Question #1: My friend has asked a question that when answered she doesn't understand: why if God is good why would he let a child die? Why not save that child?
Response #1: Dear friend, Let me say right from the beginning that I am convinced both from specific scripture and from what the Bible has to say about the character of God and our role here in His plan that all persons who die before attaining mental and emotional maturity are not brought into judgment, for judgment is leveled on the basis of refusing to believe in Jesus Christ (Jn.3:18). Therefore, those who never get to the point of "knowing right from wrong" have never faced this issue central to all human life and, hence, are not culpable (cf. Is.7:15). Jesus died for their sins and ours, so that, not having rejected Christ, they are saved as a matter of course. That is why David can say about the death of his first child by Bathsheba, "I will go to him" (2Sam.12:23), because he understood that all children go to be with the Lord if they should die before growing up. Besides being assured of salvation, it should also be a point of comfort that those who die as children never come to know all the troubles of this world (cf. Job 3:1-26; 7:1-10; 14:1-6). This world is a place of suffering and tears (cf. Rev.7:16-17), so that as believers in Jesus Christ it is our utmost desire to leave it and be with Jesus (Phil.1:20-24; cf. Jn.14:28; Rom.8:23). Children who die go to be with the Lord immediately. Without having had to drink their fill from this cup of tears, they enjoy sweet and blessed fellowship with Him forever (cf. 1Ki.13:12-13). So while we who remain on earth may mourn for these departed children, and understandably so, we who believe in the truth of the Word of God have the immense comfort of knowing that these children are truly "better off", spared the further sorrows of life and guaranteed safe passage into the glories of the presence of God.
Now there is much we cannot fathom or understand even about the circumstances of our lives, but as Christians we have faith that God is indeed working all things out in His plan for us perfectly and wonderfully, despite whatever trouble and tribulations He is bringing us through - it is all working out for good (Rom.8:28). For any child, even one beloved by us personally, would we not rather choose for him or her to be saved, if the alternative was to reach maturity and persist in unbelief? Would we not rather choose for him or her to be spared a particularly horrendous life and be all that much sooner with our Lord, if that indeed were the fate that awaited? We have to learn to trust our heavenly Father that He is doing what is best and good and right for all His children, even when it may be hard to see and accept from our limited vantage point. We do not know what awaits anyone - no one does (Eccl.9:1). When we grieve for the loss of someone's child, we are grieving for the parents, but none of us really knows what would have happened had God spared the child in question. We have to trust that in His wisdom, God has chosen what is best for all parties, even if we are incapable of seeing the logic with these earthly eyes. That doesn't mean there are no tears, but when we cry, hurt, or grieve for anyone (and especially for ourselves), we need to take care to do so in total faith that God is indeed working all things together for good. God is perfect, and whatever He does He does in perfect justice and perfect love (see the link: Theology: the Study of God).
We may not understand, but our lack of understanding or difficulty in accepting the situation does not mean that God is in any way in the wrong. If we are to grow in the truth of God, it is very important to appreciate and fully accept the absolute perfection of His character and the pureness of all His motives right from the start. We love our children, and to contemplate their loss, or to see the loss of the children of others is perhaps the most painful possible human experience. And the greater the love, the more the pain. So can we really imagine the pain of heart that God the Father felt? Out of His love for us, He sent His only Son, His dear, beloved Child, into this world of tears and pain, and watched Him strive and suffer in a manner that no else has ever done or will or could do. He watched Jesus overcome all the trials and difficulties of His exceptionally difficult life perfectly, wonderfully, obediently, carrying His cross from the first day to the last hour. Then He watched Him offer Himself up for our sake. And finally, in order that we might be saved, that all children who die young, and that all in every place who call upon the Name of Jesus might have eternal life, He "laid upon Him the iniquity of us all" (Is.53:6). Our heavenly Father let His own beloved Son "bear our sins in His own body" (1Pet.2:24), pouring out on Him the penalty we deserved. Could not God have saved His Child from death and from this terrible ordeal? Had He done so, had the Father spared His one and only Son, we would all be lost. Is it possible, then, to imagine a greater sacrifice of love than this, that of the Son of Himself, and that of the Father of His Son?
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1st John 4:9-10 NIV
If God so loved that world that He offered up His only Son for us in this way, how then will what He does for those who follow Jesus not be for the best in every way (Jn.3:16; Rom.5:6-11)?
This world is imperfect. God did not make it that way; we did. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, sinned, and all of us since have likewise sinned. God did not bring about the situation where tragedy sorrow and heartache occur. Far from it. Our God is the One who has provided the solution to sin and death by paying a price for us that we can only dimly understand. Through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, every child who dies is saved, and every person who reaches maturity has the opportunity to be saved through simple faith and faithful following of the One who died to provide that eternal life. And whether we live one year or a thousand in this temporary world of sorrows, our eternal life is really what matters. God is working everything together for that good end, a blessed eternity with Him and His Son, in spite of all the problems, tragedies, trials and tribulations through which we must pass to reach the Kingdom of God (Acts 14:22; 1Thes.3:4; 1Pet.4:12). Learning to trust Him better is a big part of why we are still here.
