This article focuses on infant loss and may be difficult for grieving mothers. We believe the gospel is our only hope in life and death, but we recognize grief works through various stages and on different timelines. If you’ve lost a child, we recommend you seek the counsel and help of a trained biblical counselor or your pastor. Additionally, the viewpoint represented in the article is one theologically accepted interpretation, but R|M doesn’t hold an official viewpoint.
I watched my mother-in-law gently slip a white tulle butterfly covered with iridescent sequins into a bouquet of magenta-colored roses and soft pink carnations. The beautiful bouquet lay on top of a small, ivory and white marbled casket. And inside of the casket was the body of the most precious baby girl. My baby girl.
My daughter Evie passed away just hours after she was born. Her birth was the culmination of four months of anxious anticipation knowing that birth would also mean death for my broken baby. The doctor told my husband and me at twenty weeks pregnant that our daughter had several missing and underdeveloped parts that would make life outside of the womb impossible. The Lord was so incredibly faithful to carry my heart through the anxious and tear-filled weeks following Evie’s diagnosis and answered so many prayers to make our short time with her so very sacred. But the months that followed her passing were some of the darkest days of my life. And just when my heart began to heal with the birth of our rainbow baby, three years later the unthinkable happened again.
This time it was a baby boy, just as broken and fragile. His body was so very weak from the moment of birth, and it was immediately obvious that he wouldn’t be with us for long. After only thirty minutes, his sweet soul passed into eternity. I sobbed—the choking, aching sort that comes only when something so precious has been ripped away. I wept over his body and told him I would’ve taken good care of him, because I would have. But that was not the story God wrote for either one of us, mother or son.
1 Corinthians 15:55 triumphantly reads, “O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?” And if I’m being honest, when I read those words I think, here. Right here. The sting of death is right here in my heart, singeing and burning each and every day when I think about the two sweet giggles that I will never hear or the two sets of chubby little hands that will never cup my face. And the sting is there when I think of the future milestones that will never be—of birthday parties and school bus rides and graduations. Sometimes the sting is so real, like a blade freshly piercing my tender mama heart. In those times, I feel like the grave has won the victory. Because God could have granted full life when it was waning. And yet, for my babies, he chose not to.
Sometimes the enemy tries to offer me the lies that death and the grave have won, and that God isn’t able to be trusted. And sometimes, I reach for those lies because I don’t always understand. What kind of God takes children away from their mommy while her body is still freshly bleeding from birth? What kind of God watches a father comfort a grieving mother at their baby girl’s graveside? What kind of God sees the secret places of a mama’s heart, the parts that know the exact location in the corner of the closet of her baby boy’s ashes and yet, after almost three years, she still cannot bear to peek inside that little box? What Author of life can snatch life away before it has even begun? What Abba Father can take a child away from a mother? What kind of God would do that?
I’ll tell you what kind of God. The same God who allowed the loss of his own child to make a way for mine.
God the Father knows what it’s like to lose a child. He was separated from us, his most precious creation when sin entered the world. In a divine plan to rescue and restore that broken relationship, that same God penned the grandest of schemes wherein his only begotten, beloved, perfect son Jesus, would make a way. In the greatest act of love and sacrifice, God the Son gave his life for ours and paid the debt our sin owed the Father. As a result, any of us who accept Christ’s work on the cross are folded into the arms of God forever and promised the most beautiful life after this one has passed.
Sometimes we hurt so deeply because we feel like we’re entitled to the lives of our children. It feels like God robbed us of what should’ve been. But as I interpret the scriptures, I see a God who cares for our babies better than we can, bringing them into his care. Although there are different interpretations regarding this truth, I have faith that the sacrifice of Jesus, means our babies have already entered into rest in the presence of God.
What our children have in their existence in Heaven is perfection and peace, wholeness and righteousness. They will never know pain or death or suffering. There are no more tears, no broken hearts, and no unkind words. Their lives in the presence of the Father are in perfect harmony with his holiness, as the Lord intended it all to be from the very beginning. What we could have given them here on earth, even as a very dedicated mother, is but a small, flickering flame compared to God’s glorious illumination.
The very best thing is not just that Jesus died to make a way for our babies or that they are forever safe in the arms of the Father. The very best thing is that one day we’ll dwell with God. In our darkest days of grief and sorrow, as we mourn what we lost and what would never be, the consolation is found in God’s promises.
So death, where is your sting? Grave, where is your victory? The sting of death and the feeling that the grave emerged victorious might begin to flood our hearts in moments of deep grief and mournful sorrow, but nothing can take away our hope in the reality that Jesus conquered death.
Sarah is an internal processor, chocolate lover, and sweatpants enthusiast. She has a heart for helping women have eyes to see the beautiful story God has written especially for them, a message she helps to convey in her podcast, The Heart Lessons Podcast. She also has a deep heart for bereaved mothers and helping them to find hope in the gospel, a passion born of her own experience of losing two full-term infants. You can find out more about Sarah, her heart, and her story at sarahrieke.com. Sarah lives in southeastern Virginia with her husband of almost twelve years and their three living children, Micah (7), Jocelyn (3), and Silas (1).