I am far from having a PhD in motherhood; in fact, this is my first Mother’s Day with a child in my arms. But that’s long enough for me to know this: being a mom comes with all the feelings.
There’s something about being a mom that takes any given emotion and injects it with steroids. Sure, I experienced worry before I became a mom. But now if my baby so much as sneezes, I’m convinced that this is the twenty-first-century version of the bubonic plague. I used to feel pain, too, but that was nothing compared to the vicarious pain I felt on his first trip to the ER. I felt delight before, but nothing could have prepared me for the way my heart would swell the first time he smiled at me (even if was just gas).
As I read Scripture, it occurs to me that this phenomenon of maternal emotion is nothing new. In the story of Hannah, we see a woman who experienced the full gamut of mom-feelings—all within the span of two chapters. It’s comforting to know that I’m not alone in this swirl of emotion. But even more consoling is that God doesn’t just tolerate our spectrum of feelings; he affirms them.
Maybe you’ve bought into the idea that expects a little, well, decorum when we come to him. We figure that approaching him with our requests is like interviewing for a job or applying for a grant: we need to pull ourselves together first, and we certainly shouldn’t have any mascara running down our cheeks in the process. But Hannah’s story is proof that God welcomes us just as we are, with our full range of emotions.
And believe it or not, there’s actually a gift that comes with strong emotion: it can drive us to our knees. All the emotion bubbling inside us can drive us to more fervent—and more frequent—prayers than we’d muster up otherwise.
This was certainly the case for Hannah. She prayed three mother-prayers for her child, and all these years later, they are the prayers all of us moms need.
Hannah’s journey to motherhood was a long and arduous one, having longed for a child for years. At the Tabernacle, she poured out her heart to the Lord, not holding back an ounce of her anguish. She prayed so fervently that the priest assumed she was drunk. “I am a woman who is deeply troubled,” she said. “I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief” (1 Samuel 1:15-16).
God heard the heartfelt “please” of this mom-to-be and answered the desire of her heart. We, too, can come to the Lord with our requests, both for ourselves and for our children, knowing that he hears and that he cares about the things closest to our hearts.
The Lord graciously answered Hannah’s prayers and gave her a son, Samuel, which means “heard by God.” Every time she said his name, it was a reminder of God’s faithfulness. “She named him Samuel, saying, ‘Because I asked the Lord for him’” (1 Samuel 1:20).
Just as Hannah brought her full grief to the Lord, she also brought her full gratitude to the Lord. In 1 Samuel 2, we read her song of praise, which opens with these joyful words: “My heart rejoices in the Lord! The Lord has made me strong” (1 Samuel 2:1). After God answers our prayers, it’s so easy to move on to the next problem, the next request. We get stuck in “please” mode and forget to say thank you. But Hannah’s example reminds us to bring both the sorrows and the joys of motherhood to the Lord.
This is perhaps the most difficult prayer for a mother to utter. We’re wired to protect and nurture our children, which is a good, God-given instinct. However, we sometimes forget that these children aren’t really ours. God has entrusted them to us, but ultimately, they belong to him.
After all those years of waiting, it would have been easy for Hannah to cling tightly to her son. He was her miracle-child, after all! But she never forgot that Samuel was first and foremost God’s child, and when he was just a few years old, she brought him to the Tabernacle so he could serve the Lord for the rest of his life. “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:27-28).
Whatever emotions you are experiencing this Mother’s Day, I invite you to bring them to our gracious God, who welcomes our tears and our joy—and everything in between. Let those feelings be transformed into prayers in his presence.
Please. Thank you. They’re yours.
Stephanie Rische is a senior editor and team leader at Tyndale House Publishers, as well as a freelance writer for publications such as Today’s Christian Woman, Christian Marriage Today, and Significant Living magazine. You can follow Stephanie’s blog at www.StephanieRische.com.
Don’t miss these books about motherhood from Tyndale Kids!