Where’s the light when you’ve lost a child?
Lois was born perfectly healthy and we noted no difference in her development from our other children, but on the 15 September 2004, aged just two-and-a-half-years old, Lois died. She’d kept her brain tumour as her little secret and we had just seven days’ notice, from her first symptoms to her final breath.
I’d never experienced clouds so dark as these before, but no-one and no words could have fully prepared me for what lay ahead. Though six-and-a-half-years have now passed, daily these clouds still chase me, trying to cast their ominous shadow into my heart and onto my path.
We set the table and her place is empty; we set off on holiday and feel like we’re leaving her behind; the kids give me a Father’s day card and her name is missing, I catch sight of a little girl with similar looks and my heart is broken. Her birthday is approaching again; the anniversary of her death is looming large. There’s no hiding, and there’s no hiding the fact that losing a child is hard; it hurts like nothing else hurts.
I’ve not found all the answers here but let me share with you what I have found: some light, light that’s proved bright enough to illuminate my darkest thoughts, light warm enough to swell my sometimes shrivelled heart.
The light of God’s character
He is good. ‘For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations’ (Ps. 100:5). Though it may be hard for me to take, my child is dead; though it may be hard for me to understand, my God is good. The first fact may obscure the second but it cannot replace or supersede it. He was as good on the day she died as He was on the day she was born; my loss doesn’t equate to a loss of reputation or integrity on God’s part. He is unchangeably good; His character has no moral imperfections whatsoever. If He’d healed her when she was sick or raised her when she was buried, He’d not be any more or any less good than He already is. My eldest daughter, aged just eight at the time, reminded me of this fact when we asked her how she was coping without her little sister. She said, ‘God is good. He doesn’t make mistakes and I know I’ll see her again.’ The things we know about God’s character have helped us come to terms with the things we don’t know about our loss.
The light of God’s purposes
God is good and since He always acts in accordance with His character we can know too that His purposes are good. Have there ever been clouds so dark as the ones that gathered around the cross at Calvary? The cross was the darkest day in human history but it shines the brightest light onto what God is like. During the midday darkness no-one could see what God was up to. Who of God’s people at the time could see the sense in it, the purpose in it, the good in it? But we now know that the absence of God’s light was certainly not the absence of God’s good purposes. If God can triumph through what seemed such a tragedy, if God can achieve such good from such evil, then we can be assured too that our lives and our losses are safe in His hands.
I’ve always been able to thank God for Lois’ life and of late been able to thank Him too for all He’s achieved through my loss. The light of His character and the light of His purposes have helped me to see how through it all He has sharpened my sense of eternity, shaped my character more into the likeness of His Son’s and sent me multiple ministry opportunities.
I said shortly after Lois died, that I’m learning to trust God more than I trust my own feelings. I still am!
Jon Pearse is the pastor for youth and families at Moordown Baptist Church, Bournemouth.
Jon recommends John MacArthur’s Safe in the arms of God and Jon’s own sermon –What about the children? (which you can listen to online at http://www.moordownbaptist.org/sermons?sermon_id=47).