Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength
We are blessed to have quite a few young children in our congregation. Little boys and little girls, with unexpected observations, expressive faces, and humorous behaviors, make sure there is not a dull moment when they are around. Inspired writers use terms like “inheritance” (Prov. 13:22) and “gift” (Psa. 127:3) to impress us with their value. Jesus demands imitation of them (Mat. 18:3). Parents get so proud of their children, displaying their cuteness in pictures on social media. While so many kids reflect the good looks of their parents, it’s not looks that most make children adorable. What makes children adorable?
The qualities above reflect an attractiveness of godly parenting and an appreciation for biblical principles of conduct that will make them adorable adults one day. It reflects the “others before self” mentality Christ wants to see in God’s children (Phil. 2:1-4). It reflects the humility and service that causes greatness in His Kingdom (Mat. 20:25-28). It reflects the thoughtful consideration that ought to typify Christians (Col. 3:12; Rom. 15:1ff). It reflects the spiritual mindset necessary to be winsome, attractive ambassadors for Him (cf. 2 Cor. 5:20; Rom. 12:17ff; etc.). Sometimes, much greater emphasis is given to the style of their clothes than to the strength of their character. We cannot put fashion before faith, image over integrity, or sophistication above spirituality.
I want to thank so many parents who get this ideal and are striving toward it. No one’s children are perfect, just like none of their parents (or critical adults) are. But, parents who are trying to instill quality inner qualities in their children deserve highest honor! Keep rearing adorable children. You’ll have a lifetime to be grateful that you did.
I have never lost a child and pray that I will precede them all in death. Imagining the difficulty of that situation in no way equips me to feel the grief involved in such a loss. Yet, the Bible is the answer book on this, as with any, situation.
In 2 Samuel 12:18-24, the Bible says, “And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead? But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead. Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me. And David comforted Bathsheba his wife….”
The occasion of the death o a pre-born, newborn, infant, or young child must be a peculiarly difficult burden to bear. It is untimely. It is filled with the most painful of mysteries. It is a most intense reminder of the ultimate end of all humanity (Hebrews 9:27). Yet, it offers a ray of hope and comfort like no other funeral can. Even as tears stain the cheek, there can be rejoicing in knowing the child is eternally safe. It will never know the heartache, pain, disappointment, shame, guilt, fear or betrayl through which we routinely go simply by virtue of earthly life.
The Bible says that other parents lost small children. An unnamed woman lost a son to death at the age of three days old (1 Kings 3:16-27). 1 Kings 14 tells of the death of Abijah, son of Ahab and Jezebel. All we can tell from the term “child” in that text is that he was anywhere between infancy and adolescence; thus, a small child. In the New Testament, Jairus lost a “little daughter” (Mark 5). From ancient Job to the New Testament widow of Nain to today, parents have endured the difficult, unnatural task of burying their children. Yet, there are special lessons to be learned in the account of David and Bathsheba’s little boy. Consider four things, from the above text, to be gained when dealing with the loss of a little child.
Do not forget your relationship with God (20). When David hears news of the child’s death, what is the first thing he does? He arises from the dust of dejection and goes to church! He had been praying to God all the time the child was dying. It is natural that David continued his relationship with God.
It must have been a test of David’s faith. Read the Psalms and you find the man after God’s own heart (cf. 1 Samuel 13:14) often asking God “why?”. In Psalm 10:1, he said, “Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” He later says, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; And by night, but I have no rest” (Psalm 22:1-2, NASU). Remember that David cried seven days and nights over the child he lost. Certainly, he knew that God was near, God cared, and God loved him, but he was hurting and things surely seemed unfair.
You may very well feel the same way when you lose a child. Remember that this is natural, but do not forget your relationship to God. Know that God is near, cares for you and loves you, too. An oft-quoted but appropriate saying goes, “Where was God when my child died?” “Exactly where He was when His Son died.” Tragedy and suffering can always serve to build spiritual strength. It can cause us to realize our dependence upon God. It can help us sharpen our focus on heaven. It can lead us to count our blessings and remember what we do have.
