“Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.” — (Philemon 1:7, NIV)
I remember my first Mother’s Day. My husband Mark and I went to church, the church where we met and now served on staff. Our Pastor always brought gifts to give out to the mother who had the most children, the oldest mother, the newest mother, the mother who came the furthest to be with her children and then to honor all of the mothers he asked them to stand. We had just found out I was pregnant. Mark learned over and whispered, “Stand, you’re a mother now.” The thought filled me with joy and tears trickled down my checks as I stood for the first time to be honored as a mother.
I didn’t think about it that day but now every Mother’s Day I think about the ones who weren’t mentioned or honored, the women sitting, the ones who didn’t take a rose as they entered the church, the one’s with a broken heart. The women who long for the embrace of their child but because of death or estrangement they no longer can feel their touch or hear them say, “Mom.”
Mother’s Day brings grief to many women who are suffering because of miscarriages, gifting their child for adoption, abortions, death, and alienation. They sit with a heavy heart, an ache within them that does not leave. This precious woman doesn’t stand, it is too painful. She sits and puts on a smile, claps for all the mothers all the while holding back her tears and covering up her pain. No one seems to notice her and those who do notice don’t say a word to her except for a polite greeting and maybe a hug. As she leaves church people smile at her and say, “Happy Mother’s Day”, she doesn’t explain or deny, she smiles back and says, “Happy Mother’s Day.”
God made me a mother four times in rapid succession. I loved being a mother and I loved Mother’s Day. I didn’t think much about the women who suffered on this day until I was the one suffering. My daughter Melissa died at the age of 21 from ovarian cancer three months after her marriage to Jeremy Camp. During our journey I had experienced the presence of God in the supernatural and the miraculous, in exhilarating joy and in devastating sorrow. Jesus was with me; He was real to me and bearing my sorrows but that didn’t mean I was exempt from excruciating grief.
The loss of Melissa was huge. Melissa wasn’t just my daughter she was my best friend, my encourager, my sister in Christ who stirred up my faith and counseled me along our difficult journey. My family and Jeremy were strong in their faith, each suffering terribly with the loss of their best friend, wife, sister, daughter, counselor, and Spiritual mentor. The pain and sorrow was too much for us to bear together. Three months after her death when Mother’s Day arrived, I was overcome with sorrow. I was the woman sitting in church holding back her tears and covering up her pain. I was the woman who was politely greeted with an occasional gracious hug. No one even mentioned Melissa. I began to realize how ill equipped we are as Christians to enter into the pain and sorrow of others. We don’t know what to say or what to do.
As Christians, as a part of the body of Christ, Jesus wants to use us to comfort and help those He loves in their times of suffering. The Bible tells us “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted” and as the hands and feet of Jesus we need to draw close and be a tangible presence of His love. So how do we do that?
Be bold and step into their life. I had two friends that did that for me. Diane showed up on that first Mother’s Day. She knocked on my front door without any notice. She sat with me, cried with me, and listened to me. We shared memories, looked at pictures, and spoke Melissa’s name. She held me and prayed over me. Diane gave me the gift of her presence. My friend Jo came along side of me and did the hard things I couldn’t do. She didn’t ask me if I needed anything she just observed and then did what I needed. Jo gave me the gift of relieving my burdens. Both gave me the gift of friendship.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” — (Romans 12:15, NKJV)
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” — (Galatians 6:2, NKJV)
“As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God”. — (1 Peter 4:10, NKJV)
Be kind and compassionate. Every act of kindness brings refreshment to a broken heart. Whatever the kindness was; a card, a phone call, flowers or the numerous gifts and food, it helped me and added joy to my day. They reminded me that I was loved. I was seen. As the years have passed the acts of kindness have faded away. People forget. Mothers don’t forget. Some of the most meaningful acts of kindness and compassion came years later when someone would remember and would say Melissa’s name.
“Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; — (1 Peter 3:8, NKJV)
“to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.” — (2 Peter 1:7, NKJV)
Be patient and full of grace. Grief cannot be rushed through. Mourning is a journey that must be traveled alongside of the Lord as He takes us deep into His heart, His compassion, and His healing. It is a journey that I cherish, a journey that I needed, a journey that I am still traveling as Jesus is continually turning my mourning into dancing and clothing me with gladness. Many tried to rush me through it. Find closure, move on; all said with love and good intentions to fix me and heal me. That alone is a work that Jesus and I had to do together. Be patient with loved ones and friends. Be there, hold their hand, pray for them and with them; give them the freedom to mourn for only then will they find the lasting comfort and joy that only comes from Jesus.
“Love is patient, love is kind… It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…” — (1 Corinthians 13:4, 7-8 NIV)
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” — (Matthew 5:4)
This Mother’s Day there will be a woman suffering in silence over the loss of a loved one. This special day brings pain to her instead of joy. Can you see her? Be bold, reach out and touch her with the love, kindness, and compassion of Jesus. Remind her that she is loved, she is seen and that she has a friend in Jesus and in you.
Melissa, If One Life … tells the real-life love story of Janette’s daughter, Melissa Camp, and reveals the mystery of living a courageous life filled with love, joy, and hope no matter what the circumstances are.