Wounded Women of the Bible:
Finding Hope When Life Hurts
Type of study
This is a topical study which highlights over two dozen biblical women and delves into the hurts they experienced. It also includes stories of modern-day women who have suffered those same wounds.
Who might benefit
Any woman who’s been hurt could benefit.
Releasing a Child
Casey and her husband walked through the doors carrying their newborn son. Doctors told her that the child would only live a few days. Days turned into weeks, and several months passed. The clock seemed to stand still as we all watched and prayed. Was time the enemy–or a gift? At three months old, Joshua’s life came to an end.
Writing this chapter hit close to home. Jochebed, an Israelite woman, and my friend shared a common thread – they both had to release their babies at three months of age. Pharaoh, the King of Egypt, had demanded that all male babies be thrown into the Nile River. I can’t imagine what the Nile River looked like–or the faces of the mothers who watched their babies drown. It was a wound not many of us can fathom.
My first pregnancy was not easy. I probably should have given birth by Cesarean, but for some reason my doctor had me push for three hours. I was so relieved when my son finally embraced the world. Later, as the nurses tried to help me to stand, a sharp pain ran down my legs and I fell to the floor, releasing a loud wail.
I was immediately sent for X-rays which determined that I had separated all three joints in my pelvis. I had pushed so hard that I literally disjointed myself.
My two-day stay in the hospital extended to seven, and from there I received physical therapy and was sent home with a walker. They were hoping that the pelvis would come back together, but they weren’t sure it would happen. “Time will tell,” they said.
For the first time in my life, I received a glimpse of what it might feel like to be paralyzed. Though I could stand and shuffle my feet to walk, I could not lift them. I had to take my hands, cup my legs, and lift them to where I needed them to be. Without the support of the walker, I would tumble to the floor.
I remember crying because I couldn’t get my son from his crib or carry him; someone had to bring him to me. I felt trapped and helpless.
I can’t imagine how Jochebed or my friend must have felt after having their sons. Think of their joy, and then the shocking realization their child will die. What an extremely painful wound! Neither one of them could protect their sons. Jochebed, a slave, couldn’t take her child to a place of safety. She, too, must have felt trapped and paralyzed.
An Emotional Release
I’ve never had to go through the agony of losing a child from a miscarriage or death, but I’ve listened to the cries and heard the painful stories of my friends who’ve had to endure such tragedies.
One friend’s son served over seas in the military, only to come home and be killed in a car accident two weeks later. I saw the pain and suffering my mother endured over the loss of my brother – her son. Watching them, I struggled mightily with the fact that mothers sometimes have to bury their children. It seems unfair and cruel; yet many women have come face-to-face with such a wound.
I’ve listened to friends talk about losing their children either from the sins of the world or through devastating circumstances. The act of losing a child to an addiction can feel just as painful as losing them through death. One grandmother shared how she had to track down her fourteen year-old drug-addicted grandson, who lived on the streets.
I’ve also heard stories of mothers grieving because their children don’t want anything to do with them, or with God.
Before my father’s death, he shared a heart-wrenching story with me that I’ll never forget. I had a sister, who was a year older than me. She had black hair, bright blue eyes, and beautiful porcelain skin. Three days after she came home from the hospital, she stopped breathing. My father shared how he tried to bring her back to life: He cupped her tiny frame in his large hands and ran to the car. He then cracked the window on the driver’s side of the vehicle and held her limp body up to it–hoping that the cool wind on her face would miraculously cause her to start breathing again. Finally, he sped into the parking lot of the nearest hospital and ran inside, still clinging to the lifeless body of his tiny daughter. The nurses and the doctors didn’t even look at the baby. They turned him away and declared that they could not help him because he didn’t have insurance and because they were a private hospital. I ache at the thought of my father and mother carrying such a wound.
It comforts me to know that the Lord hears the cries of his children calling out to Him on behalf of their own children. He does not leave them alone.
From Abraham who took his son to be sacrificed on the altar, to Bathsheba who lost her firstborn from an illness, the Lord has heard the cries of His children. He heard the cry of the wealthy man whose son chose to leave, live a life of sin, and squander his inheritance. God heard the cries of Rizpah, a mother who guarded the bodies of her two sons and Saul’s five grandchildren. Day and night, she watched over their dead bodies–keeping the birds and wild animals away. God heard the cries of Mary, whom he appointed to be the mother of his own son, Jesus…who was beaten, bludgeoned, and crucified on the cross. The Lord heard the cries of his people, and he has heard our cries for our own children.
