“We were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children.” 1 Thessalonians 2:7
There are a number of comparisons in relationships to that of a mother to her child in the Bible. The Lord Himself compares His compassion for Israel with that of a mother for her nursing child, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will never forget you” (Isaiah 49:15). It is most unlikely that a mother would ever cease to have compassion for the child she has nursed. The Lord states that He will never cease to have that kind of compassion for Israel. The Lord used a mother’s love and compassion for her child because it is the nearest earthly evidence available that compares to His own kind of love and compassion for Israel. Had there been a better illustration available he would have used it.
The other side of the coin is that the love and compassion a mother has for her child is evidence that she is created in the image of God. That a mother might forget is a consequence of the fall which has corrupted the image of God in mankind but that was never a part of the original creation.
Paul also uses a mother’s love and compassion for her nursing child for comparison (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8). In an attempt to remind the Christians in Thessalonica of his own love and compassion for them he speaks of the great affection that a nursing mother has for her child and the pain she suffers upon separation or rejection. He, too, could find no greater example of tender compassion than that of a mother for her nursing child. Clearly, the context reveals that he would be broken hearted if they turned away from him and the teaching he had given them.
The greater the love one has for another, the greater the pain when the object of love suffers. A woman suffers pain in child-birth but it doesn’t end there. “A foolish man despises his mother” (Proverbs 15:20), “a foolish son is the grief of his mother” (Proverbs 10:1) and, “a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15).
Not all pain for a mother comes from the foolish behaviour of her child. Mothers feel more acutely than others the suffering of the child they have given birth to and nursed when they suffer injury, are ill or suffer abuse at the hands of others. Mary knew this kind of suffering. Simeon told her before it happened that “a sword will pierce through your own soul also” (Luke 2:35). The context is Simeon’s prophecy of the opposition and persecution that Jesus would endure. Mary’s pain no doubt was at its worst when Jesus was on the cross and the spear pierced His body. It would be as though a sword had pierced her own soul. Her pain turned to joy when she saw Jesus risen from the dead (Acts 1:14).
“God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). Without the witness of mothers our comprehension of our God and His Divine Nature would be the poorer.