The loss of a child is painful, deeply painful.
Fifteen years ago, my wife and I experienced our first certain miscarriage. I was a new dad, and then, just like that, it was over. The loss was so unexpected. The ache went deep, to my soul’s core. And in the midst of my own sorrow and weeping, I was attempting to care for my grieving wife. For two years and three months, she battled with God, until her sense of his sovereignty was matched by the torrent of his love.
Four years ago, our lives were rocked into mourning again when an attempted adoption failed. I was out with my son building bunk beds for him and his soon-to-be brother, when the call came. The little three-year old orphan who so desperately needed a family, whom we had already grown to love as our own, who would bear my name in just seven more days –– this child would remain an orphan and no longer be adoptable. Our hearts were crushed as we entered into a fresh season of God proving his worth above all else.
Looking to Jesus
Why does the God of heaven and earth give only to take away? There are so many reasons that I have already learned, but an unexpected note is struck in Zechariah 12:10.
Over five hundred years before Gethsemane and Golgotha, God declares,
I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.
There’s a direct relationship between the glory of Christ and the loss of a child. The mournful night and piercing pain, the throbbing of soul and the sobbing of loss –– these are all designed to be benchmarks for the type of grief that our own beings should feel over the death Christ bore on our behalf.
“He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). It was horrible. Gut-wrenching. More terrible than words can describe. But in it, he made a way for our grief to be borne and our sorrow carried –– a way for us to be healed (Isaiah 53:4–5; 1 Peter 2:24). In the words of Zechariah, on the day when God’s own Son was pierced, “a fountain [was] opened . . . to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness” (Zechariah 13:1). He took the worst kind of pain to heal our ultimate pain.
We hear Peter’s words, “This Jesus . . . you crucified” (Acts 2:23), and with the crowd we are “cut to the heart” and declare, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Our grief is great, and then the glorious truths ring in our ears, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38) and “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). Salvation breaks the sorrow. Glory comes not despite the grief, but precisely because of it.
When the mourning of loss is matched by faith in Jesus, there are fresh mercies with every dawn, all because we know what it means to look on the one who was pierced for us. In this, we have hope and promised help for our battle against sin and for the times when those we love are gone. In Christ, grief will not have the last word.