how-to-endure-your-childs-suffering

How to Endure Your Child’s Suffering

Jana Carlson

Jana Carlson

The role and responsibilities of motherhood can seem unbearable when your child is suffering. The story of Hagar encourages us to endure in a powerful way.

The role, responsibility, and reward of motherhood is far too magnificent to fully describe. And while it is indeed a high calling, it’s one that comes with a seemingly unbearable weight sometimes. 

The story of Hagar (Genesis 16, 21) is packed with empowering truth for Christian moms. When we feel invisible, underappreciated, or overwhelmed, we find comfort in God’s revelation to Hagar as El Roi, the God Who Sees (Genesis 16:13). And in Genesis 21, her story gives us encouragement in the suffering that sometimes comes with motherhood.

It must’ve been one of the most excruciating moments of Hagar’s motherhood. She and her son had to leave their family and fend for themselves. After wandering in the wilderness for some time, they were in dire need, and her son was literally dehydrating to death. 

 “Then she went and sat down opposite him, about a bowshot away, for she said, ‘May I not see the boy die!’ And she sat opposite him, and raised her voice and wept (Genesis 21:16).”

You can hear the pain in her desperate cry. The thought of seeing her son suffer to the point of death was completely intolerable. She couldn’t bear to watch, so she distanced herself from him. 

Mom, What Do You Believe?

Can you relate? Sometimes we see our children suffering, and it’s painful to watch. Especially when their suffering is a consequence of their own sinful choices, we’re tempted to distance ourselves from them. Playing a role in this part of their story feels unendurable. 

That’s how Hagar felt, and God met her in that place and spoke to her. 

What is the matter with you, Hagar? Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Get up, lift up the boy, and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him (Genesis 21:17).”

“What’s the matter with you?” is a gentle rebuke. It’s like God is saying, “Hagar, have you forgotten already? Not long ago, I revealed Myself to you as the God Who Sees. Remember who I am! Remember what you know. You can trust me. Don’t be afraid.” 

The desire to distance ourselves from the suffering of our children reveals what we really believe. It shows the truth about our faith in God and who He is. It’s time for a renewed perspective. 

As God told Hagar, He also says to us, “Don’t fear!” He knows everything about our children, including their spiritual condition and exactly what they need. Do we believe…

  • God loves them?
  • God cares?
  • God has a plan for their lives?
  • God knows the whole story, including the very end?
  • God is still in control?
  • God is good?

Our answer should be a resounding “YES!”. And if it’s not, we can pray like the father in Mark 9:24, “I believe. Help my unbelief!”

A Minister of Hope

So, if those things are true, what does that mean for us as mothers? How does that change the way we respond to the suffering of our children? Let’s look at what God said to Hagar next. 

Get up, lift up the boy, and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him (Genesis 21:18).”

As long as our children are in our care, as long as they live in our homes, as long as they will have a relationship with us, God calls us as mothers to be a part of their story and to walk in hope.

Hope doesn’t see a suffering child as a weak, defeated soul, outside the reach of God’s saving arm. No. A hopeful mom “lifts up” her child and sees her child as they can be by the empowerment and work of the Holy Spirit. She remembers God’s call on her child’s life, His plan—His good plan—for them. Even a wayward child is not the author of their own story!

When we believe that, we can come alongside and minister hope and strength and support and love and grace for every single step our child takes toward the life God has called them to. 

When Mom Has Nothing Left to Give

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Moms have bad days too. And we have moments where all strength is gone and we’re empty and dry and exhausted. We have nothing left to give. And even then, God has something for us, just as He did for Hagar. 

Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink (Genesis 21:19).”

When we’re at the end of ourselves, we can pray that God would open our eyes to see the well that’s full of the strength and sustenance we need to go on. 

God is that Well. And it never runs dry—the Living Water. He is the Source of refreshing. We must drink deeply of Him so we have the strength to fulfill our role in our child’s story. 

So, weary mama, take a break and quench your thirst with the Living Water. Allow Him to fill you to overflowing and renew your strength. He is faithful. He will do it.  

But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31, NKJV).”

“…Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts (Zechariah 4:6, ESV).”

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