Jochebed, in desperation, chose to risk everything and attempt to keep her child hidden until three months had passed. Finally, time ran out. Whether he got too big to hide, or whether her neighbors became suspicious, scripture doesn’t say. It does say: “When she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile.” (Exodus 2:3)
Jochebed knew that holding on to her child would ultimately cause his death. . . and possibly hers, as well as the rest of her family. So she did as Pharaoh commanded and put her son in the Nile River–but she did it in her own way. Out of all the Israelite mothers, was Jochebed the only one who thought of such a clever plan?
Jochebed gently laid her baby in the basket and firmly tucked the cloth around him. She placed the basket in the water, holding tight until she felt it was secure enough to float on its own. Then she released it. In that moment, she not only thrust her child into the unknown; she also released him into the arms of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
I wonder, what emotions did Jochebed feel as she watched her baby float away? And how did she finally surrender her child?
As Jochebed stood at a distance and watched the basket float away, her daughter Miriam followed behind. Can’t you see Miriam, the diligent older sister, scurrying behind the basket and watching attentively until it floated out of sight?
As the basket gently floated, it got caught on reeds in the place Pharaoh’s daughter bathed.
“His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. ‘This is one of the Hebrew babies,’ she said. Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?’ ‘Yes, go,’ she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother.”
What bravery and quick thinking Miriam exhibited as she stepped forward and approached the princess! In a sense, she helped save her brother’s life. Did Jochebed know where the waters led? Was this her plan all along?
There comes a time when every parent has to let a child go. The letting go will look and feel different for each of us.
I remember the day my oldest son left home for the very first time. I anxiously counted the days. Time is running out, I would often say to myself. As the time for him to leave got closer, I realized that I had a women’s retreat that I needed to attend the very weekend he was leaving. How did that happen? I thought.
But rather than saying, “This is a mess,” I reasoned that everything fell into place the way it was supposed to. God knew better than I did, and He knew I needed to say my good-byes and then have something to distract me for a few days.
Releasing my son was sweet, but difficult. I woke him early that morning. I didn’t want to release my grasp as I held his cheek to mine. Tears ran between our cheeks. I knew I would see him again, but he was moving several states away. I couldn’t follow him like Miriam. I couldn’t watch him float away (or even fly away) like Jochebed. I simply had to trust and let go. It was painful.
An Unexpected Return
“Momma! Come quickly! He will live, Momma! He will live!” Miriam shouted. Can’t you picture that moment and see Jochebed’s ecstatic face upon hearing Miriam’s words?
Jochebed hurried to the banks of the Nile River outside of the palace, threw herself at the feet of the princess, and out of the corner of her eye caught a glimpse of her son.
Can you imagine the pounding of Jochebed’s heart as her son came closer and closer and was finally placed in her arms? Choking back sobs of joy, she hears the words, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.”
A miracle of grace and love was extended to Jochebed that day. The Lord had returned her son (who would be named Moses) to her. Not only had God given Moses back to Jochebed–but she would be paid for taking care of her own flesh and blood. I can hear the proud and relieved mom laughing with her daughter as they took Moses home. “Can you believe it?” she asks Miriam, shaking her head. “Jehovah be praised!”
I love that Jochebed released her son with wisdom and courage, in the best way she knew how. And I love that she trusted in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…the One who would ultimately determine Moses’ steps.
The miraculous return of Jochebed’s son was nothing short of what the Lord does for us.
When Abraham made his way up the mountain to build an altar and sacrifice his son, Isaac asked, “The fire and wood are here, . . .’but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’ And the two of them went on together.” (Gen 22:7-8 NIV) And just as Abraham predicted, the Lord called his name right before he thrust the dagger into Isaac. Abraham looked up, and in the thicket was a ram. God provided the sacrifice and returned Isaac to Abraham.
When Bathsheba mourned the loss of her child, David went to comfort her, and in the midst of that loss, she conceived another child who would be called Solomon. He would one day become the King of Israel.
The wealthy man rose every morning hoping to see his lost son walking the road that led to his house and “ . . . while he (the son) was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him”(Luke 15:20 NIV). The son returned home!
When David heard what Rizpah had been doing, he sent for the bodies of her two sons and the five grandsons of Saul, in order to give them a proper burial. This was a relief for Rizpah–and an unexpected return for her labor of love.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, watched her son die a cruel, demeaning death. But three days later, He returned by rising from the grave.
