Losing a child is the most difficult and painful experience I can personally imagine.
What do you say to someone who has lost a child?
What can you say? And, perhaps more importantly, what does God say?
In preparing a talk about this for CCEF’s conference earlier this month, 1 I found myself praying “Lord, here is what I know: you have words for those whose children die. You have comfort. There is something overwhelmingly real and true and good that you have for those who lose a child. Help me, help us, find it.”
While I tried to draw out a number of themes from Scripture in the talk, one of the places this prayer led me was to write a letter as I imagined how our loving Father might speak to parents in their grief. Since several people have asked me to pass along the text of that letter, I thought I might make it more broadly available as a sort of open letter expressing the direct and personal care with which Scripture speaks to parents who have lost a child. My prayer is that these words will be a refreshingly personal touch point with your Heavenly Father as you struggle through this unspeakably agonizing experience.
My dear child,
I remember walking through the Garden that day toward my children, knowing what their choice to listen to the tempter was going to cost their children for generations, including the death of their own boy, Abel. I knew utterly, even then, the grief you would taste so many years later. My heart breaks for you, my child. Indeed, I sent my son, in part, so that you could see him weep at the tomb of Lazarus, and know that my heart is undone by the grief of loss, even knowing that hope is just around the corner.
Like your brothers and sisters in Bethlehem whose little ones were murdered by Herod after that first Christmas, and countless others over the centuries who found themselves burying a beloved child, you are part of the voice heard in Ramah. I hear you with Rachel, weeping for her children, rightly refusing to be comforted. So know this: I have prepared a bottle to catch the tears I knew you would shed.
And I say to you also what I spoke through your brother Jeremiah: I declare that there is hope for your future. I will yet turn your mourning into joy, and not by some trick played on your emotions! No. I will not forget your grief and tears. But I WILL comfort you and I will give you gladness for sorrow and you will be satisfied with my goodness.
My delight and joy in the redemption I am working, and my utter victory over death, is beyond expression. I am waiting breathlessly for the day when you will get to see it too. When you will be able to see it the way I do. When you will say that even this anguish does not compare with the shalom and wholeness of the way I have abundantly more than restored what now is broken. For behold, I am creating a new heaven and a new earth and I will rejoice and be glad in my people. No more shall the sound of weeping and distress be heard among you. NO MORE shall there be a son who lives but a few days or a daughter who dies unexpectedly. Instead, I will lose none of those I have given to your older brother. And I will make my home with you and with all my children — indeed I have prepared rooms already. Together with them, you will build homes and inhabit them, you will plant vineyards and eat their fruit, and none will suffer or die on my holy mountain. I am the resurrection and the life.
Be patient still a little longer. I am coming.
1 Audio available here.