When Children Suffer

Nobody knows the pain of watching a child suffer better than a mother. With Mother’s Day around the corner, it is a time to honor mothers. We never want to forget the mothers who struggle on this day. In fact, for me it’s always a special day both to honor mothers and to lament with others who find this day to be a struggle. Some mothers have lost children. Others longed for children and could not get pregnant. Still others are watching their children battle horrific diseases. Whatever the case, we lament with those who suffer.

There’s a poignant story in the Bible where Hagar is thrown out like yesterday’s trash with her son Ishmael. She was a slave of Abraham and Sarah. Sarah, in her jealousy and to the disagreement of Abraham, did not want her son Isaac to grow up with his brother Ishmael. “Get rid of that slave woman and her son!,” Sarah barked. God told Abraham to let them go. They were sent into the brutal desert, where the drinking water would soon run out.

After the water ran out, Hagar put her only son under a shade tree and left him to die. Genesis 21:16 NLT paints the grim story well: “Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, ‘I cannot watch the boy die.’ And as she sat there, she began to sob.” It’s painful to even read. She knew in her heart that her son would die that day. It was too painful for her to watch. Every failure began to creep into Hagar’s mind. She was just the slave woman. She was broke. She was homeless. And now she couldn’t even provide enough water for her son to live.

God showed up that day and spared Hagar and Ishmael. But this story captures the immense pain a mother feels when she is abandoned and when her child is suffering. We need to look on others with the same compassion that God has for people who suffer. We need to extend a helping hand to those in need and lament with those who weep.

Photo by Beniamin Şinca on Unsplash

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