Mother’s Day: Modern day motherhood

Genesis 21:14-21

Mother’s Day. Those words have a special warmth to them. For many they conjure up an image of a Norman Rockwell kind of world where life is simple and everyone lives happily ever after. It frames a picture of a nice home in a neatly trimmed yard behind a white picket fence where life is filled with family fun and picnics. We like to think of a world where everyone dresses up on Sunday morning and walks to the white frame church house on the corner in a tranquil, calm and sterile environment. And, of course, we all live happily ever after. However, Mother’s Day in our 21st century culture awakens to a different world than the Norman Rockwell days of a couple of generations ago.      

God’s plan for the home has never changed. His ideal is still one man for one woman for life. Divorce should never be an option for two believers who have been joined together as one. The Bible is plain when it comes to the teaching of the home. It doesn’t teach about safe sex, it teaches about no sex until we’re married. God’s ideal is for the husband to be the provider and for the mother to build the nest and nurture her children. The breakdown in American moral fiber is the breakdown in the home. In our Western world we are reaping the results of a couple of generations who’ve been raised by modern parents who have in many cases and many ways forgotten their own roots.

Yes, the ideal family still consists of a father and mother who prays and plays with their children. But the church must not close its eyes to the reality that is all around us. We don’t live in a Norman Rockwell world. All the streets in our cities are not swept spotlessly clean every night. There is not an ice cream shop on every corner, we do not see happy faces and wide smiles at every turn of the road. Many of us do not live happily ever after in a castle on a cloud. We live and minister in the real world where dreams are dashed and hopes are smashed. We live and minister in a world where people struggle simply to keep going. In our world two out of every three mothers work outside the home. Four out of five have school-aged children. The real tragedy of our day is that so many of our churches ignore the plight of many modern mothers and continue to minister like they did in generations gone by. One of the great challenges facing the church in our day is the balancing of family ministries. On the one hand we’re to hold up high and holy standards of the godly home. We need to build a wall as high as we can and as thick as we can to keep people from falling over the cliffs of divorce, over the cliffs of broken homes. But, at the same time we need to keep plenty of gasoline in the ambulance at the bottom of the hill to bind up lives that are battered and hearts that are broken.

Have you looked around you lately at the world we’ve been called to reach? I grew up in east Fort Worth, Texas in a neat and clean frame home on the corner of a lot, with a dad and mom who loved each other, who disciplined me, and who were married for 50 years. I did not grow up watching MTV nor many of the sitcoms children watch today, which in a myriad of ways make light of the home. I grew up watching television shows like Make Room for Daddy. However, in scores of thousands of homes in America today, daddy is not there to make room for. And in many of those homes it’s not always his fault. He would like to be. We exist as a church for those who are not here yet. A number of those who are outside the church are single working mothers with broken hearts and broken dreams. In our modern society the real heroes are Christian mothers who are being both mom and dad. Some of them are working two jobs while at the same time going to ball games, driving car pools, cleaning houses, mowing yards and trying to keep their kids in church.

In many ways Mother’s Day is a difficult time for a lot of people. There are a lot of moms in the Bible we can hold up as role models on Mother’s Day. There is the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31. There’s Naomi, Hannah, the Shunamite woman, Ruth, the Virgin Mary. But on this Mother’s Day we bring to center stage a woman who is seldom mentioned. Her name? Hagar. My hat is off to her on this Mother’s Day.

Hagar teaches us a lot about overcoming, especially in the world of single motherhood. She was young and attractive. She was hardworking. She got pregnant before she was ready. Her husband abandoned her and her son. She lost her job. She had no friends and her family was a long way away. But God came to her side and to her rescue.

Hagar’s story tells us how each of us can overcome. Across the centuries she speaks to us of the plight of many modern mothers, the fight of many modern mothers, and the might of many modern mothers.

The plight of many modern mothers

So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water; and putting it on her shoulder, he gave it and the boy to Hagar, and sent her away. Then she departed and wandered in the Wilderness of Beersheba.

And the water in the skin was used up, and she placed the boy under one of the shrubs.

Then she went and sat down across from him at a distance of about a bowshot; for she said to herself, “Let me not see the death of the boy.” So she sat opposite him, and lifted her voice and wept (Gen. 21: 14-16).

In Genesis 21:14 we see her hurting. Hagar was the victim. Her fate was not her fault. It was a result of Abraham’s own impatience and his manipulation. It was a result of his refusal to believe God in the first place. And so he sent Hagar and their young son away. We see her hurting in these verses.

