This is a beautiful but crooked world, where babies are created and at times do not live. The Lord gives yet sometimes also takes away (Job 1:21), and when he does there is deep pain. There is pain, and there are many difficult questions.
In the last two months, two family friends have walked this heart-wrenching journey of losing a child, and I ache for them and for so many who taste the curse in this way. Recently, one of the husbands asked me to recall for him why I believe that infants who die are indeed saved by Jesus. Below is the letter I sent; I received permission to include it here with only minimal alterations to protect privacy. I do so in the hope that it may serve both those who are hurting or wrestling with such loss and those who are ministering to anyone who is.
My dear brother,
I received your email late Friday night while I was out of town at a conference. I read it aloud, and I wept. I remember the pain of our miscarriage. I remember the pain of holding a new born while watching my wife bleed unrelentingly on the birthing table with no doctor in the hospital and the midwife freaking out because she didn’t know what to do. I remember our little boy whom we were never able to adopt. I deeply grieve your loss. I am so sorry. I do rejoice that your wife is now stable, that God gave Johnny an hour of life outside the womb with you, that your pursuit is toward God, and that he is near and able.
I do believe that Johnny is with Jesus right now. His present salvation is truly that––a salvation. Jesus has saved him from his guilt in Adam evidenced in his physical death (Rom 5:12, 14); Jesus has saved him from his spiritual deadness (Eph 2:1) and from God’s wrath (John 3:36; Eph 2:3). These texts assert that all humans, even infants who have not done anything right or wrong, are conceived and born alienated from God. Yet there are texts that appear to identify some infants as being saved (e.g., Luke 1:15; Ps 22:9–10). Still other texts suggest that, while all humans are under God’s wrath, he only pours forth this wrath on those who consciously suppress the truth––on those who do not honor and thank him while having the capacity to do so; these are without excuse (Rom 1:18–21). For those like Johnny, however, who never consciously dishonored God for they had not yet the capacity to do so, there is excuse, and therefore I believe we have good reason to hope in the salvation of him and of any other infant or mentally disabled person who has yet to choose anything good or evil. Into this context I bring in Jesus’ comment in John 9:41––“If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” This verse suggests to me that only those who consciously spurn God through lack of faith and disobedience bear “guilt” in the sense that brings condemnation. It is not that condemnation is not deserved, but rather than in the mysteries of God Christ bears the condemnation for all infants who die. Faith is still demanded (Rom 3:25), but such faith would likely be awakened upon the first glimpse of the eternal Son of God in power––a glimpse Johnny has already enjoyed. What an amazing gift is salvation! Oh to be free from this cursed world!
May the trauma you are experiencing and the ache you are enduring, even as you care for your lovely wife, be tempered by these truths––Our God is good and does good (Ps 119:68); our God kills but he also makes alive in the resurrection (Deut 32:39); our God wounds but he also heals (Deut 32:39). He is over all and is with you. This is our hope. May his words of promise and words of command guide you in this season of darkness and pain. Lean in toward the Word. Be patient with your wife and receive help from your church family.
I love you, Dan, and I grieve with you. May you know the comfort of God. Feel free to follow-up with this email, or you can call me.
Resting with you in Christ,
Related posts or messages:
Looking to Christ in the Loss of a Child (Desiring God, Feb 12, 2014)
The Wintry Soul: Four Lessons from Suffering (Desiring God, Mar 20, 2014)
Awed by Mercy; Weeping in Hope (DeRouchie-Meyer, Jan 28, 2015)
(Audio/PDF) “Yahweh Our Guardian–Our Help: A Sermon on Psalm 121” (Sept 29, 2011, Bethlehem College & Seminary Chapel).
(Audio/PDF/Video) “The Problem of Suffering and the Presence of Our Saving Shepherd: A Sermon from Ecclesiastes” (Sept 18, 2014, Bethlehem College & Seminary Chapel).