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This weekend marks a day of celebration – Mother’s Day. However, it must be noted that many people were birthed from or became parents in challenging circumstances.
Several people in our community and throughout the globe were born in difficult circumstances or have had children in unfavorable conditions.
Even if you go beyond difficult circumstances related to parentage, even if you are born in the most favorable conditions, mothers mainly, but all parents generally can attest: being a parent is hard work! Add to it the culture in which we live with the ills and ails of this world. Navigating through that, being a parent is not easy. Even the most natural of mothers and fathers deal with difficult children, difficult circumstances and difficult conditions throughout a child’s life.
That is why we should pause to celebrate mothers and mother-like figures who have guided us throughout our lives to the best of their ability.
Difficult circumstances and less than desirable conditions of motherhood are not new to the 21st century. The difficulty of raising children and dealing with challenging circumstances with parenthood trace their way back to Genesis.
One example of difficult family experiences is in Genesis 21, where scripture speaks of the life of a single mother who finds herself in a dire situation trying to take care of and raise her young son.
Hagar is not on the stage of an afternoon talk show, but she could be labeled in 21st-century terms as “the other woman.” However, this is not of her own choosing, but by the selection of Sarai, the lady of the house.
Sarai, Abram’s wife, gets impatient with God and attempts to force God’s hand instead of trusting God’s plan; she’s getting old, but God said Abram was going to have a baby. So, Sarai tells her husband, “I’m too old, so take my servant to have a baby” (Genesis 16:3).
It sounds like a trap, but Abram listens and takes Hagar as his other wife, who gets pregnant. This immediately produces tension; Sarai acts harshly toward Hagar, so that Hagar runs away from the camp during her pregnancy. However, God intervenes, and Hagar goes back and has a son – Ishmael.
This tension only grows between Hagar and Sarah (Sarai’s name was later changed) from Genesis 16 to Genesis 21 when God fulfills His promise, and geriatric Sarah gives birth to a son. Abraham is 100 at this time.
Sarah calls her son Isaac, which means “God laughs.” But as the boy is weaned, during a feast to celebrate, there is not laughter from Isaac, but laughter at Isaac from his older half-brother.
Sarah goes back to her husband and says, “Get that slave woman and her boy out of here; I don’t want him or her having anything to do with my son or his inheritance.” This is drama at its peak.
Now, let me be clear: this is not the children’s fault. While a result of parental decisions, children are not at fault for parental drama.
Abraham doesn’t know what to do; he loves his wife, Sarah, but he loves his son Ishmael. But thanks be to God that God is still gracious despite our mistakes. And the Lord shows His grace to Abraham – “Do what she wants; I’ll take care of them.” With that Abraham gives Hagar and Ishmael some bread and a skin of water – child support – and sends them off.
Hagar and her son wander in the wilderness until child support runs out. Not wanting to see her child die in the desert, she sends him under some bush for shade and goes away so that she wouldn’t hear or see him die (Genesis 21:16). The bush shielded Ishmael from the sun, but Hagar weeps, knowing it won’t shield him from death.
Hagar is in her deepest, darkest, most desolate hour. Helplessness and hopelessness loom over her life. However, a sovereign Father deals with her problem amid difficult circumstances and situations and delivers on His promises.
We can find encouragement in that, also; when our provisions run out, when family and friends are few, when there is nowhere to turn and nobody around, we can rely on God’s promises and provision. We can and should trust God to provide for our needs.
For Hagar and Ishmael, God sends an angel to inquire of Hagar and encourage her. “Fear not,” he says, “for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.” (Genesis 21:17) God also opens their eyes to see a well of water to quench their desert-stricken thirst. And in the wilderness, God provides them a place to live.
Despite difficult circumstances or conditions, know that you can and should trust God to provide for your needs.
Christopher M. Todd is a Coosa County resident and the pastor of The New Home Missionary Baptist Church near Rockford.