This Sunday is Mother’s Day. The stores are stocked with “World’s #1 Mom” cards. The greenhouses are filled with husbands and children picking out hanging baskets and flower pots. Mothers and grandmothers everywhere are receiving hugs and text messages of thanks.
They are not likely to be forgotten.
And this is perfectly appropriate. For many of us we have had faithful, loving mothers. We are appreciative of their devotion, hard work, and self-sacrifice, and we want them to know it.
But there are some for whom this day is not one of rejoicing. Rather it’s a day of sadness. It’s a day in which they hold their pain close and pretend like everything is alright. It’s a day they wish would be over again for another year.
Sadly, these women are likely to be forgotten.
They might be forgotten because we don’t know about their struggle. It’s too private, too personal, and they aren’t ready to share it. They also might be forgotten simply because, well, we forgot. We didn’t stop to think about what they’re going through.
But they’re there. They’re present among us, shouldering silently a heavy burden.
There’s the single woman. Maybe she’s in her late twenties, and still hasn’t been asked on a date. Maybe she’s in her fifties, and the reality of being a lifelong single has fully sunk in. She wants to be married. She wants to have children of her own. But she doesn’t.
There’s the barren woman. She’s happily married to a faithful, Christian husband. But, like Sarah, Rebekah, and Hannah before her, she’s childless. She wants to be a mother. She wants to quit her job and stay home with her children. But month after month the test is negative.
There’s the woman who has miscarried multiple times. She’s felt the joy of conceiving and having a little one growing within her! She’s felt the nervous excitement of being a mother! But then her doctor can’t find a heartbeat. They tell her something is wrong. The child within her is no longer alive. And no one else knows.
There’s the woman who has a child. Maybe several children. But she’s unable to have any more. She hears the whispers, “Her youngest just had his fourth birthday. Why isn’t she expecting? Maybe she’s being selfish.” This cuts her to the quick. She wants more children. She isn’t being selfish. But her quiver is full at one or two.
There’s the mother with adopted children. Unable to have children naturally, she’s decided to adopt. For others who have adopted, it has gone well. But for her it’s been difficult. There have been countless struggles with her adopted children.
There’s the single mother. Her child was conceived out of wedlock, and she feels a sense of shame that she’s become a mother under these circumstances. She’s afraid, “What will others say? What will they think? How will they treat me? How will they treat my child?”
There’s the mother whose child has died. She can identify with Naomi-Mara. Her child was stillborn. Her child died at six months. Her child died at six, at twelve, at eighteen years of age.
There’s the mother with a prodigal son (or daughter). Her child has gone into a far country and wasted his substance with riotous living, even with harlots. She prays. Nothing seems to change. She pleads with him. He doesn’t call for months.
There’s the mother with many children. Her struggle is different. Far from struggling to get pregnant, she jokes that she could get pregnant if her husband simply looked at her. She physically could have a child every nine months. She catches stares driving her “bus.” Strangers at the grocery store comment on her large number of children. The Christian school tuition is staggering. She’s physically, mentally, and emotionally drained from the care of her children. And then she finds out she’s expecting again.
On Mother’s Day, amidst the cards and flowers and joy, remember these women as well. Remember the silent struggles that they endure. Bring their needs before the Father in prayer.
And for those who are struggling and feeling neglected, you are remembered. We may not always be able to be there for you. We may not always understand. We may not always know the right thing to say. But you are valued as an essential part of the body of Christ. You are loved, by the Father and by us.
You are not forgotten.
This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa. If you have a question or comment for Rev. Engelsma, please do so in the comment section.