There are a myriad of reasons why a growing number of women find themselves the head of a one-parent home. Some have endured the pain of divorce, the death of a spouse or a pregnancy outside of wedlock. Others are still married but separated from their mates. Whatever the reason, one thing is certain: God’s faithfulness to us can be seen in Scripture and is evident in the lives of mothers and their children today.
A Biblical Example
Genesis 21:9-14 tells the story of a tumultuous family problem involving Isaac, the son God promised to Abraham in his old age, and Ishmael, his son born to Hagar. Though Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was the one who originally suggested that her husband sleep with her maid, she later insisted that the son produced by that union and his mother be “cast out” of their home. As a result, Hagar became the first single mother mentioned in the Bible.
Early in the morning, Hagar left the place she and her son had called home for many years. It was a difficult departure. Nevertheless, she gathered up her belongings, took the boy and headed for the door.
Abraham was devastated by the thought of never seeing his son again, but Sarah insisted that the woman and the boy leave. With God’s consent, the two were sent away—for good.
In biblical times, it was customary for a woman who was barren, as Sarah was, to offer her maid as a substitute to conceive children. This practice was important because the birth of a son insured the perpetuation of the family, and it also provided an heir to the inheritance left by the father.
Under normal circumstances, Sarah’s actions would have been acceptable. But a desire to ‘help’ God keep His promises and a lack of trust in Him to perform His Word—that Abraham would be the father of many nations and that through his seed all nations would be blessed—caused Sarah and Abraham to take control of the situation.
Genesis 21:14 says Abraham placed the strap of the water bottle on Hagar’s shoulders. The Hebrew translation of the word shoulder is shek-em’, which means “place of burden.” Hagar was left with the overwhelming responsibility of raising a child alone without the provision and protection of a father.
Imagine Hagar (the Hebrew translation of her name means “flight”) wandering in the wilderness of Beersheba. The comfort of the morning air was no doubt snuffed out by the sweltering heat.
With no water to drink and no well to draw from, death seemed imminent for the boy and his mother— until God intervened.
“Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him with your hand, for I will make him a great nation,” God said to her (Gen. 21:18). Today, God is still reaching out to single mothers. He’s offering to be a never-ending source of love, strength and provision as we face the challenge of raising God-fearing world-changers for Him.
After interviewing several mothers for this article, I discovered that the challenges single moms grapple with are universal. We face the tasks of providing housing, buying a car, pulling double shifts at work, feeding our families and paying for health care, all while trying to lead an emotionally healthy life. Many perform these functions without the help of family or friends.
But I believe single parents who have a relationship with Christ have an advantage over those who do not. Why? Because the Father hears us! Ishmael’s name meant, “God hears.”
He demonstrated His commitment to Abraham when He responded to Ishmael’s cries and spoke to Hagar through the angel of the Lord. “And God heard the voice of the lad. Then the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said to her, ‘What ails you, Hagar?’” (Gen. 21:17).
We Are Not Alone
God desires to have a relationship with us. It was never His intention for single moms to go through life alone. Oftentimes, it is during wilderness experiences such as Hagar had that we are able to hear Him clearly.
I can remember my trip to the doctor for what I thought was a follow-up visit for a terrible bout with strep throat. During my examination, I told the nurse I had been experiencing dizziness and feeling somewhat queasy. She asked if I would take a pregnancy test just as a matter of routine. I agreed, but when she returned with the results, I was speechless.
“Miss Lowe, your pregnancy test is positive.” The first thought that ran through my mind was, I’m not married! What I felt that day ran the gamut of emotions. What will I say to my mother? How will I provide for my child? What will the pastor think of me?
My concerns were not unfounded. There was a time in many Holiness and Pentecostal churches when unwed mothers were told they had to stand before the church, confess their behavior to the congregation and ask for forgiveness.
If a woman was a single mom because of divorce, she was not permitted to serve in ministry and was told to remain silent in the church. However, congregants who had other challenges in their lives were never made to come forward.
The home and church situations weren’t my only concerns. I was just two months away from college graduation.
But when I prayed and repented of my actions, God spoke to me just as He did to Hagar. Valerie, you will have a little girl, you are to name her “Faith,” and that’s what you will live by. The word from God that day settled the issue in my mind and gave me peace in my heart.
Though God permitted Abraham to send his firstborn child away, He never abandoned the outcasts. If you are a single mother, you can trust God to walk alongside you and, when necessary, to carry you.