As Mother’s Day approaches, we recognize the complexity surrounding the holiday. While some people have much to celebrate on that day, others find it shrouded in pain. No matter where you fall on that spectrum, one thing remains the same: the character of God.
God’s Word reveals who He is, consistently and faithfully, throughout generations. In the Bible, we see his promises worked out in the lives of His people — including moms. Let’s take a look at God’s character revealed in the lives of five mothers in Scripture.
Sarah: God’s Timing is Perfect
Throughout the Bible, God’s people are often told to wait on His timing. For example, God tells Habakkuk, “For the vision is yet for the appointed time … though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay.” (Hab. 2:3) And Daniel was told that God’s detailed prophesy would indeed happen “at the appointed time.” (Dan. 11:35)
That’s usually a comforting thought, right? That all things happen in God’s time? We write songs about God making all things beautiful in His time. We quote verses about a season for everything. But in the middle of a waiting season, sometimes it feels like God is taking that “one day is like a thousand years” thing way too literally. (2 Pet. 3:8)
No one knows about waiting on God’s timing better than Sarah. In Genesis 12 we first see God’s promise of descendants to 75-year-old Abram; by the time Isaac is born in Genesis 21, Abraham is 100 years old. That means Sarah waited for a son for 25 years.
Twenty-five years is a long time to wait. (And Scripture shows us that Sarah didn’t always wait well.) We’re never told why God made Sarah wait so long. But we are told that Isaac arrived “at the appointed time.” And when that time came, Sarah laughed out loud at the goodness of God. (Gen. 21:2-6) Sounds like perfect timing to me.
Celebrate: Psalm 31:15 “My times are in Your hands…”
Jochebed: God’s Plan Prevails
Jeremiah 29:11 is a Christian greeting card staple; we all want to claim God’s plan to give us “a future and a hope.” And I think we can rightfully do that in light of the hope we have in Jesus. Yet, it’s easy to forget the context of that favorite verse in Jeremiah. God gave Israel this promise in light of telling them their exile would go on for decades. His “plans for welfare” would come, but that didn’t change their current difficult circumstances.
The life of Jochebed, Moses’s mom, illustrates this truth. Jochebed was a slave with no “future or hope” in sight. In fact, life had taken a turn for the worst, with Egyptians killing all Hebrew baby boys. I’m pretty sure it was hard for Jochebed to see God’s plan as she laid her baby boy in the Nile. Current circumstances seemed pretty bleak.
Little did Jochebed know that God was at work fulfilling His plans for rescue. Her son’s life was spared, and God used him to one day set his people free from slavery. Though it would take several decades — probably longer than Jochebed was alive — God’s plan prevailed despite her difficult circumstances.
Celebrate: Proverbs 19:21 “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
Naomi: God Works All Things for Good
Some Christians love to throw around Romans 8:28 like it’s some kind of magical confetti: “All things work together for good.” But for someone who is suffering, that spiritual pat on the back can feel more like a slap in the face.
If something like that was said to Naomi, I think she would’ve rolled her eyes. Famine at home forced her to live in a foreign land where she lost not only her husband, but her two sons as well. Her name means “pleasant,” but she was so distressed that she couldn’t even bear for people to use it anymore. How could God work good out of this?
But He did. You may remember the story of Ruth, Naomi’s Moabite daughter-in-law who returned to Bethlehem with her. Through Ruth, God provided provision and family and purpose for Naomi. And not only Naomi — Ruth’s son would one day be the grandpa of King David, the earthly lineage of Jesus.
We don’t know why God’s plan for Naomi included such suffering, just like we don’t know why God’s plan for us includes suffering. But in Naomi’s story we definitely see evidence of God working all those bitter things for good. (Still, let’s be careful with the confetti when someone’s in the middle of despair.)
Celebrate: Psalm 119:68 “You are good and do good…"
Shunammite Woman: God Does the Unexpected
God always seems to be doing the unexpected in the Bible. In events like the parting of the Red Sea, it’s easy to acknowledge that God is obviously in the business of big unexpected miracles. But then again, centuries of slavery in Egypt weren’t exactly expected either.
In Habakkuk 1:5, God says, “… I am doing something in your days you would not believe if you were told.” What was that? The destruction of wicked Judah by even more wicked Babylon. Reading through the rest of the chapter, we can see that Habakkuk did not expect that. But what else was it? The ultimate destruction of Babylon so that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord.” (Hab. 2:14)
God doesn’t work in tidy ways that we expect. Just ask the woman of Shunem. After being barren for a lifetime, God unexpectedly made her a mom, then God unexpectedly took her son, only to unexpectedly raise him back to life. Whew, bet she didn’t see any of that coming.
Though this mom had a hard time understanding all the twists that God put in her path, she trusted Him through the unexpected good and the unexpected bad. “And she said, ‘It will be well.’” (2 Kings 4:23)
Celebrate: Isaiah 55:8 “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord."
Hannah: God Answers Prayer
The Bible is filled with hundreds of references to prayer, both in the Old and New Testaments. One of my favorites is the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8. Jesus told this story to illustrate the importance of coming to God consistently and persistently.
Hundreds of years before Jesus gave this illustration, Hannah was living it out. We’re told that “year after year” she would go to the house of the Lord to pray for a son. For years, she didn’t receive an answer to her request, but she kept asking anyway, pouring out her soul before the Lord.
Eventually, God answered in the form of a baby named Samuel. In 1 Samuel 1:27 Hannah says, “For this boy I prayed, and the Lord has given me my petition which I asked of Him.” God answers prayer.
Some may argue that we walk a precarious line when we look to stories like Hannah’s and expect God to answer our prayer. After all, sometimes God answers with a “no,” they say. And that may be true.
But it doesn’t change the fact that Jesus encourages our persistent prayer. It doesn’t change the fact that God wants us to boldly approach His throne. (Heb. 4:16) It doesn’t change the fact that God hears and answers prayer, in Hannah’s life as well as in ours.
Celebrate: 1 John 5:14 “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”
These moms weren’t perfect — no mom on earth is. The good news is, God’s work in their lives had nothing to do with them and everything to do with Him. His character was faithful despite their failures, and therefore we can trust Him to be faithful in our lives as well. That’s worth celebrating, on Mother’s Day and every day.