(Friends: a bit longer than usual, but the seriousness of the subject matter seems to warrant a more involved consideration. Thanks. )
I had a message prepared for today, but in light of recent events, I've decided to share some different thoughts with you.
You may have heard about the child who died of heatstroke this week after being left in the car by his father. There's some indication that, unlike nearly all other tragedies of this sort, the father intentionally left his child to die. I'm certain that you feel what I feel, from horror, to heart-wrenching sadness, to rage at the possibility that the child died as the result of malicious intent by the one who should have loved him the most.
I think also of those parents whose children died accidentally because the father or mother forgot that the child was in the car with them when they reached their destination. One can only imagine the tortured agony experienced by the child in such horrific circumstances. One cannot imagine the tortured and enduring agony of the parent responsible for perhaps the greatest tragedy a loving father or mother could experience. Certainly, we cannot excuse those who make such a mistake. We can, however, understand how such a thing can happen. Indeed, no single demographic indicator exists that predicts the profile of those to whom this happens. Every socioeconomic class, gender, race, personality type, and vocation are included among parents whose children died due to this particular form of unintentional neglect. Recent events make me more aware than ever of such shattered souls, and I hope to regularly visit the altar of prayer for those fathers and mothers who will live the rest of their lives with broken hearts because they will, through their own actions, live the rest of their lives without their beloved.
We cannot fail to think of our Heavenly Father as we ponder this difficult subject. He alone can provide hope and meaning in such temptation to despair. In this regard, several thoughts come to mind.
First, the children do not die alone in the terrible circumstances we reference.
"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me… Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows." (Psalm 23:4; Matthew 10:29-31).
Somehow our Father draws near to these children in their departure from this world. This does not preclude suffering, of course, but if a sparrow's fall beckons the loving and compassionate heart of God, we can be sure that the cries of a small child draw Him instantly to their side, and to their heart. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).
We also wonder how the parents endure such loss and grief. In secular considerations of the matter, the question often arises, "How do they forgive themselves?" As we recently referenced in another message, no such need exists in human hearts. Only God can so completely forgive us, through the sacrifice of His Son and application of such grace to our hearts, that our consciences are cleansed. "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience" (Hebrews 10:19-22). A real and living experience of such mercy avails for our conscience, and nothing else does. Let us pray for the parents we consider, that the Spirit of God will lead them to the Christ of God, and to the faith that realizes the wondrous truth - "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 5:20-21).
Finally, and most importantly, the terrible possibility that a parent perhaps intentionally consigned his son to a horrifying death solemnly reminds us of another Father who did the same (albeit for monumentally different reasons). "Jesus of Nazareth… being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:22-23). It serves as the most foundational truth of the Gospel, that God sent His beloved Son into the world for the purpose of suffering and dying on behalf. The Father Himself smote the Lord Jesus with untold furies of Divine wrath against sin - "we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted" (Isaiah 53:4). Moreover, the Father and the Holy Spirit abandoned our Savior to die in the most desolate loneliness any soul will ever know - "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?!" (Matthew 27:46). Foundational truth, yes, but that truth from which we never want to venture too far, and which the sons and daughters of God in Christ seek to perpetually remember within our hearts and affirm among ourselves. This is the Light that shines most brightly in a blackness so very dark, and so very deep.
Some child, somewhere will live because the tragedies we consider will motivate the hearts of parents to find ways to be sure it does not happen to their beloved. And some soul, somewhere today will live because God could not and did not spare His Son. Even in this moment, the saving grace of the Lord Jesus made possible by His agonized death and glorious resurrection moves upon and within sinners to birth them into eternal life through the grace received by faith. Oh yes, with God, lights always shine in the darkness He allows for the purpose of magnifying His mercy, as known in His beloved Son.
"The Light shineth in darkness."
Weekly Memory Verse
Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat, yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.