“So the woman (Jochebed) took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”
God gave Jochebed back her son for just a short season. That’s how it is with us and our children. The Lord gives them to us for a time, and then we must find a way to release them back to him.
“When the child grew older [no one knows the true age or how long Jochebed was allowed to keep her son] she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son.”
Whether we’ve lost a child through death, sin, or just through them growing up and leaving home, we can find comfort from Jochebed’s oh-so-human experience. We’ll need to release them over and over again. There will be days when our hearts will feel like bursting from the loss, but there will also be days when our hearts find great comfort because we’ve learned to let go and trust God with our child.
Sometimes, we’ll cling to the pain, memories, and wound of losing someone we love so much, but ALL is not lost. If we turn to the Lord like Jochebed did, we will experience His comfort, peace, and reassurance.
Some children may never be returned to us until we embrace them in heaven. With others, we may never see them again due to the lifestyle they choose to live. And there will be those, who like the prodigal child, will find their way home.
If we can learn to release to God what is already His, for no other reason than because it is the right thing to do, then one day, we’ll receive a return on what we’ve lost…a return that only God can give. With His help, we’ll find a greater ability to trust deeply, love freely, and let go when the time comes. Perhaps we’ll be able to minister to someone else going through a tragedy. Maybe the return will be a passion to start a foundation that will go on to help millions of others, or it will simply bring a change in our own life that we never expected. Whatever the return, He will give grace to us.
And He won’t waste our suffering.
Click, clack. Click, clack.
My tow-headed six-year-old careens in front of me on the sidewalk, his red Transformers helmet glinting in the sun.
“I’m doing it!” Jackson cries.
“Great job,” I call as he rolls away from me on his hand-me-down blue skates.
It’s a beautiful afternoon, with a slight nip in the air and a bright, cloudless sky. I smile and murmur a prayer of thanksgiving for Fall.
Autumn has always been my favorite season. I love candy corn, stores full of toddlers’ Halloween costumes, and desks full of new school supplies. But there’s a little bit of melancholy to Fall, too, which fits my personality. Seeing the trees losing their leaves brings a longing for permanence; I understand that they have to release their foliage to prepare for next year’s growth, but I still feel a twinge of sadness when I hear that crunch under my feet.
On this particular October day, my youngest and I have come outside to practice his new favorite sport and enjoy the weather.
“Mommy, look!” Jackson shouts. He’s skated down the sidewalk and is almost to the corner.
“Wow!!” I say, shaking my head. “I can’t believe you’ve only done this once before.”
It’s no wonder Jax is comfortable rollerblading already—he has always been the risk-taker of my two boys. He’s a ready-fire-aim kind of kid, which explains the two CT scans he’s had, not to mention a few of the grey hairs on my head.
But today, he skates at just the right speed, correcting himself quickly when he loses his balance. At one point he falls on his bottom, but he gets right back up, looking at me with a crooked grin. “That didn’t hurt!” he says.
I keep thinking about how just a minute ago he was holding my hand. A couple of minutes ago, he was the three-year-old who smothered me with kisses when I picked him up from Mother’s Day Out. Five minutes ago, I rocked him to sleep and marveled over his long brown eyelashes, perfect red lips, and chubby cherub cheeks.
I know that one day, in the way-too-soon future, he’ll be rolling away from me in a car. With a girl. Who will never love him the way I do. And she’ll treat him terribly, and he won’t listen to me and then she’ll snare his heart and take the grandchildren far, far away so that I never see him, or them.
But I digress.
“Mommy, am I doing good?” Jackson asks, turning around cautiously and skating towards me.
“You’re doing great, sweetie.” He passes me, holding out his hand for a brief high five.
I take a deep breath, clear the lump from my throat, and decide that perhaps there’s a reason this season speaks to me.
The trees are better at letting go than I am.
He Is Enough
I’ve heard it said that the only certain things in life are death and taxes. I’d like to add one to that list. After forty-odd years on the planet, I can say with conviction that the only certain things in life are death, taxes, and change.
My friend Karen Sawyer has had a very difficult time with her two children getting older. Her kids, a boy and a girl, are only two years and one school grade apart, and will be graduating from high school soon, leaving her with an empty—and very quiet—nest.
“I can barely think about it without crying,” she said. “My tears are a combination of worry, missing them before they’re gone, and grieving the fact that my main job for the last 18 years is rapidly coming to an end.”
