Dear bereaved parent,

I am so sorry for the loss of your precious child. No words can adequately describe the piercing pain and deep sorrow you are going through right now. No English word can describe a parent who has lost a child. When a wife loses a husband, she is called a widow. When a child loses a parent, they are called an orphan. There are no sufficient words to describe the bereaved parent. Due to original sin, we understand that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 3:23; 6:23) and that, in most circumstances, we will bury our parents and spouse. One day, you assume your child will be planning your funeral. But, oh, the horror of burying your own child. In that, you see the grim enemy of death in full force. After losing his son in infancy, theologian R. L. Dabney wrote, “Ah! When the mighty wings of the angel of death nestles over your heart’s treasures, and his black shadow broods over your home, it shakes the heart with a shuddering terror and a horror of great darkness.”

My friend, my heart breaks for you. Part of you dies when your child dies. To bury your own child is also to bury half of yourself. The bitter cup and the sharp thorn will always be with you until glory. Though the grief and sorrow change over time, a missing family member will always be at the dinner table. There will always be one less family member during family photos. But, my friend, there is hope in the darkness. As a fellow sufferer and bereaved parent, I hope these words will be a source of comfort in your affliction. As I write this letter to you, I am also preaching these truths repeatedly to my soul. I need these reminders daily.

In 2022, my wife and I lost our precious son Isaac in his infant years. During this past year, the Lord has brought us a new ‘circle of friends who have been on a similar journey as a bereaved parent. In his book, Seasons of Sorrow, Tim Challies describes this group as “The Sacred Circle of the Sorrowing,” which was taken from Theodore Cuyler. Challies writes:

“If you have lost a child, you are not alone. After Theodore Cuyler’s child passed away, “he was ushered into “the sacred circle of the sorrowing,” a community made up of fellow sufferer … He had not been invited into the circle or asked if he wished to join. Rather, Providence had directed him to be part of it, and he had chosen to submit, to bow the knee… I would never wish it on anyone to join this circle, this club, for the membership fee is at the death of a child and the dues are a broken heart. Yet priceless consolation comes to those who have joined, for we know that none of us need ever stand alone” (p.128-129).

As one who has been placed in “the sacred circle of the sorrowing,” I want to leave you with two truths that you must meditate upon:

  1. Remember Jesus Christ:

My friend, you must keep your eyes on Christ in this deep affliction. You must remember that though this trial is deep and painful, God has not forsaken you. Remember, beloved, that “when darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace.” What text has helped me rest on Christ’s unchanging grace? I have drawn much comfort from John 11:35: “Jesus wept.” He knows your sorrow. He knows your pain. He is the friend “that sticks closer than a brother.” In this verse, B. B. Warfield points out that we see Jesus’ response “to the spectacle of human sorrow with quiet, sympathetic tears: “Jesus wept” (verse 36).[i] Jesus stared death in the face. Despite knowing that He will raise Lazarus from the grave in a few short days, our Savior “wept.”

Beloved, in your affliction, you must run to Jesus! Speak to Jesus. Lament and pour out your heart to Jesus! Weep at His feet! Charles Spurgeon once said, “Jesus who never wept could never wipe away my tears.” The good news is that for all who are His, one day, He will wipe away every tear from your eyes. Through the person and work of Jesus Christ, the grim enemy of death defeated by our victorious Lord!

As John Owen, on the cross, we witness “the death of death in the death of Christ.” On the third day, we see that the grave could not hold our Savior! Jesus rose triumphantly from the grave! The wrath of God against our sin was satisfied! Death was defeated! Hallelujah, what a Savior! Beloved, if you have believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ, we await, with great anticipation, that sweet day of Revelation 21:4, where “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

  1. Remember that the dark night will soon be over:

I am sure that this affliction you are experiencing has given you a greater longing for heaven. Right now, you probably have one foot in this world and one foot in heaven, as it were. You are not alone in that regard. Remember, the dark night of the soul will soon be over!

In 1774, John Newton wrote a letter to his friend, John Ryland Jr. In the letter, Newton writes: “Do you ask how it is with me? Just as the weather is this morning. My heart is cold as the snow under foot, and cloudy as the sky over my head. Not a beam of sunshine, but it is a mercy to have daylight. It will not be always winter, thought it has been a long winter with me.”

Can you sympathize with Newton? Does your spiritual heart feel cold today? Are the dark clouds overwhelming you? Do you long for a beam of sunshine? Remember, beloved, it will not always be winter, though it may be a long and dark winter. On that final Day, “the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings” (Malachi 4:2). In the meantime, you must meditate on the goodness of God, even when we do not see it. I do not know why the Lord has brought us into “the sacred circle of the sorrowing,” but that is okay. We do not have to make “calculations” and always find the “purpose” behind things. God knows. I don’t need to know. What I do need to know in my affliction is His character. A helpful book in this area is The Moon is Always Round by Jonathan Gibson.[ii] Just as the moon is always round, even when we do not see it, we know that God is always Good, even when we do not see it.

Yours Truly,

A Fellow Sufferer

References

[i] B. B. Warfield, Essay on “The Emotional Life of our Lord,” https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/emotionallife.html/

[ii] https://newgrowthpress.com/children-books/picture-books/the-moon-is-always-round/

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