12 December 2011

One of the Greatest Fears of Parents: the Death of a Child

I write as a father. It was on Friday night, October 2, 1987, that I received a call from a dear Christian friend of mine informing me that his teenage daughter had been killed in a car wreck. He asked me if I would go with him to Montgomery so he could identify the body of his precious child. My wife and I hurried over to his house to try to comfort him, his wife and family in their deep despair and grief in the loss of their child that had been so full of life only a few hours earlier. It was about 2:00 a.m. by the time we reached the place where his daughter was being held since she died in the car wreck. Because I knew the teenager and loved her dearly, it was hard enough for me emotionally and I just couldn’t imagine how difficult it was for this grieving father to do what he had to do. In 1973, when my younger brother, age 35, was killed in another state while crossing a four lane highway, I had to go to the local funeral home in my hometown to identify him and I knew how difficult that was for me. But, the thought of having a child to be killed and to leave this world and into eternity, surely would be one of the greatest crosses to bear in this life.

In recent days we have learned of several young people being killed in automobile accidents. One was a precious and sweet Christian teenage girl who lived in Decatur, Alabama. I read an email of sympathy and in it the individual asked “Why, God, why?” And it is not necessarily wrong to ask “Why”. We are but as little children who might ask their parents the same when they did not understand the reason the hurt they were feeling in their hearts when something bad had happened to them. I could say to you that when God created the universe He set in order certain laws like gravity. When an evil person or an innocent child falls from a 10 story building, the results will be the same. And, when two vehicles traveling at certain speeds collide, serious injuries or deaths may occur. As being able to answer all the “whys”, I cannot. It becomes most difficult to deal with when bad things happen to good people, especially fine Christian young people.

David, in the depths of despair, asked, “Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do you hide in times of trouble” (Psalm 10:1)? Again he asked, “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? In his humanity, he asked these questions but he knew in his heart that the God of the universe cared for him and was with him. So he expressed his inner feelings in this manner, “But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:5, 6).

Then consider Job who “was blameless and upright and one who feared God and shunned evil”; and, “was the greatest of all the people of the East.” God asked Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” (Job 1:1, 3, 8). Yet he lost so much of his earthly possessions, had sores all over his body; but, to me, the greatest loss of all were the deaths of his children (Job 1:18, 19). How does a parent deal with such an overwhelming catastrophe? I am amazed that Job could have continued to live but he did. When you read the entire book you will find that Job did have questions that he presented to God but his example of endurance has given encouragement throughout the centuries to believers when tragedies strike their families and loved ones. Consider these responses of Job to his great grief: “Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” “But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” “But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 1:20, 21; 2:10; 23:10). To me, the outstanding statement that Job made in dealing with his lack of understanding of the “whys” relating to his losses is found in chapter 13 and in verse 15: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (KJV).

In this life we may never know all the answers to the “whys” as to the trials, tribulations, disappointments,
difficulties and deaths that occur in our lives but we can trust in Him who knows all things and can work out everything to our eternal welfare (Romans 8:28). May the following poem bless and strengthen the hearts of all parents who have lost their precious children to death.

God's Lent Child
“I’ll lend you, for a little while,
A child of mine,” God said,
“For you to love the while he lives,
And mourn for when he’s dead.
It may be six or seven years,
Or twenty-two or three;
But will you, ‘til I call him back,
Take care of him for me?

He’ll bring his charms to gladden you
And, should his stay be brief,
You’ll have his lovely memories
As a solace for your grief.
I cannot promise he will stay,
Since all from earth return;
But there are lessons taught below
I want this child to learn.

I’ve looked the whole world over
In search for teachers true;
And from the things that crowd life’s land
I have chosen you.
Now, will you give him all your love
Nor think the labor vain?
Nor hate me when I come to take
This lent child back again?

I fancied that I heard them say:
“Dear Lord, Thy will be done.
For all the joys Thy child will bring
The risk of grief we’ll run.
We’ll shelter him with tenderness,
We’ll love him while we may –
And for the happiness we’ve known
Forever grateful stay.
But should Thy Angel call for him
Much sooner than we’ve planned,
We’ll brave the bitter grief that comes
And try to understand.”

~Author unknown (attributed to Edgar Guest)