Remember that your lives must resume (20-22). No, not today… or tomorrow. In an unavoidable way, life could never be exactly the same. Grief is natural and necessary, and it has no exact timetable.
Yet, look to David. He got back to daily life. When he received news of his baby’s death, he got up, went to worship, ate a meal, and resumed his work affairs. As painful as such a loss has to be, one can be thankful and mindful of all that remains that is to be lived for and the many loved ones with whom one has left to live. As hard as it is to imagine in the midst of grieving such a peculiar loss, you will laugh again and enjoy life again when the time is right.
Let a heavenly reunion motivate you (23). To me, these are the most impressive words of the story. David says, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” We know where the baby was, so we know where David wanted to go.
Those who lose a little child have an extremely powerful motivation to go to heaven. Not just that heaven is infinitely better than the awful alternative. Not just the excitement of seeing God “face to face.” There is a little child up there waiting for the arrival of his/her parents. Imagine what a sweet reunion that will be, to see it there. Each time such parents sing, “Won’t it be wonderful there…?,” they will have an extra measure of appreciation of those words. Parents grieving this loss can live the remainder of their lives determined to “go to him.”
Find comfort in one another (24). There is something in the text easy to overlook. David goes and comforts his wife, Bathsheba. Didn’t David need comforted, too? Yes, but Bathsheba had a bond and relationship with the child that David did not. Her emotional makeup and needs, in such loss, were different from his own.
There is a special need for a wife and mother at such a time as this. As this tragedy can bring parents closer to God, it can also bring mutually aggrieved mates closer to one another. It is a time when you can better appreciate Ecclessiastes 4:9, that “two are better than one….” Thessalonica was going through tremendous heartache and even loss, and you will notice that at least seven different times Paul admonishes them to “comfort one another.” God knew there would be times when we would need support. There is special support available from one’s help-meet and companion.
When a little child dies, there is grief because of that tragedy. There is also cause for rejoicing because of the assurance that can be had concerning the baby’s soul. The sun will shine again through the clouds of sorrow. The brightness of God’s love will break visibly before the dewy gaze once more. Thank God for the comfort possible only in Christ.
“Older people”—in which I include not just the elderly but anyone whose children are older—and even others should practice compassion and sympathy toward our dear parents who are making the effort and sacrifice to be present in our assemblies with their wonderful small children. Attention spans and articulation of needs are challenges up to a certain age. Even good children wrestle with rambunctiousness and precociousness. This is natural and certainly forgivable. With compassion, we must acknowledge that some children have special needs and cannot help some of their behaviors.
Yet, there can be children who are simply spoiled and undisciplined. While all of us are experts on how others should be raising their children, we all come to the task regarding our own children as rank novices. God knew that, and so He instructs us as to what to do with our children.
“Train” them (Pro. 22:6). If we are not careful, we can let our children train and condition us. Have you ever seen children who consistently “ruled the roost” in their homes? Training implies intention, planning, forethought, and concerted effort. When children seek to impose their will, it takes great will-power and discipline on our part to show them what is and is not appropriate.
“Bring them up” (Eph. 6:4). Who was it that said “if you don’t bring them up, you’ll let them down?” I agree with them. Paul urges fathers to raise children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” We must mold them into God-followers, which means appealing to their minds and bodies. The instruction addresses the mind. The discipline guides the body. The antithesis would be undisciplined, ignorant children in the most important area of life—the spiritual!
“Love” them (Tit. 2:5). Here, Paul urges mothers in this all-important, pervasive action. Sadly, some think love equates to indulgence, permissiveness, and helpless by standing. Not at all! Only loving parents will make their children obey the rules, be polite and well-behaved, and considerate of others. How sad and unloving when parents constantly shift blame or excuse misbehavior rather than address it and help correct it.
Train them, bring them up, and love them. Do this, and others will sincerely enjoy being around your children, will compliment them consistently, and thank you for making the effort. Fail to do it at the potential peril of the child and yourself! Do what God says should be done with your children! You will be glad you did.