Abraham was not a bad man. He made mistakes. He got into situations and had to make some hard choices. He loved Ishmael, his son by Hagar, and there was no real joy in this separation. The Bible simply says he “sent her away” (Gen. 21:14). These were tough words. She knew how it felt to be rejected. So did the boy. He loved his dad but his dad “sent him away.” Talk about hurting. Hagar was on her own. This was new to her. There was no one to help, no one to make decisions, no one to fix the car or the faucet. The Bible tells us that she “wandered” in the wilderness. She had no real direction. She did not know where she was going nor what she was going to do. Her purpose in life had been lost. This is the plight of many modern mothers. Do you see Hagar hurting? She had been sent away, rejected, and now she’s on her own. Many modern mothers can identify with her today.

We not only see her hurting but we see her hungry (Gen. 21:15). The Bible says “the water in the skin was used up, and she placed the boy under one of the shrubs.” It was bad enough to be hurting but now her supplies have run out and she’s hungry. Her resources have run dry. The emotional strain is complicated by physical pain. Hagar finds herself like many modern mothers. She is hurting without protection and hungry without provision.

Hagar’s plight is the plight of many modern mothers. Next, we see her hopeless. “She went and sat down ... and lifted her voice and wept” (Gen. 21:16). She put the boy under a tree and went off a distance from him so he could not see her. Does anyone identify with her on this Mother’s Day? Is there anyone who’s gone into the privacy of a bedroom and shut the door and just sat down and sobbed? God had allowed Hagar and her son to come to the point where they no longer could endure in their own strength.

Hagar’s plight is the plight of many modern mothers. Many today are hurting. They too know what it is to be “sent away,” and be abandoned, and to find themselves wandering without any direction. Many today know what it is to be hungry. Their resources are gone, children have needs that cannot be met. Maybe today it is not so much physical as much as it might be social or emotional hunger, and especially spiritual hunger for a companion. Other modern mothers see themselves as hopeless. Many are at the end of their rope on Mother’s Day and the only thing left to do is sit down and cry.

While this is the plight of many modern mothers we should never give up. We continue on through Hagar’s story to see what happens next.

The fight of many modern mothers

And God heard the voice of the lad. Then the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said to her,

“What ails you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is.

Arise, lift up the lad and hold him with your hand, for I will make him a great nation” (Gen. 21:17-18).

In these verses we see her expectation. As she sat and wept the angel of God came to her and said, “Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is” (Gen. 21:17). Those comforting words gave her the thread by which to hang. Those words were the crack in the door. Those words were the ray of light at the end of her tunnel. Who was this angel of the Lord? This was in fact a Christophany. This was a visit of the pre-incarnate Christ to this goodhearted mother. Our Lord appears many times in the Old Testament. We find Him walking in the fiery furnace. We often see that He has a way of showing up when hope is almost gone in so many people’s lives.

It is interesting that the Lord tells her that He’s heard the prayers of Ishmael, her son. One of the things that tugs at the heart of God are the prayers of children. This is the fight of many modern mothers. What mother and what child does not want to hear these words today, “fear not, God has heard your prayers.” Do you see her expectations?

Next, we see her encouragement. The Lord told her to get up and hold the boy in her hand “for I will make him a great nation” (Gen. 21:18). How many moms are fighting today to lift their kids up? There is so much around us in our culture that strips away our pride and incentive. So many children feel worthless. They have no mom or dad to lift them up. All some young people hear around the home is how they will never amount to anything or that they are worthless. Some of them have heard it so much they begin to believe it. We have raised a generation of young people and no one is lifting them up. One of the most important things a parent can do is “lift up” their children. Do you see her encouragement? She is putting her arm around her boy. This is the fight of many modern mothers.

My wife Susie and I have seen this as one of the major points in child raising. Not a day went by in raising our two daughters that in some way or another they did not hear us say, “I’m proud to be your dad” or “I’m proud to be your mom.” We tried to let them know they could do anything if they would believe and trust in the Lord. We sought to lift them up. Most children are going to believe what you tell them. We see the encouragement in this ancient mother. She’s building self-esteem. She’s building self-worth. She is lifting up her boy. It is a fight for many of us.

Look at Hagar. Do you see her expectation? Do you see her encouragement? Next, we see her example. She lifted him up and held him by the hand (Gen. 21:18). That is, she walked with him. She showed the way. She led by example. If you look behind the most productive lives, usually you’ll find a mom or a dad who “took them by the hand” and walked with them. They were there in all sorts of circumstances and situations. They led by example.

