Here is the second part of the guest post from my friend Catherine Arnsperger. Her baby Abigail was also born into the arms of Jesus on January 28th, 2005.
Who is God when a Baby Dies? (2 of 4) By Catherine Arnsperger
Really, what is this “good” happening to me, anyway? I mean, it’s not “good” in the way we all view “good.” My baby girl is buried. In the ground. And she is gone. And Dan and I are bereft and bewildered and childless and longing and broken. Missing our little one was mind-numbing, and could have driven us to madness…
“…I would have despaired if I did not believe I would see the goodness of the Lord…” Psalm 27:13
I had to listen to what was echoing in my soul, when grief was quiet enough to hear.
The power of God being made perfect in our weakness… My grace is sufficient for you… Sufficient grace… Less of us… More of Him… I consider it pure joy my brothers to face trials of many kinds… Jesus was a man familiar with sorrows… My bones cry out to you O Lord…. Where are you O Lord…. Lord, take this cup from Me if it is Your will… Consider my servant Job… I weep with grief… He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds… Be strong and do not fear… For I know the plans I have for you… I am in chains for Christ… His power, His power, His power made PERFECT in our weakness, our weakness, our weakness…
I was hearing those verses playing out in my soul. I was hearing the whispers of those words I had hidden in my heart so that I might not sin against Him. Yes. The murmur of ancient words you have stored up inside of you for such a time as this.
I also heard this, spoken to my heart, “Now, this is your time, Catherine. Your time for one of the greatest tests of your whole life. This is what it means to be buried with Christ. To surrender all. This is what it means ‘to be held.’”
No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; He’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; He’ll always be there to help you come through it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 Message)
Despite my initial confidence in the safety of the sovereignty of God, I had to still work it out and be sure…was I right? Was this really true? Does God actually start all life and stop all life simply because He wills it? Where does sin fit in? Where does my part fit in, my free will?
Ancient questions. Ancient struggles. Nothing had come over me that was new to mankind.
In the end, I had no choice but to conclude that the God of the Universe, the One God who Himself holds the keys to death and hades (Rev. 1:8) and He who also tells us that our days are numbered a specific number before the dawn of time (Ps. 139:16), took my baby girl home to heaven before she was born. God took her home. On purpose. To fulfill His good and perfect and pleasing will.
This conclusion puts to death remnant of pride… Pride in my own strength. For I am but dust. Pride in my own understanding. For I really know nothing. Pride in my own accomplishments. For they could not save my daughter. Pride in the human race. For though we are created in the image of God, we came from dust and to dust we will return.
There is no other explanation that holds up to any real scrutiny. And though so very mysterious and overwhelming as it causes me to “work out my salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), I’d rather have this God than one who wasn’t in charge or one who abdicated any bit of His sovereignty to the enemy.
See, reaching this conclusion went a little like this for my broken mother’s heart:
What if I could have prevented my baby’s death and it’s all my fault? Well, let’s play this out. What if I did all the things I could have done in pregnancy, like insisted on more non-stress tests to ensure her health? And then what? My baby could have lived? Or what if I insisted that her kick-count was too low and yelled and screamed until the my doctor delivered my baby? My baby would have lived? Or what if I was on bed rest and didn’t move but to go to the bathroom and then what, my baby would have lived? Or what if I charted every single detail of my pregnancy in the latest perfect pregnancy app and I saw red flags far before anyone would have otherwise? My baby would have lived? Would she have? Am I sure? Am I sure that my baby’s life was in my total control? Am I sure that my own will could will her into a healthy life? If there was a perfect law that I could keep, a check-list of perfect maternity, am I sure that my own will and tireless action would yield a healthy baby? How do I know? Because I wanted it? Because I was promised it?
Let’s play out that my answer would be, “Yes, I am sure that if I checked the boxes of maternity perfection, I would have my baby healthy in my arms today.” OK, if that is true, then what? Am I truly in control of life and death? Do I hold the keys to death and hades? Did I write the Book which numbers our days? Or are there no keys to death and hades? Or no predefined numbers to our days? Is God not who He says He is? Is He not telling us the truth? Is it actually a lie, a fabrication that we are all believing that there is a all-knowing all-powerful God? Maybe God is all-knowing and all-powerful but He has actually abdicated some of that responsibility and given it to us humans, specifically human mothers. Maybe God willingly gave the power over my baby’s life to me, put it in my hands, and He washed His hands of it. He wished me a “good luck with that” and then sat back and watched to see if I could handle it. Oh and yes, by the way, I failed. God gave me control over my child’s very days and I failed. Hmmm, am I a failure? Why, yes, I am…we all are….
Or, even better, what if God abdicated any of His control, any of His perfect and pleasing plan to Satan, that ancient snake? Yes, that’s more like it. God didn’t give any of His power to me but He gave His power over to Satan. Then He washed His hands of it and wished me a “good luck with that snake, he’s a doozy” and then cried god-sized tears and fretted as my baby died and I was tormented.
My conclusions to these questions, the ones top of mind? God isn’t who He says He is. He abdicated control. He put something into my human hands, the very number of days of my child’s life, and I dropped the ball. Or, God gave over the power to Satan and took him off that ancient leash and had no control over what was happening to me and my baby. I failed my child and God failed me. My baby is in the ground and my God is nothing like I thought He was. This loving God thing isn’t worth it if this is true… Yes, I think I’ll give this Christian thing up now. It’s not worth it.
But…there is another question.
What if God is sovereign and He took my baby? Can I even bear to play that out? What if God took my baby according to a predetermined plan? Is He allowed to predetermine things like death? Who is doing the allowing anyway? What if God numbered her days to only 41 weeks in utero? Is He still the God I know and profess to serve? What if God just reached in, took her baby hand, and said much like we do when we talk to our toddlers in a highchair, “All done, little one! All finished!” What if God did this on purpose? Will that change my view of God? Is He still who He says He is? What if He knew full well I would be broken to smithereens and that didn’t stop Him? What if Hewanted me to be broken to smithereens? Is He a vindictive God, a sadist God? Am I sure? I’m raging with pain! Isn’t He supposed to be all-loving, all-good, all-perfect? How in the world does the death of a baby fit into that description? Is my description wrong? Am I sure?
What does the Bible say about this God, this sovereign God? And a God who writes me this in His holy Word:
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT)
Look now; I myself am he! There is no other god but me! I am the one who kills and gives life; I am the one who wounds and heals; no one can be rescued from my powerful hand! (Deuteronomy 32:39 NLT)
For the Lord does not abandon anyone forever. Though He brings grief, He also shows compassion according to the greatness of His unfailing love. (Lamentations 3:31-32 NLT)
I know, O Lord, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me. May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant. (Psalm 119:75-76 NIV)
And I can only wonder about Job at this point…