(Luke 1:5-25)

A group of mums were asked just days away from Mother’s Day the question, “What does it mean to be a mother?” Here are some of their abridged answers:

· “Motherhood is truly a remarkable gift and a privilege that I hold very close to my heart”

· “To me, being a mother is the greatest job in the world. Helping my girls through all the things life throws them, while also lifting them up so they can reach for the stars and grab one!”

· “Being a mother means being completely and totally overwhelmed (in the best possible way) by love, joy, responsibility, and selflessness”

In biblical times, being a mother was much more than just about a personal and emotional fulfillment. The pain and consequences of barrenness for women back then were very different from what a childless couple might feel in Western societies. Your family’s economic status was related to how many children you have. There was no social security then. The people who looked after you in your old age were your children. More children meant greater financial security. Without children, you could possibly starve to death! The bigger your tribe, your clan and nation, the greater your chances of survival. It is no exaggeration to say that childbearing was a matter of life and death.

That is why being childless in those days brought disgrace, reproach and worthlessness, in their own eyes, in the families and societies they were a part of. There were enormous cultural and societal pressures to have children. You can understand why Sarah and Rachel offered their handmaids to their respective husbands,  Abraham and Isaac. Elizabeth, who was barren and had reached menopause but miraculously conceived through God’s intervention, intimated at this when she announced, “The Lord has done this for me…he has shown his favour and taken away my disgrace among the people” (Luke 1:25). Her unspeakable joy and praise to God along with her husband’s, Zechariah overflowed when they discovered they would be parents to John the Baptist, the greatest Old Testament prophet who ever lived (Matt 11:11) and the forerunner of Jesus! Their son is a fulfillment of God’s mission, in God’s time.

Two things: The first is – and it is easy to miss – they had resolved in their hearts to trust that God had his reasons for not answering their prayers for a child. Rather than give up on God, they made their peace with him. They decided to put their faith in God. We know this because of Luke described them as “upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly” (1:6). Second, rather than seeing God as the means and having a son as the ultimate end, God—his glory and purpose—is the end and having a son is just the means.

If your life is not turning out the way you are expecting, look to Jesus, the one who initiates and perfects our faith, the one who said to his Father, “If my suffering and death is going to bring life, then not my will but yours be done. I trust you!”

“Lord, increase our faith in you!”

Mark Ng