Four months after 9/11, I hugged my mom and waved goodbye before boarding a plane to Asia, where I would live and work for the next year and a half.
For me, the opportunity to teach at an international Christian school startup was a dream come true. For my mom, it was an act of faith to send off her eldest daughter, entrusting her to God’s care in such uncertain times.
My parting gift to her was a CD of a Mother’s Day sermon John Piper preached the previous spring, “To Be a Mother Is a Call to Suffer.” What I understood by observation 19 years ago, I now know firsthand: “To be a mother is a call to suffer. Oh yes, it’s more. But it’s not less.”
The pain experienced in labor and delivery (or the adoption process) is only a foretaste of the particular suffering a mother endures. But I’ve learned something else: God’s Word is sufficient for the particular suffering of moms.
God’s Word Explains Why Mothers Suffer
God’s Word doesn’t ignore or deny the reality of suffering. Instead, it provides a context for suffering that validates a mother’s plight: because of the fall, mothers suffer (Gen. 3:1–19).
Before the fall, there were no tears, sleepless nights, infertility treatments, wheelchairs, allergy appointments, or miscarriages. There were no disobedient or foolish children, no lazy or angry mothers.
After Eve believed Satan’s lies and, along with Adam, swallowed the fruit that infected our human race, God didn’t mince words: “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” (Gen. 3:16). As Eve’s daughters, mothers are stricken by the curse.
This doesn’t mean that suffering is always the direct consequence of a particular sin. The blind man who encountered Jesus didn’t suffer because his parents sinned, “but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3). Nevertheless, every kind of suffering is causally related to the arrival and impact of sin in our world (Rom. 8:20–23).
It’s good to affirm a theological explanation like this, but it’s life-giving to engage it in the midst of personal suffering. When our trials leave us feeling isolated, God’s Word welcomes us to see our pain as part of a bigger story.
God’s Word Sustains Mothers with Hope
When mothers suffer, where will they turn? A suffering mother glorifies God when she trusts him, as he uses his Word to sustain her through her trial. When three of my children were diagnosed with the same incurable genetic condition in 2013, God used a wilderness of grief to teach me this truth.
My journal from that time begins with a list of verses about trusting God: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” (John 14:1). “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him” (Jer. 17:7). “Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal” (Isa. 26:4).
Just as God provided daily manna for the Israelites when they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, a suffering mother who trusts God can expect his mercies to be “new every morning” (Lam. 3:23).
Her circumstances tell her to despair, give up, and lose heart. But God’s Word tells her that even if her adopted daughter’s abusive past is resurfacing or her son’s kidney is wasting away, she doesn’t have to lose heart. Her inner self can be “renewed day by day” by God’s Word that tells her this light momentary affliction is preparing “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17).
While my children’s specialists are extremely knowledgeable and some medications are helpful, I can’t put my hope in doctors or treatments to cure my kids. My hope, and the only true hope for suffering mothers, is found in God’s Word—which was written “that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4)
God’s Word Tells Believing Mothers, ‘You Won’t Always Suffer’
The Bible doesn’t promise that a mother who trusts God won’t suffer in this life. Instead: “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21). But God’s Word sets mothers free from the fear of death and tells them, “You won’t always suffer.”
Remember, Eve wasn’t the only one affected by the curse; so was the serpent. Before addressing Eve, God told the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). When Jesus died on the cross and rose again, he bruised the serpent’s head and broke the curse of sin (Col. 2:13–15).
Believing mothers can rejoice through their tears in the God of all grace, who has called them to his eternal glory in Christ, and who “will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish [them]” (1 Pet. 5:10).
Because of Christ’s finished work on the cross, they know that one day God himself will be with them as their God: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:3–4).
A Christian mother’s suffering is an overwhelmingly painful part of her story, but it’s not all of her story. And it certainly doesn’t define her.
Even while grieved by her trials as she waits for that glorious day when God will make all things right, she can “rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” because her life is hidden with Christ (1 Pet. 1:8; Col. 3:3).
This article was first published by The Gospel Coalition on November 13, 2020.