But in the midst of her struggle, God sent Karen two messages which helped her put the season of letting go in perspective. First, she heard a young NFL quarterback talk at a sports banquet. He spoke about how hard his first two years in the NFL have been and how he had even questioned if he was supposed to be there. He occasionally wondered where God had been.
“But then he realized that it had been the Lord all along, giving him the strength to carry on, to witness in a tough situation,” Karen told me. “He said he had to run to Jesus because when things got tough, quite frankly, where else was he going to go? Eventually he came to the conclusion that if it was all taken away from him today and Jesus was all he had, it would be enough. Then he challenged the audience, if everything immediately changed and all that you loved was suddenly taken away, would Jesus be enough? It started me thinking.
The very next morning, Karen’s pastor preached on making our children into idols. He spoke about living vicariously through them and micro-managing their lives. Karen felt convicted as the pastor asked his congregation, “Do we put our children above God? Do we believe that we have to be in control of their lives for them to be safe, healthy, and successful? Are we helicopter parents, continually hovering? And if so, what would it take for us to trust God with our children and give control back to Him concerning our children?”
The quarterback’s words and her pastor’s words echoed through Karen’s head as the messages mingled together. She asked herself, “Is Jesus really enough? Can he fill my empty heart when my kids are gone? Can he take care of them better than I can? If something were to happen to them, would He really be enough then?
Through these two men’s words, the Lord ministered hope and peace to Karen. God let her know that yes, He is enough–and will continue to be enough when her kids were gone, and if bad things happened. “It may be a minute-by-minute process but I will keep my eyes on Him…and when my mind starts to wander and I start to worry about my kids, I will remind myself who is on the throne and that He will always be enough,” she explained.
And as she “looks forward” to the future, she’s learning to trust that God has a plan not just for her children, but for her, as well: “What it really boils down to is what am I going to do and what am I going to be when they leave? While I am still their mom, my role has changed. I am no longer in charge of their lives.”
Gradually, and with many tears and prayers, Karen has come to the realization that she was never really in total control anyway. God is–and He won’t cease to be in control just because her situation has changed.
“It doesn’t mean there won’t be ups and downs and snags along the way but, He created them and He can certainly guide, direct and manage them much better than I have ever done. And just because my kids will be gone doesn’t mean my life is over. It’s hard for me imagine that anything can come close to being a mom–but who am I to say God can’t out-do Himself?!”
Watch a Facebook video from chapter 2 here.
Dena Dyer is a passionate communicator who loves helping organizations, businesses, and individuals skillfully share their stories. She graduated from Baylor University with a BA in Professional Writing and studied communications and theology at Southwestern Seminary. She’s taught writing to children and adults for years and has spoken at writer’s conferences on such topics as “Book Marketing Lessons Learned,” “How to Become an Editor’s Dream,” and “Book Proposal Basics.” Her specialties include non-fiction, devotionals, blogging, newsletters, and humor. She enjoys coaching writers on all aspects of the publishing process.
Dena’s many publishing credits include Reader’s Digest, Woman’s World, Family Circle, Thriving Family, Today’s Christian Woman, and Ladies’ Home Journal. She is the author or co-author of eight books, including the Golden Scroll 2014 Non-Fiction Book of the Year, Wounded Women of the Bible: Finding Hope When Life Hurts. Her books, 25 Christmas Blessings: An Inspiring Countdown to Christmas, and Love at First Fight: 25 Story-Based Meditations for Married Couples (which she wrote with her husband Carey) were both Selah award finalists. She lives in Texas with her Carey, two teenagers, and a spoiled dog named Princess.
Tina Samples is an award-winning author, speaker, and worship leader. Her book (along with Dena Dyer) Wounded Women of the Bible: Finding Hope When Life Hurts, received the 2014 Golden Scroll Award for nonfiction book of the year. A follow-up book (with hubby Dave) Messed Up Men of the Bible: Seeing the Men in Your Life Through God’s Eyes, won the 2015 Golden Scroll Merit Award.
Tina’s also been a contributor to these compilations: It’s a God Thing: Stories to Help You Experience the Heart of God; Extraordinary Answers to Prayer: In Times of Change and Unexpected Answers; Angels, Miracles, and Heavenly Encounters: Real Life Stories of Supernatural Events; and The One Year Life Verse Devotional. Her devotionals have appeared in The Secret Place and The Quiet Hour devotional magazines. She lives in Texas with her husband, David, who is the lead pastor of Tolar Baptist Church. Together, they have two sons, Jaren and Zach.
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