There is much about the ebb and flow of events in this temporary world that we will never understand this side of heaven. However, as believers in God's Child, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, it is vitally important that we keep ourselves focused on those truths which we do understand from scripture. This world is passing away. Until it does, or until we pass out of it, there will be many a sorrow, many a tragedy. As believers in Jesus Christ, and as those who have put our whole faith in God, we know that the road to the kingdom is paved with tribulation, but we also have confidence in God that He will bring us through all our troubles, fire and water, safe to His heavenly home, and we have this living hope within us that raises us up in joy in the midst of even the worst this world can offer. And on that glorious day of resurrection, we know with the confidence of unbending faith that we shall stand together with our Lord in company with all from whom we have been temporarily parted. No matter how tragic and sorrowful the time and circumstances of parting may have been, on that day joy and glory will swallow up our tears and grief forevermore, as death is trampled down in the victory of eternal life.
Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
1st Corinthians 15:57
Please also see:
What will our relationship in heaven be with children who died young?
Are the children of unbelievers lost if they die before receiving Christ?
In Him who is the resurrection and the life, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I have a question. Explaining when life begins, I noticed you stated the following: "Only after God places the human spirit into the body does life begin, and apart from this infusion of spirit, there is no life". Does this invite an opening for 'pro-abortionists' to argue for biblical 'support' in their belief that since a fetus is not a "living person" until it is born (receives the breath/spirit)? Just wondering your thoughts on this.
Thanks for your good words and for your enthusiasm - I appreciate them both! As to your comment on the potential for abuse of the truth of "when life begins", I would say two things. First, I doubt if many or possibly any would look to my comments on this site which is devoted to spiritual growth through Bible study for support for something so terrible. Clearly, abortion is a monstrous practice. I believe that everyone's conscience clearly tells them this. That is true no matter when one believes that life begins. In scripture, there is no specific prohibition for abortion precisely because, as I believe, it was such an unthinkable thing for believers that there is no point in telling believers not to do it. The same thing goes for any number of outrageous sins and evil actions which are not specifically prohibited by name in the scriptures (cf. Deut.18:10). Everything in the Old Testament and New indicates that the birth of children was a tremendous blessing - why would anyone want to abort that blessing? It just doesn't make sense for the people of God in any way, shape or fashion. However, I do take your point, and have now added the following to the study you reference:
This is not at all to imply that for this reason the fetus has no worth in God's eyes. Quite to the contrary, the unborn are highly valued in scripture (Ex.21:22; Ps.139:13-16; Is.44:24; 49:4-5). Further we may note that in the Bible children are considered a great blessing (cf. 1Sam.2:1-11 and Lk.1:46-55), with infertility seen as a curse (Hos.9:14; cf. Gen.38; Lev.20:20-21; 1Sam.1:11), and pregnancy as a blessing and occasionally even a means of justification (cf. Num.5:11-31 and Lk.1:25).
Secondly, it may not always be obvious at first but there is always a reason for everything in the Bible. Corollary to that is the principle that one really has to go with what the Bible teaches in each and every case no matter if the principle in question might seem in some way or another to some to be offensive, or strange, or contradictory to our logic. We all have some adjusting to do when we read the scriptures, and the deeper we get into them, the more they make us adjust our thinking (and that is a good thing). As to the abortion issue, were I writing the Bible, with the ethical question of abortion in the front of my mind, I would probably find it politically and rhetorically advantageous to express the matter in the way that it is often expressed by some (i.e., "life begins at conception"). But God forbid that I should ever think such a thing! Whatever the truth of God is, that is what I want to know, to believe, and to teach, for only in the truth is there any value. And if the truth gets distorted for whatever reason, no matter how noble or well-meaning the motivation, that always leads to serious trouble. Case in point is the "life-at-conception" position. If such were true,
1) it would make the issue of human life a largely physical one, not an essentially spiritual one (i.e., human life would then be primarily the result of human procreative activity rather than coming directly from God through His infusion of the human spirit); the logic that follows from this is that the materialists would be in the right, and that we really would be just flesh and blood with no uniquely spiritual side (we might have a mind, but that would be biological in its entirety, if we were the ones responsible for life);
2) it would mean that any activity which prevents the physical act of birth at any stage would be equally as bad as abortion, for what is the ethical difference between the "morning after pill" and an abortion (if life began at conception)?
And then there would also be the ethical issue of doing things that prevent conception - isn't that a deliberate destruction of one or both of the two parts that come together to make the whole? It may not be precisely the same thing, but it is hard to see how contraception would then get a completely clean bill of ethical health (cf. the Catholic church's position on this). I am not offering all the answers to all these hypotheticals. I'm just pointing out that whenever one get's one single thing wrong in interpreting the Bible, it inevitably leads to other problems, even heresies, which may not have been anticipated in the "good" the person was trying to do by over-reaching or slanting what scripture actual says.
Thanks again for your interest in this ministry.
In Him who is the way, the truth, and the life, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.