As a pastor, the “why” questions are always the most difficult to answer. Why did I get cancer? Why did I lose my job? Why is this happening to me? Without a doubt, though, the most problematic and the most emotionally charged “why” question is, “Why did God allow my child to die?”
Last week, that question once again became personal for us. Little Baby Max, a two-and-a-half year old boy that we had come to love, passed away. Baby Max was born with severe physical problems. From birth his parents cared for him with a patient love that I have seldom witnessed in my thirty years of ministry. Last Sunday, Baby Max’s physical struggles came to an end as he passed from this life to the next.
Why, though, does God allow such a precious little one to suffer? Why would God put a child into a family only to allow that child to be taken from them after a few short years? Admittedly, these are questions that do not have easy answers. Although we cannot not definitely say why, we do know what happens. The Bible gives us profound truths that give meaning and peace at such difficult times.
1. Every life is complete and has meaning
I read this week about a tombstone that marks the death of a child. It simply stated, “so small, so sweet, so soon.” For those parents, that life ended abruptly and way too soon, but for God that life was full and complete.
In Psalm 139:16 David states, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” What a tremendous truth! Before life commences God knows its beginning and its end. Each detail of that life is fully planned and laid out by God.
Every life, regardless of its length, is full and complete in the eyes of God. No life is cut short. No life ends too soon. No life is unfulfilled. No life is void of meaning. God makes no mistakes.
2. Babies are loved by God
One does not have to read much of the New Testament to feel the heart of Jesus for little children. All three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 19:14; Mark 10:14; :Luke 18:16) relate the story of Jesus becoming indignant when the disciples prevented some children from coming to Him. In clear and concise terms, Jesus says, “Let the children come to Me. Don’t stop them!” Wow! This is an incredibly touching statement. Jesus, the Creator of the Universe, is interested in and has time for children.
This truth is summed up in the children’s chorus that I learned as a child…
Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.
Now, I know you are thinking, “If God loves all children, how come He allows child-abuse? How does He allow millions of kids to suffer from malnutrition?” Let us be reminded that these are the results of sin entering into the world. God certainly does not will or even desire for children to suffer such atrocities. Yet, in the midst of a sinful, corrupt and Hell-bent world, the love of God for children shines out like a bright light in a dark room. In many cases, He is the only One who loves them.
3. Heaven is for children
One of the great theological questions is, “What happens then, when an infant dies? Does that baby go to Heaven?” This is a question theologians have struggled with through the years. I confess it is a topic that is not directly addressed in Scripture. As a result theologians have arrived at various conclusions (infant baptism, children of believers are holy, etc.). I believe there are certain spiritual truths, which help us to draw a rational and biblical conclusion.
- The words of Jesus are clear
In the passages to which we just referred, Jesus makes a second major pronouncement. After declaring how important children are to Him, he states, “For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” In other words, Heaven was created not for the intellectually advanced or the religiously committed. No, Heaven was created for those that have the faith of little children.
- The grace of God is extensive
Let me clearly state that I do not believe that babies are sinless. A little baby, as cute and as innocent as it looks, is not saved; is not regenerated; is not justified; and is not a child of God. Babies are born in sin and are dead in sin (Psalm 51:5; Eph. 2:1). As they get older their depraved sinful nature will manifest itself in many ugly ways.
Nevertheless, because of the child’s premature death, the baby never hears and understands the Gospel. He never makes a commitment for Christ and is never baptized. We do not believe, though, that such a child is exempt from God’s grace. To the contrary, like the person who accepts Christ, that child is protected by the grace of God.
One of the best examples in Scripture is found in I Samuel 12:23. David’s infant son had just died. When questioned about his response to the child’s death, David makes a profound statement. He says, “…I will go to him one day, but he cannot return to me.”
- The goodness of God is infinite
The simple truth is that God always does the right thing. Genesis 18:25 states, “Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?” Concerning the infant who dies—God will do the right thing. The all-wise, loving God will do what is right in light of God’s holy and righteous character. May we learn to rest on this wonderful fact!
4. God has purposes we cannot understand
Isaiah 55:8 states, “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” We must admit that we do not always understand what God is doing. His ways are inscrutable, unquestionable and perfect. Though we cannot understand what He is doing at the moment, eternity will shed light on the beauty and the perfection of God’s will.
So today, we take comfort in the fact that Baby Max is in the presence of Jesus. His physical struggles are over, and he is resting in the joy and the wonder of Heaven. That is what gives us faith and hope in the midst of profound loss.