Making Sense from the Death of a Baby

It’s pretty hard to make sense of the death of any child. I’m not going to pretend that I’m about to make that any easier. God alone knows why these things happen. And His ways are often inscrutable. I’m under no illusions about my own limitations to plumb the depths of God’s providential oversight of all things to offer startling and hitherto unrevealed insight. But I spent a while recently wracking my brains trying to make sense of the death of a child of good friends. This little boy had been a couple of weeks away from making his first appearance in their lives. But he died in his mother’s womb. She was understandably devastated. And the family took the decision to have a funeral.

I’d been asked to pray. And I wanted to ask God for more than His comfort in the midst of their understandable sorrow. I wanted this child’s death to achieve something. After all, I’m a Christian and I believe that someone’s death can accomplish great things. And so I prayed that his death might not be without good and godly effect in the life of his parents and his siblings. He never got the chance to meet them face to face. But the Lord willing, they will do one day in the New Creation. But that doesn’t mean that his brief life can’t nevertheless have a profound influence upon every single one of them. And I prayed to that end.

First I prayed that this child’s premature death would convince his family of the brevity of life in this world. That we live long in this world is not a given. Every breath we have is given to us by the Lord. There are no guarantees about how long we get to do that for. And we’re fools to think that we’re invincible and indestructible. But in effect, we often live like that. And it prevents us from thinking sensibly about life. And death.

Secondly I prayed that his premature death would convince his family of the reality of the world that is to come. The Pastor who took the service reassured us that ‘he is in the Lord’s hands’. I’d want to make that confession of assurance even more explicitly confident. One day he will be with all God’s people, fellow believers in Christ, in the New Creation. After all, since Israel’s King David expressed his confidence that one day he would see his dead infant son once again (2 Samuel 12:23), it doesn’t seem an unreasonable interpretation of scripture to believe that the children of believers are ‘with the Lord’ upon their death. The 17th Century Presbyterian founders of the Westminster Confession of Faith certainly agreed.[1]

Finally I prayed that his premature death would convince his family of the generosity of God in sending us His Son to die for us. None of us deserve to live forever and yet God’s merciful salvation makes that possible through faith in Christ. No one gets to heaven except through the redeeming death of Jesus. But God didn’t have to do that. He didn’t have to give us resurrection hope in the face of death. But He did.

I don’t know why God decided that this particular baby boy should not see life in this world. But I do wonder whether he might actually serve his family without even realising it. I’m praying that this might be so. And so, imagine what it might one day be like, in the New Creation, when his parents are able to greet their son and the kids their brother. Wouldn’t it be amazing if every single one of them is able to express their deep gratitude to him for the lessons from his brief life?

[1] ‘Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ’ (WCF, Chapter X, Section 3)