Grieving Mothers – Comfort in the Presence of God
By Steph Nickel
When we’re broken, we need God to put us back together. Steph looks at the story of King Herod’s cruel decree and the grieving mothers as a result of it.
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The Sad Part of the Christmas Story
There is a portion of “the Christmas story” that I have never heard included in a discussion about the days following the birth of Jesus.
We’ve heard about the wise men’s visit with King Herod and the presentation of their gifts to the newborn Messiah. We’ve heard about Simeon’s and Anna’s response when the baby was presented at the temple. We’ve heard about the angel appearing to Joseph and instructing him to flee with Mary and Jesus to Egypt.
But I’ve never heard about the mothers whose babies were killed because King Herod feared he would be dethroned. He was power hungry and bent on annihilating any threat to his position—even if it meant carrying out a horrifying atrocity.
God warned the wise men to steer clear of Herod on their trip home. Previously, Herod had instructed them to inform him when they found the newborn, supposedly so he could go and worship the Messiah as well. When he heard that they had returned via a different route, he was livid.
Matthew 2:16-18 says, “Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more’” (ESV).
King Herod didn’t just kill a handful of babies, as tragic as that would have been. He killed “all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under” (ESV).
If you’ve given birth to a healthy baby, in all likelihood, you’ve been filled to overflowing with joy and wonder. If that little one grew into a toddler and started to walk and talk, your heart likely felt as if it would burst. The dreams. The hopes. The potential.
But what if tragedy struck? What if the king issued a decree that would change everything? What if he sent his assassins to kill your little one?
There would be no changing the king’s decision. There would be nowhere to run and hide. There would be no way to protect your child. Terror and heartache would visit you. They would take hold and never loosen their grip completely—not even in your old age.
Where was a grieving mother to turn? Friends, family members, and neighbours were experiencing the same heartbreaking reality. While they could empathize, they wouldn’t be able to provide the strength and comfort needed at a time like this. In fact, no one had ever experienced a time like this—not to this degree.
Just thinking about it and contemplating how these poor women must have felt saddens me. It’s no wonder they were weeping and crying out with loud lamentation. It’s completely understandable that they refused to be comforted. When something happens to our children, no matter how old they are, it weighs heavily on us. That’s certainly the case when they are babies and toddlers, apparently with their whole life in front of them.
Just like many of us, these women experienced heart-wrenching sorrow.
We may not have experienced pain and grief to this degree, but it’s my guess that most of us have faced situations that make us feel as if our heart is being squeezed in a vice, that an elephant comes to sit on our chest when we crawl into bed at night and have nothing to distract us from our heartache.
Just like us, they had more questions than answers.
There are times even those of us who have been Christians for many years feel as if we have far more questions than answers. It may be because someone asks us a question about spiritual matters that we can’t answer. It may be because we’re heartsick at the condition of society. Or it may be because we’re experiencing heartache and tragedy in our own life.
Just like us, they were confused at what was happening.
When something devastating happens to us or someone we love, we’re tempted to ask, “Why?” and “What did we do wrong?” Even those of us who believe in God and know that He is good become confused. And if that confusion is accompanied by blinding grief, it makes it even harder to think straight.
Just like us, these grieving mothers had to learn that their hopes and dreams might come crashing down around them.
Have you ever looked into the face of a child and marveled at what their future might hold? I’m sure these mothers had. And now all their hopes and dreams lay shattered in little pieces. Maybe your loss hasn’t been as significant, but pretty much all of us have experienced the end of a dream, have had our hope dissipate like the morning fog.
Just like us, they needed the comfort only the Lord can provide.
When we’re broken, we need the Lord to put us back together. When we’re confused, we need to seek the One who is the Answer. When we’re tempted to throw up our hands and give up, we must find our purpose in Him.
We must respond to Jesus’s invitation in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (ESV).
Thank you so much for listening. Just like us, these heartbroken, grieving mothers could only find comfort in the presence of the One who loved them even more than they loved their precious little ones.
Steph Beth Nickel is a freelance writer and editor. She is the coauthor of Paralympian Deb Willows’ award-winning memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances, published by Castle Quay Books.
Steph is a member of InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship and The Word Guild. She and her husband of over 30 years live in Southwestern Ontario, Canada.
Steph’s goal is to nurture and inspire. She blogs at Steph Nickel’s Eclectic Interests. She also guest posts regularly on the topics of Christian living, writing, and fitness. You can visit her website, stephbethnickel.com, to learn more about her.
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