A Letter To Women Who Dread Mother's Day
Something happened in our worship yesterday that seemed to resonate with a lot of people. It wasn’t the liturgy, music, or sermon; it was a very brief prayer. Before the sermon, I prayed for those who are struggling on Mother’s Day. I prayed that God would comfort the single women who long for the opportunity to be mothers, the married women struggling with infertility, and the moms who have lost children. That little prayer has led to a lot of conversations, e-mails, and texts.
Clearly it spoke to something a lot of women are battling, and I don’t know why that came as a surprise to me. As a pastor, I have quickly learned that nowhere is a woman’s faith tested more deeply than the difficult path of waiting—waiting for a spouse, waiting for conception, or waiting to be reunited with a child lost. And on days like Mother’s Day, the weight of the wait is particularly heavy.
I thought it would be encouraging for me to share a pastoral letter written to some dear friends that journeyed through the desert of infertility. This was written after they found out another month had gone by without conceiving. Although it speaks to prayers unanswered for a child, it certainly can be applied to all women struggling as they wait upon the Lord…
My heart is hurting for you this morning. For several years I joined my sister down the painful path of infertility, and it seems like I am reliving it again with you. More than anything I want you to know that I am so very sorry for what you are going through.
I hesitated to write because I know in times of mourning you really just need friends to mourn with you, not to have the right answers. And when someone tries to have the answers it can be incredibly inconsiderate. So with that said, I want you to know that I in no way expect my words to cure your pain, I don’t pretend to have all the answers, and I certainly cannot say I know what you are going through because I don’t. But my dear friends are hurting, and the pastor in me just couldn’t help but to write. Forgive me if the timing is insensitive.
There is a scene that I can’t get out of my mind as our prayers each month go seemingly unanswered. It is our Lord in the garden just before He is to be crucified. It really is one of the most mysterious passages in all of Scripture, because the Son of God pleads and begs in heartfelt prayer and yet His request is denied. In essence Jesus cried, “Father, let there be another way besides this cross.” And God the Father said, “No.”
There is so much I don’t understand about that passage, but what helps make sense of it are those concluding words, “Yet not my will but yours be done.” Those words were not merely His qualifier in case His prayer went unanswered; they were truly His heart. A crucial part of His plea was submitting to the good will of his good Father. And the will of the Lord was accomplished. It just wasn’t what Jesus wanted at the time.
Now we reformed folks have really abused this theology, especially in times of suffering. I’m not trying to shame you for your pain. I’m not asking you to rejoice in God’s will before you are ready to rejoice. And I’m certainly not implying that God won’t give you children. I think He will! (By the way, He did) I am simply commending to you a Jesus-like paradigm of faith and trust during pain and suffering.
When Jesus said, “Not my will but yours be done,” it was a profound statement of trust and love. He was saying I believe you are fundamentally a good Father, I believe your will is fundamentally a good will, and therefore I am going to submit myself to You and your will. What was said in that garden was simply, “Father here is what I think is best, but more than anything I believe you know what is best.” And He does. But I understand if that is hard for you to believe right now.
I want you to know that I join you in your confusion. How could God not want to give you a child right now? How could this possibly be for good? I don’t know, but I do know this. If we were watching the gory crucifixion of Jesus, our confusion would have been the same. How could this possibly be good? But of course we know now that infinite good has come through the sufferings of the cross.
And if I could encourage you to look anywhere it would be there. Look again at your Savior on the cross. What you need more than anything right now is to be convinced that God is good. If you look at your circumstances to convince you of that, then you simply aren’t going to believe it. But doubts and fears about God’s goodness cannot endure the sight of the cross. And that is the point of it all. At the end of the day, the reason why the Father said no to his Son in that garden is so that He could be good to you, even in this difficult season when your prayers are seemingly unanswered. If it took the sacrifice of his very Son for Him to be good to you, then He will never not be good.
Hopefully, you can hold on to that. Not as a magic cure to end your pain and longings, but as a rock to stand on as you suffer. I cannot wait for you to have children. You are going to be such great parents. Until that day, I hope you will lean on the God who loves and cares for you, the God who is indeed good.
You are deeply loved,