The fight is on for many modern moms. What an example Hagar is to all of us today. We see her expectations. She’s calling on God and He heard her prayers. We see her encouragement. She’s lifting up her boy in the midst of a difficult situation. We see her example. She takes him by the hand and walks with him. There are millions of children in America today that are waiting for this type of example. If we’re ever going to reach our modern world as the church of Jesus Christ, we must see the plight of many modern mothers and the fight of many modern mothers. Finally, we need to see the:

The might of many modern mothers

Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water, and gave the lad a drink.

So God was with the lad; and he grew and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer.

He dwelt in the Wilderness of Paran; and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt (Gen. 21:19-21).

In Genesis 21:19 we see her provision. “God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.” God became her provider. Abraham had given her a wine skin filled with water but God gave her a well! Do you see her provision? Here was a woman who was agonizing with no apparent resources. And all the while a well was nearby. A well is a very important thing in the desert. Hagar’s condition expresses the spiritual state and condition of many modern mothers on Mother’s Day; hurting, hungry, and feeling hopeless. Many are wandering without knowledge that a well of eternal life is so very near.

Think about it for a moment. The well had been there all the time but Hagar just simply did not see it. It was overlooked until God pointed it out. How many times when hope seems almost gone has God shown us a well? But, it was not enough that the well was so close in proximity. God had to open her eyes. Oh that God would open the eyes of more modern mothers and show them the well of everlasting life that has been there all the time. There are a lot of moms on Mother’s Day who can testify that they would have never made it without supernatural help. The fact is, God showed them a well also.

God opened Hagar’s eyes and showed her a well but she had to do three things. She had to draw the water. She had to drink it herself. And she had to pass the cup to the lad. Do you see her provision? God Himself came to her rescue.

Also, we see her promise. I love the words in this verse. “God was with the lad and he grew…”(Gen. 21:20). She held on to God’s promise that He would “make him a great nation.” Our Lord is always on the side of the oppressed. God delights in coming to the rescue of those who have been cast out. This thread is woven throughout the New Testament. There was a woman at a well in Samaria who had been cast out, yet the Lord came to her rescue. There was a man in Jericho by the name of Bartimaeus who had been cast out to the side of the road but Christ came to his rescue. There was a woman in Jerusalem about to be stoned, a cast-out to society but the Lord Jesus came to her rescue.

There is a strange sense in which adversity has a way of building character. Hagar had help in raising her boy. It was supernatural help! God was with her! Do you see her promise? This is the might of many modern mothers. Children who are being raised by single parents should not be jealous of those who have both parents. God has a way of giving advantage to them. God is especially with them, and for them. Often, it is the child who has known struggle and sacrifice and suffering, the child who has sat under a tree somewhere and wept, the one who has known discipline and hard work, who is better prepared for life and who climbs higher than others who have known little sacrifice.

Yes, “God was with the lad and he grew…” This is the might of many modern mothers. Christ is on their side.

Finally, we see her persistence (Gen. 21:21). God gave her the strength to go on and she had a lasting influence upon her boy. Until it was time for him to be married she stood with him and then she released him to his wife. A single mom in touch with God can overcome every obstacle in her path. Hagar instilled love, respect and forgiveness in her boy.

There’s an interesting sideline found in Genesis 25:9. The Bible records that Ishmael and Isaac buried their father together. Think about that. Ishmael went back to show respect because of his mother’s persistence. This is the might of many modern mothers. Can you see their provision? God has a way of opening their eyes and showing them a well. Do you see their promise? God is with them. Do you see their persistence?

On Mother’s Day let us remember that our responsibility is to build a family unit. Thank God for the home. The home is the hope of America. Let us be bold and frank in teaching our children that God’s plan is one man for one woman for life. There is no such thing as safe sex. There should not be any sex outside the marriage bond. But, let’s also remember that there are so many hurting around us.

Let’s remember the plight of many modern mothers. People are hurting, they are hungry, they are hopeless. Let’s take our hats off to the fight of many modern mothers. Let’s join in their expectations, their encouragement, and their example. Finally, let’s acknowledge the might of many modern mothers. They have a supernatural provision, they live by a wonderful promise, and their persistence has a lasting influence.

Many on Mother’s Day are like Hagar. Perhaps you’re not a single mother. Perhaps you’ve never known rejection. Perhaps you’re not even a mother. But like her you’re “wandering” through life. There’s no direction. There’s no purpose. There’s no peace. Follow her example. Call upon God today. He will open your eyes and show you a well. You can drink from that well and never thirst again. And he will go home with you!

ON A PERSONAL NOTE:

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