We women often find much of our lives and identities wrapped up in our role as mothers. Whether in anticipation of motherhood, in the throes of raising children, or adjusting to an empty nest, our children are always close to our hearts.
The Bible details stories about women and mothers that are real and at times heartbreaking. Throughout those stories we find our stories.
Sarah laughed when she overheard someone say that she would have a child. Yet we find her listed in heaven’s hall of faith (Heb. 11:11).
As an old woman, Sarah, well past the age of childbearing did conceive and bear a son. And how fitting the name she and Abraham chose for this long-awaited child. Isaac means “laughter.” Imagine the joy that she and Abraham must have felt when their promised son was born.
While we may sometimes doubt, even laugh, at God’s promises, He is faithful.
Hagar went from being a slave, to being mother of the son everyone thought would be Abraham’s heir, to being a single mother cast out of her home with no means of support. Reading her story, we feel her desperation as she sat weeping, a bowshot away, the Bible says, from Ishmael, whom she thought would die because of her inability to provide for him.
But “God was with the boy as he grew up” (Gen. 21:20). And while Hagar was running away from Sarah’s harsh treatment, God came to her and promised to make her son the father of a great nation. Hagar’s response? “You are the God who sees me” (Gen. 16:13).
God sees single moms. He knows your struggles to provide all that your children need. Just as He was there for Hagar, He is there with you.
Bathsheba is often remembered for her part in David’s great sin, but she was just a pawn in those events. Attracting the attention of the king of Israel turned out to be the beginning of a painful chapter in her life.
Yet the tact and quiet discretion she possessed and displayed when it mattered (1 Kings 1:5-40) must have impacted her son’s development.
Of all David’s sons, Solomon is the one in Scripture who most showed a heart to serve God. We may find ourselves in less-than-ideal situations. Even if we played a part in those situations; even if we feel like pawns being adversely affected by the poor choices of others, God can redeem terrible situations and save our children.
Rahab’s singular decision changed the course of her family. We first find her living in the city of Jericho, saving the lives of the Israelite spies, requesting protection for her family when the city was destroyed.
We next find her in the genealogy of Jesus as the great-great-grandmother of King David. Rahab is a wonderful example of how mothers can influence their family’s story, how our decisions can shape future generations.
Leah experienced a deeply troubled marriage. Her pain is reflected poignantly in the names of her sons. Her firstborn, Reuben, she named saying, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now” (Gen. 29:32). With her next son we hear the pain still: “‘Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.’ So she named him Simeon” (verse 33). The voice of her pain has still not subsided in her third son’s name: “‘Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.’ So he was named Levi” (verse 34).
When marriage isn’t ideal, and the pain at times seems unbearable, God understands and feels our pain. Years and much heartache would pass before Leah’s sons reconciled with their father, their brother Joseph, and God, but in the end God brought redemption to Leah’s painful story.
Eve experienced the pain of having a child turn away from God, as well as the agony of having one child murder another. How she must have lamented her choices in the Garden of Eden.
When we look back, and the knowledge of our mistakes weighs us down, destroying our faith and peace, look to the One who loves us and is in the business of forgiving and redeeming both us and our children. Just as God works in our hearts, He’ll work in the hearts of our children, loving them and drawing them to Himself.
Jochebed lived in a crisis situation, yet she was creative and courageous in saving her son’s life. She had only 12 years to train Moses in the ways of God, yet she had a lifelong influence on her son. “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:24, 25).
God is with us when we face crises. He honors our desires and efforts to raise godly children.
Samson’s mother is known in Scripture only as “Manoah’s wife.” Yet hers is another story of God’s redeeming power. The Bible tells of the careful instructions followed by Manoah and his wife as they raised their special son promised by an angel.
Samson was the epitome of a strong-willed child, often bent on following his own path despite his parents’ pleadings. Those choices eventually led to his captivity and blindness. But that physical blindness led to Samson’s spiritual eyes being opened.
When we experience anguish as a result of our children’s poor choices and see them have to deal with the consequences, know that God understands the pain of a mother’s heart.
God gave His only Son to redeem His children—our children. He will never stop seeking us.
Young and inexperienced, Mary found herself not just a mother, but the mother of the Son of God. What an awesome responsibility! Mary did all the mundane little things that go with caring for a baby, a toddler, a curious little boy. Did she understand the magnitude of the work that she was doing?
Like most mothers, she probably felt weary and inadequate at times. Under her care though, Jesus grew in both “wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).
God understands the joys and challenges of motherhood. Motherhood expands a woman’s heart in ways she never thought possible. It is the most challenging job she will ever have. The power of her influence is as far-reaching as eternity.
May our prayers cling to our children as well, knowing that our love for our children is just a tiny glimpse into God’s heart and His love for us and for our children!
Leslie Olin writes from St. Peters, Missouri.
In 2011 Adventist pastors in the St. Louis, Missouri, metro area, population 2.8 million, began meeting together on a regular basis. They formed a cross-conference ministerial association to collaborate together to evangelize the city. This grassroots movement of laypeople and pastors became known as Adventist Ministers and Pastors of St. Louis (AMPS), and now consists of representatives from 14 local churches.
As in many metropolitan areas, the pastors realized that the members of their churches did not know and rarely fellowshipped with members from other congregations, especially if those congregations were in different conferences.
The pastors asked themselves, “Can we do more to have a positive impact if we work together?”
The first event organized by AMPS was Equipping University, a lay training and discipleship program. More than 220 people from different churches, conferences, and parts of the metro area, from the suburbs to the inner city, came and became acquainted as they enjoyed fellowship, training, and worship.
Local churches now take turns hosting various events with a special year-end prayer meeting that includes a Communion service.
After a challenge by AMPS to form a lay ministries team, a group of dedicated lay members, called the St. Louis Seventh-day Adventist Lay Ministries Committee (SLSLM), was formed. Its mission is to find and create mission projects in the St. Louis area, and invite members from all over St. Louis to participate. Its first project, the Jericho Project, focused on Ferguson, Missouri. Beginning with a mailing to residents, team members followed up by going door to door, visiting homes that had received the mailing. They prayed with people, left a packet with inspirational materials, and collected contact information for those interested in future events. In light of recent events in Ferguson, and events occurring in various parts of the country, AMPS chose “Unity in Diversity” as its theme for the 2015 camp meeting.
In the first collaboration for an evangelistic series, David Klinedinst, resident evangelist for the Iowa-Missouri Conference, and pastors Bryan Mann and Joseph Ikner, of the Central States Conference, joined to present a series at the Northside Seventh-day Adventist Church, subtitled “The Truth, in Black and White.”
Bringing the message of the gospel of peace to the St. Louis metro area will take going beyond just accepting our differences. It will take learning to see the value of those differences as we seek to fulfill our mission.
Instead of the St. Louis area camp meeting this year, we are hosting the 2016 Evangelism Summit for the St. Louis metro area. Our theme is “Discipleship Evangelism.”
We hope this journey will inspire other metro areas to find ways to collaborate as pastors, lay members, churches, and conferences to reach their cities as well.
Leslie Olin, a pastor’s wife, lives and serves in St. Louis, Missouri.