To the Mom with Empty Arms this Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is intended as a day to celebrate the moms in our life. However, for many of us, Mother’s Day is yet another reminder of the precious life that God gave and then took away much too soon, whether by miscarriage or infant loss.

For me, the pain of the miscarriage of our twins was accentuated by the fact that it was our first pregnancy; I had no other children to fill my arms and show those around me that I was, indeed, a mom. I can still feel the grief that threatened to suffocate my very breath as I sat in church that first Mother’s Day after our miscarriage. I practically bawled the entire morning, aching for someone to give me a hug and recognize the worth of these tiny human beings.

Some of you have gone through much greater pain than I have, for even though I have had a miscarriage, I cannot say that I fully understand the precise kind of pain you’re presently going through or have been through in the past. The grief you are feeling in your loss is distinct from my grief, for each miscarriage and each infant loss has its own unique and heavy sorrow to bear.

Yes, to many moms, Mother’s Day often brings more tears of longing and grief than it does tears of joy and gladness.

In the dark days, weeks, and months after our miscarriage, I begged God to give some measure of comfort to help give some form of sense to my grief. In answer to my prayers, He ultimately pointed me back towards Himself and my need to know Him more–primarily His character as demonstrated in His love, goodness, and sovereignty. And in showing me more of Himself through Scripture, God helped me to understand that it is ultimately His unfaltering and unchanging character that brings comfort in the storms of life, not simply the “calming of the storm” or a change of my circumstances.

So as we approach Mother’s Day, how does the character of God speak specifically to this often behind-the-scenes sorrow that comes from being a mom with empty arms due to a miscarriage or infant loss? How does Scripture speak encouragement in these moments of feeling alone and deserted in our grief?

Turn with me to Genesis 16:1-16. This narrative begins with Abram and Sarai discussing God’s promise to give them a son. However, Scripture quickly shifts our focus to Hagar, Sarai’s Egyptian servant.

As the result of Sarai’s plan to make God’s promise happen on her schedule, Hagar finds herself pregnant with Abram’s child. Accusatory words are exchanged between husband and wife, and then harsh actions take place between mistress and servant. In the end, Hagar flees from her mistress and ends up in the wilderness. The details of this story are so messed up that we shake our heads at the senselessness of it all.

But we cannot overlook the end of the story.

Scripture does not give us many specifics concerning what was going on in Hagar’s heart, but given that she is now alone in the wilderness and pregnant with an illegitimate child, she undoubtedly was feeling some measure of pain and anguish in her soul. However, it is in this very turmoil that the angel of the LORD meets Hagar. Indeed, the angel of the LORD meets Hagar and then instructs her concerning the name of her child, saying that she should “call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction” (Gen. 16:11). He then tells her of the legacy that the child will eventually make for himself.

These words spoke abundant comfort and encouragement to Hagar’s troubled heart, for at the end of the conversation, we see a glimpse into how Hagar viewed this appearance of the angel of the LORD: “So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me'” (Gen. 16:13).

Did you catch that? Hagar gives us a name of the LORD, and in so doing, we see a glimpse into God’s character.

What name did Hagar call the LORD?

We read that she describes His name as the “God of seeing” and the God “who looks after me.”

There, all alone in the wilderness and rejected by her mistress, God saw Hagar’s pain and met her in it; He revealed Himself to her and helped her to see that He is the One who looks after her, caring for her and seeing her affliction, even when it feels like she has been rejected by those around her.

I believe this brief insert into the Biblical narrative of Abram’s life can provide comfort and encouragement to us today. It reveals one of God’s names, which in turn points us towards that which describes the very nature of God: to Hagar, God was The God who Sees. Today, He remains The God who Sees, for He does not change.

This Mother’s Day, perhaps you are grieving the precious little one that God has given and taken away; perhaps, like Hagar, you are feeling all alone in your grief, with no one to understand, no one to see or even care about the turmoil in your heart.

Can I propose that the same One who saw Hagar in the wilderness is the same One who also sees your pain? That this is the same One who cares about the grief in your heart?

The LORD who met Hagar in the wilderness is the One who created your little one, intricately knitting your little one together in your womb (Ps. 139:13). Indeed, this is the One who also made the world and everything in it.

The LORD who met Hagar is the same One who saw the substance of your little one, even when unformed and underdeveloped (Ps. 139:16).

The LORD who met Hagar is the same One in whose image your little one was made: the image of God Almighty (Gen. 1:27).

Indeed, this all-powerful and all-seeing God is the same God who sees your pain and who cares for you.

This Mother’s Day, my prayer is that you will find the God of Hagar–the God of who sees and who cares–to be the same God who walks with you through your pain. And may you confidently echo Hagar’s words by declaring that “truly here I have seen him who looks after me” (Gen. 16:13).

(All Scripture quoted in the ESV)