How Do I Deal with the Loss of a Child?
This week on the podcast, I want to speak to those of you who, I guess, must be the most hurting people in the world. I want to talk to those of you who have lost a child who have experienced the bitterness of the death of one of your children. This loss in a broken and sinful world is one of if not the most painful experiences that any human being can ever go through. Death is not part of the natural order. You understand what I mean by that. Death is imposed on God’s created order because of our sin. It is not the way God made it to be. And so death really is in God’s perfect conception of the world. It is unnatural, of course, in a fallen world where we sin and betray the Lord, and there are penalties. Of course, death is now a normally expected part of life. But that’s not how it was intended to be. It’s not a part of the natural order. And child death even seems to violate the fallen order, even in a world where we anticipate death. More typically, we are used to parents having kids, and those kids grow up, and they preside over the death of their parents. When a parent presides over the death of their child when they precede their child in death, there is something ghastly and horrifying about it that supersedes the other kinds of pain that we can know.
It’s so hard to lose a child for so many reasons. For those of you who have lost children, you know about all the memories that you lost. You have precious, beautiful memories of time spent with your dearly beloved child; you remember their snuggles and their kisses and their laugh. And now it is gone. And you don’t ever get to see it again. And the loss, the tearing away of that existence, is agonizing. It’s excruciating; it’s heart-rending. But it’s not just all the memories; it’s all of the hopes that are gone. When you have a child, you’re not just living life in that moment. You’re not just remembering all the good memories from before. You are anticipating all the good things that you will experience. Lauren and I years ago went through a miscarriage together. I’m not intending to focus on miscarriages on this podcast. That’s another topic for another day. But for us, when we lost that child, we didn’t lose memories, but we lost the hopes I had. I had dreams if that was going to be a little girl of how I was going to show love to that little girl. If that was going to be a little boy, what I was going to do to invest in that boy’s life. And so that is so much more true when this is your baby that you’re seeing and holding and touching and knowing, and you’re thinking about marriage, and you’re thinking about college, and you’re thinking about being a grandparent and vacations. And so the loss of a child is so hard not just because of the memories that you have, but because of the hopes that you had. It is a tragic way to lose not just the past but to lose the future too. It is horribly painful. And I realize that when I say I want to try to comfort you in the death of that child, I am doing something that it would take a miracle to do. There is nothing I can do to bring your child back. There is nothing I can do to make a painful experience not painful. There’s nothing I can do to take away the sting of the horrible loss that you have experienced. And actually, I wouldn’t want to try. When you lose a dear and precious child, it is supposed to hurt. It is supposed to sting. It would be a cruel parent who had a heart that did not break over such a painful loss. I’m not even going to try to ultimately solve that problem.
The Hope of Scripture
I do want to try to give you some comfort. I want to try to put it in a little bit of perspective. I can’t solve all the problems in one podcast and one few minutes of speaking to you, but I would like in the darkness of the pain that you’re in, I would like to try to shine one bright ray of light that could pierce just a little bit of the darkness and give you a little bit of hope for today. And the only way I know to do that is with God’s word. And the passage of Scripture that I want you to hear from me today, to try to help you just have a bit of hope as you deal with this loss, is Romans 8:28. It says, “We know that for those who love God, all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.” It’s a passage for Christians. It’s a passage for people who are trusting in Jesus Christ and know that Jesus, because of his life, his death, and his resurrection, has purchased their life beyond the grave. For people who are trusting in Jesus in that way. There is a shocking promise here that says when you love God in that way, all things work together for good. I said it’s shocking. There might not be anything more shocking to you than the statement that such a tragic loss that I’ve been describing, such a painful separation that you’ve been enduring, could ever be turned for good. How could something so painful ever be turned for good? This is where I want to call you to believe in God. To believe that God knows the truth, to believe that God loves you, and he has told you the truth, to believe that God is powerful, and God has so much power that He is able to take even the overwhelming pain that you’re experiencing, and he’s able to turn it for good.
Let me try to put two bits of flesh on that to help you. First of all, you know, in your own life, times of painful difficulty that were hard that worked out for good. You’ve seen this happen in your life. Some of them are more trivial examples. Some of them are more serious examples. But you have examples of this in your life. In my life, I think a lot about the brain surgery that I just had. I spent August of 2022 having two brain surgeries and recovering from them and spending most of my nights in August in the hospital in the ICU. I was in so much excruciating agony I could not even function. Here’s the thing. I made the decision, ultimately, to have those surgeries didn’t have too many choices, it wasn’t like it was an elective surgery, but I agreed with the surgeons, and I signed the forms to go into the surgeries and to endure this pain. That was in August. I’m recording this in my office in October, and nothing hurts, and everything works, and I feel great. Even in a fallen world with fallen people like me, I know how with doctors to go through a bad situation and see it turn for good. Now, what does that have to do with something infinitely more tragic than surgery? Something infinitely more painful in the death of your child? Well, let me tell you about another parent who lost their child. I’m talking about God the Father. I’m talking about God the Father who endured the death of his only begotten Son, Jesus, who was tried, convicted, brutally abused, tortured, nailed to a cross, bled out, and suffocated in his own death. If you are a parent who has lost your child, you serve a God who knows what it is like to go through that same horrible pain and agony. You serve a God who knows how to turn that horrible agony for good. God brought Jesus back from the dead. And now, anyone who trusts in Jesus has the promise of life and life forever. God is able to take the worst event in human history, the death of his own child, and turn it into the best event in human history. You can trust a parent who has the power to turn evil for good. And so, in your pain today, would you look to him? Would you trust in him? Would you cry out to him for help and believe that he really is able to take all of the bad and turn it for good, even when the bad is something as horrible as the loss of your own child?