Article May 11, 2018

A bereaved mother’s fight on Mother’s Day

Soon after recovering physically from my first miscarriage, my husband and I returned to church to worship alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ. That Sunday was not easy. Returning to “normal life” after tragedy strikes never is.

There is simply no escaping the feeling—whether justified or not—that those around you are oblivious to the gravity of the pain you are experiencing. For you, the world has been forever altered. Eternal realities of life, death, pain, and longing have been your constant companions. Yet all around, people seem to live and laugh as though nothing of significance has happened.

Our church at the time was located a couple minutes away from the seminary my husband attended. Its membership was made up predominantly of young seminary students and their families. Their growing families. And as we found a place to sit in one of the pews, I remember looking down the row of people it held, mentally noting each of the swollen bellies it contained. Those who did not carry their children within them, rocked car seat carriers back and forth, gently hushing their little ones to sleep.

Instinctively, I touched my empty belly, and grieved for the life that only weeks before resided within. My eyes filled with tears as I sought to accept the providence of God in my life and in theirs—that while he had chosen life for their children, he had allowed death to befall mine; that while he was calling them to the privilege of motherhood, he was calling me to the privilege of suffering.

The battle within

In that moment I fought a spiritual battle that I now realize I will be fighting for the rest of my earthly life—a battle to grasp and truly treasure the Lord’s sovereignty in my life and in the lives of those around me. This battle demands that I put to death the sins of comparison and envy with the only weapon strong enough to vanquish them, the sword of Truth.

God’s Word tells us with unwavering certainty that he cares for each of his children uniquely. He doesn’t haphazardly distribute his blessings nor does he sadistically inflict pain on this children. He loves them, even to the point of death.

With Mother’s Day approaching, I know that many women who’ve lost children to miscarriage and stillbirth, or who struggle with infertility, will find themselves in similarly difficult situations. I know that they will be tempted to believe God has been unkind to them, that he must not care for them as much as he does the mothers of living children in their midst, and that the celebration of motherhood by the world and the church on Mother’s Day is just another cruel twist of the knife in an already gruesome and infected wound.

The capable weapon

It’s possible to mourn the loss of your own child and your own unfulfilled longings as a mother, while simultaneously celebrating the good gift of motherhood he’s given to others.

If this is where you find yourself, dear sister, I want you to know that you are not alone. You are not the first woman to fight this battle, nor will you be the last. You must draw near to the Lord and put to use his sword of Truth if you wish to overcome. He has not left you defenseless. Look to the Psalms that tell of his goodness (Ps. 34:8, 106:1, 119:68; 145), remind yourself of the incomprehensible price Jesus paid for you on the cross (Rom. 5:9-11; 2 Cor. 2:16; Heb. 10:14; Rev. 5:9), and never forget the continuing and intimate work God is doing in you through the power of the Holy Spirit (Ps. 138:8; Rom. 8:28-29; Phil 1:6).

Above all, do not allow yourself to exist in a hopeless state of denial when it comes to God’s sovereign control of your life. The Bible tells us that God controls all things, from the seemingly insignificant flip of a coin (Prov. 16:33) to the kingdom-shaping decisions of kings (Prov. 21:1). We are told that God works “all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). This means that the God who is good in all he does, who gave his very life for you, and who continues to work in your heart today to conform you to his image, has every single moment of your life planned out. He is working it all according to his will and as Romans 8 tells us, for your good. It also means that he is doing the same wonderful work in the lives of the other women around you.

The glorious outcome

This knowledge changes the way we approach Mother’s Day as bereaved women. It means that it’s possible to mourn the loss of your own child and your own unfulfilled longings as a mother, while simultaneously celebrating the good gift of motherhood he’s given to others. This is because we know, through the power of his Word, that he is in control of all things and that he is working uniquely in each woman’s life for their good and his glory.

The same is true for those who are blessed with fruitful wombs. Through the power of God’s Word it is possible for them to rejoice in the Lord for his tangible blessings in the form of children, while at the same time soberly caring for and tending to the hurting women in their midst. Each of us benefits from one another.

This is what is meant by Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians when he said, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”

Allies, not enemies

The beauty of being a part of the body of Christ is that we are intrinsically connected to one another. We do not always live this way, to be sure, but it is how we are meant to live. Jesus has united us together in such a way that we are meant to feel one another’s sorrows and joys as though they are our very own. For the woman who has suffered the loss of children, this means she shares her grief with others by letting them in on the anguish of her heart, while simultaneously fighting to rejoice in the gift of children given to others within the body.

This is no easy task. I was not kidding when I said it will be a battle within your soul. And yet, let us not, as women who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, or infertility, diminish the inherent beauty of the very thing we long for by disdaining its manifestation in other people’s lives. Motherhood is a blessing. It is precisely because of this that God’s withholding of children from some is so painful. It is good and right to acknowledge this reality, and dangerous to deny it.

I've often heard of women refraining from attending church on Mother’s Day because it is simply too painful a reminder of what they have been denied. I understand this impulse, but I humbly submit that this is not the ultimate answer to the pain a bereaved mother is experiencing. She will not ultimately find healing by missing church every time motherhood is discussed or visible. True healing lies not in drawing away from other mothers, but by drawing near to our heavenly Father. The more we seek to understand our good and loving God through his Word, the better we will be able to embrace the unique ways he weaves together the trials and blessings in each of our lives. It is then that we will truly, with sincerity of heart, be able to weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice.

As I stood next to my pregnant sisters in Christ that Sunday morning after my first miscarriage and we lifted our voices together as one body in worship to the Lord, we testified together of the goodness of our sovereign Savior. True, God had dealt very differently with each of us, and yet in the most important sense, he was doing the exact same thing in my life as he was in theirs: he was working all things for good.

ERLC2018