Our church has been on an emotional roller coaster in the last few weeks. We had three young families, all expecting their first babies within a few days of Christmas. The first of the babies, a beautiful little girl named Christina Rose, had a heartbeat when her family reached the hospital parking lot, but was stillborn. Christina’s family thought that her memorial service message might help other families grieving lost. What follows are excerpts from that message.
“Christina Rose spent nine months with Zach and Kathryn, and since the day they first realized she was with them, she’s been the biggest thing in their lives. These were exciting days, filled with anticipation. They talked to her, probably sang to her and told her she was loved. And Christina was apparently a very social child: when they spoke, she responded. When they sang, she did a jig. And she could kick like Mia Hamm. They may have thought she would be a future soccer star.
“The Kiehnau’s were getting to know their daughter before she was even born. They already had ideas of what her personality was like – the girl had an attitude, waving her arms and kicking her legs when dad came home and dancing around when she heard grandpa’s and grandma’s voices. Kathryn and Zach were beginning to wonder what is was going to be like to raise this little live-wire. And they were not only getting to know their daughter, they were coming to love her more and more, as were their families.
“If you’re like me, you wonder “why?” Why would a loving God let this life be conceived, why would he let Kathryn carry this child for nine months, why would he let Zach and Kathryn give this baby a name and fall in love with her, even before they met her, if he wasn’t going to let her survive her birth?
“Now please understand: I am not suggesting that God is to blame for Christina Rose’s death. He didn’t do this to her – or to you. He is not putting you through this pain because of some secret reason, or even for “your own good” — though nothing can stop him from using even this for good. (He knows from personal experience that even the terrible and unjust death of a dearly loved child – in itself entirely evil – can bring about great good.) But he did not do this to you. Yet we think, even if he didn’t do this, he could have stopped it. There’s the rub. He could have stopped it, and he didn’t. So why?
“The answer to that question – or answers (there may be millions) are beyond our ability to comprehend. But let’s go back to the original question: Why would a loving God let Christina Rose be conceived if he didn’t intend her to survive her birth?
“Framed that way, the question casts doubt on the goodness of God, doesn’t it? But I think it is the wrong way to frame the question, because it grossly misrepresents the situation. Christina Rose did survive her birth. The loving God did not allow her to be conceived and become a human being in order to die but in order to live forever. It’s true – and it is very sad for us – that she is not living here, but she is living.
“So let’s frame the question another way, which I think more accurately represents the situation. Why would a kind and loving God allow Christina to be conceived, even though she wasn’t going to live here on earth? And now the answer leaps out at us: he wanted her to be conceived so that she could be his forever; so that she could live and thrive and become something so magnificent that we cannot yet imagine it. He wanted for her the same thing he wants for all of us: glory and love and joy inexpressible, and not even her death can disrupt his plan. Our path has led through an extended preparation period on earth. Hers did not, yet God created her and us with the same end in mind.
“But why let her spend nine months becoming part of Zach’s and Kathryn’s lives? Why let them fall in love with her, if they were only going to lose her? But they haven’t lost her. They know where she is and they will meet her again. And the next time they meet, it will not be in sorrow but in joy, overflowing joy, joy too great for a human to contain; joy that will spill out of them onto all those around them; joy that will overflow those around them and return to its source in God.
“I think that on the day you first meet her in heaven, you will recognize her. You won’t say, “Is that her? Is that her?” but, “There she is!” And how glorious she will be. Her whole being will radiate joy and gladness and power, so that you will be astonished and filled with wonder and gratitude that God allowed you the great privilege of bringing this glorious creature to life in his world. And you will love her. That love will not be diminished by the intervening years, nor will it be clouded by the grief that accompanied her entrance into the world. You will see her and your heart will leap for joy.
“And she will see you, and she will not say, “Is that them? Is that my mom and dad, and grandmas and grandpas and uncles and aunts?” She will know you. She will honor you – her parents and her family – as God’s chosen instruments through which she came to be. And she will love you. For you too will radiate joy and gladness and power, though you may not be aware of it. And then you and she will fall silent or better yet, find yourself singing – for in that land all that is not silence is music – because you will stand in the presence of Joy himself, shining like the sun and full of gladness and power.
“In that day you will need no more answers. You will have been answered, and your questions will already have been forgotten. I’ve heard people say, “The first thing I’m going to do when I get to heaven is ask God why” – why my daughter died, why my wife left, why he allowed a drunk driver to take my husband; there are all kinds of questions. But the truth is, if we are so graced as to get to heaven, to stand in the presence of Eternal Joy, we will no more think of those questions than a man in his prime agonizes over the difficulties of his time in the womb.
“Because you see, we do not need answers as badly as we need the Answerer. Answers can satisfy our minds and still leave our souls starved and perishing. The Answerer satisfies our souls, comforts us in our grief, and gives us hope. And when we’ve met the Answerer, the strangest thing begins to happen: we, who were insisting upon an answer, actually become his answer. It’s what the apostle had in mind when he wrote about, “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” We become the Answerer’s answer to others in their time of suffering.
“All this is because Christ is the answer God spoke to us. His suffering became the source of our comfort. His death becomes the source of our life. On this difficult day I commend you to him, our hope for eternal life and our grace to live this life to the full. Amen.”
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new!” (Revelation 21:3-5a)