Dealing with the Death of an Infant
(author’s name withheld upon request)
“And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.” —Ecclesiastes 4:2–3
[Editor’s note: The recipients of this letter desire to share it with you. It was written to them by a friend after their son Asher died shortly after birth. Their daughter Meredith previously died one month after birth. Both had a heart defect.]
Dear Chris and Amanda,
It’s hard to know what to say. I haven’t experienced the loss of someone close, let alone a son. I’m very sorry. I’m encouraged by Chris’s e-mails and some of the things my wife shared about her visit with Amanda, that grace is abounding in your hearts. The gift of faith within you is looking toward the hand that smote you. It’s been said that God uses his sharpest instruments on his finest jewels. Let me encourage you to keep looking to the Savior who does “all things well.”
The passage above hits home with me. As Matthew Henry points out, God gave Asher “a shortcut over the ocean of life.” What a mercy it really is. He has been saved from the sorrow of feeling indwelling sin. He has been saved from the grief, anxiety, and frustrations of “doing the things we know not to do.” He’ll never taste the disappointment we experience when our hearts put too much stock in the best things in life. He has avoided that heartache of observing that “all is vanity.” What a mercy he has been given by his Maker, his first Father, who clearly wants him in his own presence. This jewel he wants for himself now, and he will not wait for it. “But the LORD’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage” (Deut. 32:9).
Blind unbelief could assail you now and in the days ahead. Unbelief would have you sulk and feel sorry for Asher. Unbelief would nurture your inherent selfishness that didn’t get its way. Thoughts of “what might have been” will come in to wreak havoc with faith. The world, the flesh, and the devil will try to compromise your “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). It’ll try to creep in when you’re weak and rob you of your quiet confidence. Mankind thinks that those who have passed away sometimes shed tears over the good things they’ve missed with family—“tears from heaven,” they say. But we have a better hope, a sure hope. Both Meredith and Asher are now staring at the incomprehensible majesty and glory of God our Savior, and neither one looks back with envy. They have all they will ever need or desire, being perfected in the likeness of their Brother.
I don’t mean to imply that there’s no place for sorrow. Of course there is; you have a son and a daughter who died. “Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad” (Eccl. 7:3). Let sorrow do its work, and make the heart better, but it should never have the mastery over you. For why should it? Jesus Christ has won; eternal life has been achieved; death has been defeated. He said on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). His promises of love and favor are sure. Everything that happens to us, happens on purpose. There are no mistakes; he does “all things well.” Every day is the unfolding of God’s will, and we go along for the ride, as it were. Faith rises against the tide of unbelief and grabs hold of Christ, who promises to work all things, even the things that break our hearts, for our own good and his own glory.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands” (Isa. 55:8–12).
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11).
“The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Rev. 3:21).
We love you all very much. Please lean on us for anything.
Both the author (who asked for anonymity) and the recipients of this letter, which has been shortened and slightly edited, are members of the same OP church.