Mother’s Day at church can be a sensitive time for women. My pastor is always intentional in expressing kindness to a variety of groups of women on that day: those who wish they could be moms, those whose children have died, those who have wayward children, those whose moms have died…the list can be extensive when you think about it. It’s appropriate to show compassion to those women who fall in one or more of those categories. I’m one of them and appreciate the sensitivity.
If this describes you, it’s important to let yourself feel the emotion that comes up on days like these but also to wrestle with the Lord, seeking not only his comfort but also his hope.
As we celebrate the work of moms on the IFWE blog this week, I wanted to share my story and how I’m wrestling with the Lord and seeking his perspective.
I married later in life with the hopes of still being able to have children. As the years go on, I realize that may not be the Lord’s plan. As I’ve prayed, I have expressed the range of emotions that come up—grief, anger, disappointment, even apathy. There have been several things along the way that have helped me process my feelings while seeking to align myself with God’s big-picture plan in scripture.
Specifically, we talk a lot at IFWE about the “four-chapter gospel.” It’s simply a way of understanding God’s story in four parts—Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration. I think it’s also a useful way of processing the circumstances of our lives to gain a biblical perspective.
Creation: God’s Image Bearers Designed for Flourishing
God designed Adam and Even in his image, with dignity, purpose, creativity, and much more. He gave them a high calling—to be fruitful and multiply and have “dominion” over the earth (Gen. 1:27-28). Being fruitful and multiplying means not just reproducing human beings but multiplying those who know and trust Christ. It also means taking what you’ve been given—your gifts, talents, resources, relationships, and opportunities—and making more with them for God’s glory. Having dominion on the earth, according to Wayne Grudem, means making the earth useful for human beings.
What this means for me is that I must see myself as God sees me—no less an image bearer because of my childlessness but full of his dignity, purpose, and creativity! The calling he gave to Adam and Eve still stands for me today. No matter what God has given us, he is calling us to help grow his kingdom by sharing our faith and investing our gifts for the good of others and his glory. This means that, although I may not physically bear children, I have a great purpose and can be very fruitful.
Fall: The Reality of Living in a Broken World
There’s no getting around it; this world is not the way it’s supposed to be. From volcanoes erupting and the threat of nuclear war to broken families and refugees, we live in a fallen world. What’s worse, we are to blame. Our choice to turn from God has not only negatively impacted ourselves and creation but, most importantly, our relationship with God.
For me, I see my circumstances, in part, as the result of living in a fallen world. Women were designed to bear children and most have a desire to do so. When it doesn’t happen, that feels broken.
Another important factor is how I respond to the circumstances. Will I respond in sin and selfishly turn away from God and others in self-pity, or will I move toward God, seeking his help in accepting my circumstances so that it may benefit others? With God’s grace, the latter!
Redemption: Because of Christ, We Can Trust God with the Unknown
Everything changes because of Jesus. With the in-breaking of Christ’s kingdom, what was broken because of the Fall is on a course to be set right when Christ returns. Because of our redemption from sin, we are set free to live wholeheartedly for his purposes, not our own (Gal. 5:1, Eph. 2:10).
For me, this means that my true identity is in Christ. Because I am a new creation, my heart’s deepest desires are to be aligned with his purposes for me, whatever those may be. That doesn’t mean I won’t struggle; I don’t see what God sees or know what he knows (1 Cor. 13:12, Isa. 55:8-9). But I can accept that a loving God who sent his son to die for me has a better plan that I do.
Part of his purposes involve taking part in building his kingdom family and becoming a spiritual mom to children in my life. God has blessed my husband and me with twelve nephews and nieces and one goddaughter. That’s a baker’s dozen. We have found ourselves with significant opportunities to speak into the lives of these children and others. Seeing my life through Christ’s perspective helps me see children around me with a kingdom mindset.
Restoration: Our Future Is Our Present Hope
When Christ returns, all will be made right. All the sorrows and tears of this world will be washed away. The heavens and the earth will be renewed, and we will rejoice to live with Christ our King forever (Rev. 21:1-4). Though there is suffering today in this world, we have a foretaste of what this future reality will be like.
An article by Matt Anderson in Christianity Today was pivotal for me in understanding how this concept applies to my situation. Anderson explained that I and others like me have a platform to be able to point others to the future hope we have in Christ’s restoration. When the world sees someone who is suffering but hoping in God’s big-picture plan, it transforms their imagination. They see you looking to a future kingdom, and your faith looks more real.
Each one of us can exhibit this future hope no matter our circumstances. And each one of us is on a journey. In time, we often see more of God’s plan unfold and understand his purposes.
I hope that this four-chapter gospel exercise has been helpful to you—it has to me! To my fellow childless friends and those who love them, let us trust in God’s unfailing goodness and sovereignty.
Editor’s note: Learn more about the four-chapter gospel in All Things New: Rediscovering the Four-Chapter Gospel. Happy Mother’s Day Week! Get 20% your entire purchase in the IFWE bookstore. Use code: MOM20 – Offer expires 5/14/18.