My wife Grace has miscarried and whenever I think about it, I tear up as it feels like someone is missing and our Fab Five should be the Stellar Six. I pastor men and women who ask me, with tears streaming down their face and trembling in their voice, what happened to their deceased child. Some have suffered miscarriages, others had abortions, some experienced stillbirths, and others had a baby die in infancy. One woman I know has endured some 20 miscarriages. For me, this issue is not merely theoretical but deeply personal, pastoral, and emotional.
Not only do people need answers, they also need love, compassion, prayer, a listening ear, and an available friend. We cannot always fix things, but we can provide comfort and companionship. No amount of theology can compensate for the presence of somebody who does not try to answer all the questions or speed up the grieving process but is just there when you need them.
For those who have endured loss amidst loneliness, without a friend to provide comfort, I apologize for that double grief. And I would encourage you to use that dark season of the soul to compel you to use what you learned to be a comforter to others who are struggling as you were. You may not have had the friend you needed, but by God’s grace you can become that friend to someone else, which can be a means of healing for you and the person you are walking with through the valley of the shadow of death.
Like many things in the Bible, the question of what happens to a baby when they die requires a response of faith. In Scripture, God provides some clear principles, but not a clear answer. Here’s what I tell myself, my wife, our kids, and the people I am honored to spiritually father at our church:
- God became a baby in His mother’s womb.
Theologians tend to tell us that God became a man, which is true. But he became a baby in his mother’s womb before he grew to be a man. In this, we see that Jesus identifies with the unborn as well as the born.
Hebrews 4:15 tell us regarding Jesus, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses.” Jesus knows life as a baby; Jesus knows what it is like to have someone you love die, as he wept at the death of his friend Lazarus; and he has suffered and tasted death. Jesus identifies with our frailty and humanity at every stage of human development: unborn, infant, child, adolescent, and adult.
Jesus—unlike any other concept of God—has empathy and insight for both the baby and those who love the baby and mourn his or her death. In Jesus, we have a God who relates to us and invites us to himself for comfort and hope. More than just answers, he also offers His grace and presence.
- God knows and loves children whether they are unborn or born.
Luke, a medical doctor, writes under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit. What does it mean when he says of Elizabeth that, “the baby leaped in her womb”? What does the Bible mean by the word baby?
An examination of every time Luke uses the Greek word brephos shows a consistency. (I’ve added the italics for emphasis).
“When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb” (Luke 1:41).
“The baby [John the Baptizer] in my womb leaped for joy” (Luke 1:44).
“You will find a baby [Jesus] wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12).
“They…found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger” (Luke 2:16).
“They were bringing even infants to [Jesus] that he might touch them…Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me…’” (Luke 18:15–1).
“[The godless Pharaoh] dealt shrewdly with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants, so that they would not be kept alive” (Acts 7:19).
The same word, brephos, is used for an unborn baby, a newborn baby, and young children because God sees them all the same—as people bearing His image and likeness, worthy of all rights and dignity. A baby in a womb is known by God as John was, named by God as John was, and can be filled with God the Holy Spirit as John was (Luke 1:15). How wonderful is it that God cares about unborn children? How encouraging is it that even when children are miscarried or aborted, we see the possibility that God can know them, love them, name them, and fill them with the Spirit even from the womb as He did John?
- Jesus taught that heaven was for little kids.
One of the most endearing pictures of the New Testament is the time when kids rushed to play with Jesus. He welcomed them, while the religious leaders rebuked them. The religious leaders were wrongly confident that they were going to Heaven, and felt the children were a nuisance and distraction. Not Jesus, he saw things very differently.
In Luke 18:15–17 we read, “Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’”
Jesus welcomed children and said that his eternal kingdom was custom built for kids to be with him forever. This picture of Jesus welcoming children should be a great hope and comfort for parents who have lost a baby. The image of Jesus holding our miscarried child on his lap in His eternal kingdom awaiting for our day of entrance is the single most comforting image that comes to mind when I ask myself what has happened to the child we lost. In the next and last daily devotional on this issue, we will learn about God the Father who lost His Son and gives hope to parents who have felt that same loss.