This is every parent’s worst nightmare. No parent wants to survive their child, and yet there are those suffering around us every day that have experienced this excruciatingly painful loss. It is absolutely heart breaking. The last thing I want to say to someone who has lost a child is why God allowed it. I just want to listen to them, let them cry, share their sadness. But it does make me wonder why this happens, and it creates in me a desire to understand.
I certainly don’t have all the answers; no one does. But there are some things God has revealed to us that help us comprehend some tragedies. Let’s go all the way back to the dawn of mankind—the fall of Adam and the entrance of evil into the human race (see Gen. 3). God warned Adam and Eve if they ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that they would surely die. Death can take many forms and has no age limits. The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil teaches many hard lessons that bring deep sorrow and pain. For instance, death teaches us to cherish precious time with loved ones while we exist on the earth, and we should learn to appreciate those currently with us after we have lost others. The death of a child is never easy, yet many believe that everyone who dies before the age of accountability (see Deut. 1:39) goes straight to heaven. That is a comforting thought.
What is not so comforting is why doesn’t God answer prayers for healing sick children? This may shock you, but sometimes God is hidden for our freedom. Let’s say that God answered every single prayer for healing children. That sounds wonderful until you think it through. How then could you enjoy free will, which includes the choice to love or reject God, if His existence was so obvious by healing every child on the planet? By God remaining veiled to us until we honestly seek Him, He allows free will to continue so no one is forced to obey Him.
God does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone (see Lam. 3:33). He is Holy and sin has serious consequences. Maybe sin isn’t all that big a thing to us, but it is quite significant to a creator who has given us everything we have, asking only that we obey Him. His moral law exists as a standard of His justice, to protect our souls, and keep us in right relationship with Him. Children often suffer the consequences of our sinful world, a world that has yet to be set right.
If we experience the loss of a child and yet remain faithful to God, part of our enduring suffering glorifies God because we do this in spite of having never seen Him face-to-face. Job is a good example of this. Satan assumed Job would only praise God because he was blessed. He was wrong! Under Satan’s test, Job never cursed God even though he suffered greatly. So, how is this rewarded in heaven? The Scripture promises rewards to those who persevere. In Revelation, the Lord says that the faithful will overcome and will inherit his Kingdom (Luke 12:32; Rev. 21:7), where “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Rev. 21:4). The faithful “will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5).
Belief in life after death is a source of optimism and spiritual betterment for the Christian who fixes their eyes on heaven. Nothing offers more comfort than a better life awaiting those who use the present to prepare for eternity. There are unimaginable blessings in heaven that give some people hope to make the ultimate sacrifice—their own lives (soldiers, firefighters, etc). It would be difficult to believe that life is good if there was nothing beyond the grave to compensate for the trials experienced here. Suffering is real and we should not minimize it, but compared to eternity, the pain experienced for a limited time on Earth will seem only a moment in Heaven.