the midst of a breakdown because you’ve seen one too many posts about babies.

4. Childlessness does not define you: It’s easy to feel like your lack of children defines you. Childlessness can be all-consuming. But if you’re a Christian, the core of your identity is rooted in Christ, not in your ability to bear babies. Fix your eyes on him, and allow your soul to be saturated in your true identity. Being God’s child should be the primary thing that defines the childless. It’s okay to grieve over the unfulfilled desire, but do so in a way that shows that your ultimate hope, joy and satisfaction is found in being God’s child, not having your own child.

And pastors, as you preach on Mother’s Day, please don’t forget the childless in your congregation. Most of life is bittersweet; we rejoice with those that rejoice and mourn with those that mourn, and Mother’s day is no different. You can be a healing balm for someone’s weary and wounded soul. The longing for parenthood is a good but often unfulfilled desire, and the words you speak can have the power to point people to the heart of our Abba Father. May the church be a safe haven for the hurting this Mother’s Day.