Sometimes things happen we just can’t explain. I think of young people and children with incurable diseases, suffering and facing death long before their time. Why does it happen? And, what do we say to the grieving parents and family members when it does? What follows was my attempt, now five years ago, to offer consolation and hope when my granddaughter Eva, a full-term baby, unexpectedly died in the womb at the close of August.
Some things are beyond our ability to understand and are certainly beyond our ability to explain. And what to say in such situations is most difficult because no words can give comfort and take away the pain!
It happened last week. My phone rang Monday morning. It was my son-in-law, husband to my oldest daughter.
It must be the news I’ve been waiting for. My daughter was due to give birth to a daughter.
“You’ve got news?” I asked.
The reply came in a tearful voice, “Yes, but it’s not good.”
Then, my son-in-law explained to me that “something had gone wrong with the umbilical cord. It had gotten a kink in it or something.
“The blood supply was cut off.
“The baby didn’t make it. There was nothing the doctors could do.”
I later learned from my daughter that she had noticed her baby, Eva Nicole, wasn’t active as usual on Sunday. She thought it was because labor was beginning. When her water broke and she went to deliver early Monday, no heartbeat could be found.
Eva was stillborn.
What do I say?
How do I give comfort to my grieving daughter and her family?
How can I make sense out of what’s happened?
And the obvious answer is: I can’t.
One Bible verse which comes to mind is this: “‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
There are just things we don’t and can’t understand. We have no explanation and no reason; and if God were to tell us, we would still not be able to understand and accept His answer. God’s ways, His plans, are far beyond the comprehension of puny minds like mine. I can’t understand. All I can do is trust that He indeed knows best.
The Bible tells us: “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
Though I can’t understand or explain, I do know this: God has His reasons, and His plan is better than any plan you or I could ever have. His plan and His working is for the good of Eva, for He called her name even before her birth and spared her the evil and troubles of life in this sin-cursed world.
And God’s plan is for the good of Eva’s mother and family, and even for a grieving grandpa who never got to hold this granddaughter.
How I wish I could have held her, baptized her in the name of Jesus, heard her voice and watched her grow up into a young lady! But now I’ll have to wait to see Eva until this life ends for me too and I also go to be with Jesus, our Savior.
To rephrase David’s words in 2 Sam. 12:23, “I shall go to where she is, but she shall not return to me.”
Though we were not privileged to hear Eva’s voice, in many ways she speaks to us in her death.
Her perfectly formed body is a testimony to the truth recorded in Psalm 139:13-16, where we read: “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.”
Her death testifies to the truth that she too, like David, was conceived and brought forth in sin (Psalm 51:5); and to the words of Genesis 3, which say, “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (v. 19).
The brevity of her life and her being called home even before she was born are a reminder of Luke 18:15-16, in which babies were brought to Jesus that He might touch them and His disciples attempted to stop them. “Jesus called them to Him and said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.’”
Laying her tiny body in the ground in hope of the resurrection speaks of Christ’s death and resurrection. “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures … He was buried … He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3,4).
It reminds us of the truth that “since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Cor. 15:21-23).
Her burial speaks the truth: “The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:42-44).
Thus, Eva’s death speaks of the sin-cursed world in which we live, a world in which even babies and children die because of Adam’s sin. It reminds us that this world is not the place in which to build our hopes and dreams.
But Eva’s being called out of this world by Jesus speaks of the day when we too will be called from this life by the Lord Jesus.
And Jesus has made it possible for us to be ready for that day. He so loved the world — babies and children too — that He suffered and died for our sins and rose again to win for us pardon and to give us life eternal with Him. He calls to us in His Word, offering us forgiveness and life in His name. He shed His blood and established a gracious covenant with us that all who believe and are baptized into Him might be saved.
Eva has been called home to be held in the arms of Jesus. We don’t understand God’s ways or His timing. But those who trust in Jesus for pardon and for life, have the assurance that He will also receive them at His call.
So, I’ll have to wait to hold Eva, to see her face and hear her voice. But that day will come because of Jesus. He shed His blood to redeem Eva and He shed His blood to redeem you and me.
That reminds me of another passage in Isaiah: “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young” (40:11).
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.