In other people’s suffering it can be easy to bank on the sovereignty of God. As a mother who has suffered through miscarriages, the idea that God would think it better that my child not survive in my womb can bring a wave of shock to my spiritual wellbeing.
The problem with using a singular attribute of God to bring comfort to hurting people is that it depicts a small version of a god.
Comfort from a small and unsatisfying god is unhelpful and doesn't last. But when I truly unpack the fullness of God’s character, when I apply the truth of who he is, what he has done and where he is today to my very wellbeing I find that God, and only God, can be the true source of hope and comfort. Comfort given from any place other than Jesus is simply short lived.
It was over a year ago when we lost yet another baby in utero. As the inevitable rush of emotions and questions were rushing through our hearts and heads, I decided to share publicly about having another miscarriage. There was an onslaught of encouragement and kind words. It was touching and heartbreaking to hear such tragic stories and feel God’s compassionate hand through others. So many friends ask if miscarriages are happening to more women, but I have come to the (unscientific) conclusion that to some extent people are beginning more open about it. We know more about our physical bodies, we are in an overly communicative culture and as women we are not quite as ashamed when we don’t properly birth the first-born son upon nuptials.
Some responses were just others wanting to have something to add to the conversation and I was grateful for most of them. I learn from those who are willing to show public compassion to me since I naturally would stay in a corner by myself; so I am thankful to those who were an example of outspoken and public sympathy towards other's personal heartache.
There were other responses that were not quite as helpful.
One response that is particularly hard for me and I warn you this is going to be a sensitive topic . . . but many people wanted to give comfort by offering some version of what my children are doing with Jesus in heaven at this very moment.
This is where I get really uncomfortable.
When we make definitive, blanket statements that carry immense weight for grieving parents, the hope better be an absolute, sure thing. The truth is I don’t know exactly where my babies are and more than that, I certainly do not know what they are doing. I don't know if they are sitting or playing or worshiping. Let me be clear: it's not that I don’t think they are in heaven. It's that God has not made me privy to particular details. While the Bible alludes to David in 2 Samuel saying he will meet his son again and we can make some logical conclusions from other parts of scripture about the death of children, the reality is God’s Word does not definitively and explicitly say one-way or the other.
The answer to what my babies are doing at this very moment or at the moment of their death is not necessary for me to have lasting comfort or hope. As a Christian, I don’t need to know. In fact, I am okay with not knowing. And others should be too.
My hope is not found in seeing them one day; my hope is found in seeing Jesus one day.
Knowing God is infinitely more comforting than knowing what my babies are doing, because he does know. Even if my children are running around playing together in heaven, I don't need to know or pretend like I know or say that they are in order to comfort myself at any given moment. What truly comforts me is a God who gives peace that passes all understanding, especially my own. That understanding includes all circumstances of death, even the death of my own unborn children.
Because God does know.
He knows exactly what happened inside my womb and what will happen in my womb in the future. He knows where my children are and had they grown up to be earthly adults, what they would have been like. He knows. And I love that he knows, it makes me want to be in relationship with the One who knows and cares for my children more than I ever have or will.
This is the most comforting beauty of all: He is a God who is perfectly loving, perfectly good and he’s the perfect keeper of all life. He hurts for me and with me. One day I will know what happened to those precious little ones, and regardless of what that answer will be, God will still be God and he will still be all those amazing attributes. So I trust him. I trust that he can make the decision of where my babies are without letting me in on the full know. Therefore, I trust that he will continue to give me the strength to grieve well, love well and live well.
I find great hope not in that my babies are in heaven, but that Jesus is in heaven and seated at the right hand of God.
The fact that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God has huge implications for us on earth. It means that his death on the cross gave us victory and access to the Father. The gospel tells me of a perfect Son who became fully human and resurrected from the dead to be seated at his Father's right hand so that I am given the opportunity to come before a throne of grace in my time of desperate need to receive help and comfort. The truth is, even if and when I respond poorly to death and suffering, the truths about God mentioned above would not change.
That is one of the most reassuring, astounding things about Jesus: his consistent character and his sustaining gospel. He doesn’t change according to my life circumstances or my evolving theology or how I feel or what I am learning. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is the great counselor, the perfect redeemer, and the incredible comforter.
He knows what my babies are doing at this very moment, even if today, I don’t.
Rebekah Hannah is a biblical counselor at The Grace Center for Biblical Counseling in Jacksonville, Florida. She is married to Andrew and has three daughters.