When a child dies

I have recently been approached with the sobering task of conducting a small graveside service for an infant who died after 10 days of fighting in this world. For the sake of privacy I will not mention any names, but I will say that it is an incredible story of God’s grace and provision. The child and mother experienced an emergency Caesarean at 23 weeks only to be separated as the child was life flighted to a large hospital a couple hours away. It would not be until the mother was recovered enough to be transported that they were reunited for the last few days of the child’s life. The parents expressed incredible faith in God’s control over the whole situation. The baby’s 10 days of life were filled with emotion, pain, confusion and obvious sorrow over the reality of the trial. The prospects were not good from the start. Yet, in all this the family came together in a remarkable show of faith in the God of all comfort. There was no anger. There was no bitterness. I did not see any friction in the family or among the friends. There was simple faith. The kind of faith that prays for God’s healing, but also the kind of faith that bows in humble submission at God’s ultimate leading. This was evidenced in the fact that upon the child’s passing, the family still maintained their bold defense of God’s power and goodness. What a remarkable response for God’s children to have in this fallen world!

It was with the knowledge of these events that I was asked to present a few devotional words at the graveside of the precious child. . . . . What on earth am I going to say? What encouragement do I give to a family that has fought so hard for the life of their child only for him to die at the end of it all?

Some would say to encourage them with the knowledge that their child is in heaven. I do not intend to get into the theological controversies of this particular issue. There do seem to be some Scriptures that support this claim, but all in all the Scripture is very quiet on the subject. I think the real answer is found when we take a step back and look very honestly at the character of our God.

God has revealed to us certain things about Himself that I should filter all of life’s circumstances through. God is all powerful. God is all knowing. He is all wise. But not just that, He is all gracious. He is all compassionate. He is all loving. And God is completely sovereign. What this means for me is that whenever I find myself in a situation that I do not understand, the answer is not usually to try to find the answer but to trust the character of God. There is great rest and peace in not needing to have the answers, and it shows a great lack of faith when God’s children demand an answer for every trial He sees fit to bless us with. We are so quick to call God out for His sovereign choices. It is a great failing when we do not acknowledge God’s right to rule over His creation in the manner He chooses. “Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” Romans 9:21

I do not deny that these are sobering conclusions, but it is only when we let God be as beautiful and multifaceted as He really is that we begin to experience real joy and rest. While God is in absolute control, and we should rightly bow in submission to His control, He is also just and merciful and loving. Consider a verse only one chapter before the above verse. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28. What an incredible reality it is that almighty God has included our good in His ultimate plan to glorify Himself. Now, God maintains the right to show us what good really means for us. Even in the trials we humbly acknowledge that whatever be God’s choice it is a good one. So now, even in the loss of a child, it is not the ultimate condition of the child that brings our grieving hearts ultimate rest. It is knowing the faithful God Who we trust has done right. He has not forsaken us and He is not causing us to suffer needlessly. He is working towards a glorious end when our understanding will be more fully enlightened and our hearts will be thrilled with God’s wisdoms in all the circumstances of our life. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18

May these words direct you to trust God’s choices in all circumstances.

3 thoughts on “When a child dies”

  1. Appreciated reading this, Tyler. We must refocus our eyes on Jesus every day, moment to moment. In Him we see all the goodness, all the love, all the tender mercies of our Creator/Father God. Only in Christ are the mysteries and questions of life – and death – answered. I do find great comfort in knowing that new heavens and a new earth await us, a Jerusalem as a place of happiness and delight, where the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard no more (my present pains and sorrows, real as they are now, are so very temporary!). “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days…..”. Reference Isaiah 65:17-20). Having “lost” 3 babies in this life, this passage has been one to help me focus on God’s faithful love. Sometimes I can hardly wait!

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