Why Did My Child Have To Die?
If you are like me, you have asked God for answers.You can not fathom how this could happen to you, to your child, and to your family. In the time since my son died, I have asked God many questions, including questions such as:
- Why us? Why do we have to bear this burden of grief? Why not someone else?
- Why now? If we had to lose our son in death, why couldn’t you have given us a few more years with him?
- Why couldn’t the doctors help our child? So many other children with seemingly far more serious medical problems are still living, and yet my child isn’t. How could you let this happen?
- You created the entire expanse of the earth, the Milky Way, and the entire universe. You created such complex structures as the human cell and the human eye. And yet you decided that you could not save our son when he was choking on a pea?
- After the pea became lodged in his airway, why couldn’t we revive him? Why didn’t I realize what was going on, and try to shake the pea lose? Why was I so powerless to watch my son die?
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your child’s death, you probably have similar questions. These specific questions have, in turn, led to broader questions about God and his attributes. If there is a God, does God really care about me? Does God have the ability to shape circumstances? Why doesn’t God intercede on a more regular basis to save us from an endless ocean of grief that accompanies events like the death of our child?
But God has not sent you a point-by-point response to your specific questions. He hasn’t given me specific answers, either. As a result, as grieving parents we are required to live lives of unanswered questions. And these unanswered questions impact the way we feel about God. Ken Gire writes, “Unanswered questions can form an impasse in our relationship with God that is Himalayan in its expanse. Stopped there, we look to the highest mountain in that range, to the God we once knew—or thought we knew—and the God whose paternal arms we once felt wrapped so protectively around us now seems an Everest of indifference.” Ken Gire, The North Face of God (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2005), 14. As a grieving parent, I can relate to this “Everest of indifference.” Particularly in the immediate aftermath of my son’s sudden death, God didn’t feel near. God did not send a special message encouraging me in my grief or giving me the reasons why my son had to die. Like so many other grieving parents, I felt emotionally distant from God.
Our options for making sense of a world of unanswered questions and the accompanying emotional distance from God really boil down to just two: (i) we can find answers that best suit our emotional needs (what I’ll call a “sentimental approach”), or (ii) we can turn to the Bible, in faith, to find answers (what I’ll call a “Biblical approach”).
First, we could look for those answers that “feel” the best to us in our grief. We might call this the “sentimental” approach to grieving because this approach elevates the emotional impact over its actual substance. Particularly now, in these days when God feels distant, this approach feels attractive. With this approach, can mold your answers around what’s comfortable and consistent with your desired manner of living. You can decide to look for those answers that cause the least interruption with the manner in which you would like to live your life, and you wouldn’t need to abide by any outside standard in making value judgments. You may decide that your child’s death should impact your life in a certain way, or you could decide that your child’s death should not impact your life at all. But the benefit to this approach is that it is your choice.
Biblical Approach to Suffering
Alternatively, we could trust in what the Bible teaches about suffering, generally, and what God might be purposing through our child’s death. Under this approach, we would choose to believe that just because God feels absent in the midst of great suffering does not mean that God is actually absent. Of the two approaches, the Biblical approach to grief is probably more difficult because, in accepting the promises found in scripture, we are often required to set aside our previous conceptions of life, death, suffering and significance.
If we accept, in faith, Biblical Promises About Suffering, we learn that God uses suffering to teach us about the significance that God desires to bring to our lives and the joy He wants us to find in Him. Many of us who have lost children in death have found that there is no other way to address unanswered questions from God. Only by going to the Bible for guidance can we find meaning in our child’s death, significance in our child’s short life, and hope for our future. Through the truths contained in it, the Bible provides a strength and hope necessary for the perseverance through a lifetime of suffering through your grief.
Will you join us, fellow grieving parents, in humbly submitting our unanswered questions, our lives and our future to God? Even in these days of unanswered questions, even when God doesn’t answer and when He feels so distant, we pray that you would cling in hope to God’s promises.
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