For many, Mother’s Day feels more like a day of mourning than a day of celebration. It stands as a reminder of what many have lost. Perhaps it’s a woman who lost her child through miscarriage, stillbirth, illness, or tragedy. Maybe it’s a woman who recently lost her mother. Perhaps it’s a woman who is estranged from her mother, or a mother challenged by a rebellious child. It may be an infertile woman who is pleading and praying for the gift of motherhood. Maybe it’s a woman who had an abortion long before she came to Christ. No matter the circumstance, the pain and suffering experienced in your congregation on Mother’s Day may make celebration seemingly impossible.
I have been that woman in church on Mother’s Day. Infertility had darkened my heart and tempted me to despair. Anticipating the day in fear, internally I wished over and over: “Please don’t make the moms stand up. Please don’t hand out flowers to moms. Please, no one wish me a happy Mother’s Day.”
It wasn’t anger or jealousy, but my attention was more focused on my isolation and brokenness. I was grieving the loss of my longtime dream to be a mother. I felt as though all eyes were on me: the barren, childless woman in the congregation, the one who “wasn’t blessed.” I assumed people were staring at me thinking, “I wonder what’s wrong with her and why she doesn’t have kids yet.” It wasn’t until I applied the gospel to my circumstance, prayed for guidance, and allowed the Spirit to take over my heart that I began to see heart transformation and change in my response to Mother’s Day.
Romans 12:15 is one of many scriptures that apply to this day: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” What does this look like for followers of Christ, and how can we apply it to our circumstance this Mother’s Day?
Rejoice With Those Who Rejoice
I once heard someone say that our culture has a “joy deficiency,” and isn’t that the case sometimes? Sin has confused us into believing that when the Lord withholds blessings from us, that we’re being punished, forgotten, and not loved. When we experience trials, we oftentimes prefer to stay in a season of grief rather than celebrate the blessings of others. But Romans 12:15 doesn’t tell us we get to choose which side we’d prefer to sink into. Though rejoicing on Mother’s Day may seem impossible as we are in the thick of our pain, it’s an opportunity for Christ to enable us to love others in their joyous season of life.
Because all things are from him, through him, and to him, we must be obedient in viewing others’ victories through his mercy. Pray for the power to renew your mind by thinking on what’s right, true, pure, praiseworthy, and admirable about God (Philippians 4:8). Think about the wondrous mercy and grace that you’ve received as a redeemed daughter of the King. Fix your eyes on what Christ has done for you through his incarnation, sinless life, death, resurrection, and ascension.
If you find it difficult to focus your mind on rejoicing with individuals’ blessings, center your attention on the miracles the Lord is working in the Body of Christ. “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans 12:4-5). We can rejoice with the blessings our brothers and sisters in Christ have received without jealousy and anger, because we know that they’re given for the benefit of the entire Body!
Weep With Those Who Weep
It’s central to our spiritual growth to understand that we don’t have to downplay, stifle, or ignore our suffering. There is nothing wrong with mourning the loss of a child, a mother, or an empty womb. For those suffering this holiday, we can be encouraged that the gospel makes up the difference for what’s absent in our lives.
Our Savior relates to our pain and suffering, being described in Isaiah 53:3 as the “man of sorrows.” And perhaps the two most powerful words in Scripture are found in John 11:35: “Jesus wept.” Fully God, fully man, our Savior was not emotionless or detached. He was “deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” when he stood at the tomb of his dear friend Lazarus (v. 33). Jesus could have chosen to retreat in order to grieve alone, but his public grieving moved those around him. They witnessed his grief and responded, “See how he loved him!” (v. 36).
Christ graciously invites and promises us: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV). By taking the gift of his yoke, Christ pulls our burdens with us – not apart from us, with us. So our burdens are to be used as a reason to come to Christ – and what a privilege it is to be tied to him!
The Intertwining of Joy and Sorrow
No matter which side of motherhood you are on, Romans 12:15 is applicable for you today. When we see our circumstances in view of God’s mercies, we unite with others through their seasons of joy and sorrow, of rejoicing and of weeping. Instead of being tempted to see God’s good gifts to others through eyes of anger, jealousy, and bitterness, we can overcome by harvesting an attitude of thankfulness when others celebrate.
Because Christ experienced both rejoicing and weeping in his time on earth, he knows the intertwining of joy and sorrow deeper than we ever will. We can hold fast because we are being sanctified through gifts of joy, trials of sorrow, and experiences that bring us pain. And because God himself dwells in us, he also guides us, protects us, and cares for us. We rejoice because we have an eternal joy in his glorious presence ahead of us!
I wrote this article originally for Unlocking the Bible on 5.6.16. ©Unlocking the Bible. Used with permission. www.unlockingthebible.org. Unlocking the Bible is the Gospel-centered teaching of Pastor Colin Smith (Senior Pastor of The Orchard in Chicago, IL). The ministry challenges listeners to believe that their lives can be transformed by ‘The Power of the Open Book’ through consistent study of the Bible and a deepening faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.