She couldn’t face hearing the Mother’s Day sermon that year. Her doctors had confirmed a few months earlier that they had no treatment for her type of infertility. Adoption agencies insisted that her husband was too old for them to adopt. So she spent that Mother’s Day (and subsequent Mother’s Days) curled up in her bed, weeping over the children she’d never have.
She and her husband were, for many years, two of my closest friends, so I sympathized with their grief as they sympathized with my grief over being unmarried. I had avoided weddings in earlier years, so I well understood why Mother’s Day services would exacerbate her pain. Even now, I believe we should be patient and compassionate toward our sisters in Christ who struggle with infertility because I watched such a special friend suffer so deeply.
And I admit to having mixed feelings now, as many of my friends have become grandmothers. I get tempted toward jealousy when my sister talks about her adventures with her grandchildren. It’s strange, but I feel more upset about not being a granny than about not being a mom. Will someone explain that one to me?
The apostle Paul instructs us to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). How often I wish that more Christians would obey that command, especially around their childless sisters on Mother’s Day. Many pastors preach on the glories of motherhood, which is good in our culture that demeans stay-at-home moms. But those sermons, while important, can make childless women feel like failures. Therefore, we must show sensitivity to them, especially on Mother’s Day!
Although I do sympathize with other childless women on Mother’s Day, I have learned that weeping with those who weep also necessitates rejoicing with those who rejoice. Look again at Romans 1215.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. (NASB95)
Those of us who don’t have children need to joyfully celebrate with our sisters. Even though Mother’s Day can deepen our pain of being childless, we have sisters who need a little recognition and encouragement. While those of us without children look at them and see how richly God has blessed them, many of them are tired. Sure, they love their kids, but I suspect that they have moments when they envy us. They may miss the days early in marriage when they were alone with their husbands and free from distractions.
Theirs is not an easy job, between ungrateful children, husbands who don’t understand that they do more than sit around the house all day, and feminists who pressure them to want “more” for themselves. Single moms have it even harder as they feel guilty about having to work while their little ones are in daycare.
How often do we really listen when our friends talk about the frustration of sleepless nights feeding a newborn, or their guilt induced by postpartum depression? Do we minimize their battles with potty training, or ignore their complainants about temper tantrums? How understanding are we when their teenagers show signs of rebellion, or when they become empty nesters? Sometimes we can become so fixated on wanting what they have that we won’t see the struggles of motherhood.
Mother’s Day can offer a little encouragement to women who wipe runny noses and cry secretly when their adolescents say they hate them. When pastors affirm motherhood from the pulpit, those words can go a long way in reminding moms that they perform one of the most powerful ministries in the church. As feminists try to tell mothers that raising children is less important than a career, having a church elevate the value of motherhood can soothe a woman and strengthen her resolve to teach her children the ways of the Lord.
Loving our sisters in Christ who are mothers causes us to rejoice when they receive honor. While acknowledging our own pain of having empty wombs, we can celebrate the fact that our sisters have this one day to hear words of appreciation for their many sacrifices. So on this one Sunday each year, why shouldn’t we rejoice that these ladies have a day to honor them?