My brother Mark lost one of his children yesterday. He drove off the road into a ditch on a country highway in Nebraska. The airbags deployed, but he was not wearing a safety belt, and he suffered serious head trauma. A witness called the police, and they responded right away. My nephew, Scott, was airlifted to a hospital in nearby Lincoln, but he never regained consciousness, and doctors this morning determined that his brain was not receiving blood flow. Mark and his wife, Amy, made the difficult decision to allow his organs to be donated and to terminate life support.
I spoke to Mark this morning, and he was shaken. The tone of his voice told me more than words: how exhausted, how hopeless, how overwhelmed he was. I wanted to hug him, but my arms were too short. What comfort could I give him? Yet I prayed with him, and he was comforted a little. Tomorrow I am going to Nebraska to visit him.
There is perhaps no more painful experience than to lose a child. When they first appear, children are mysterious and demanding. They disrupt our lives and require us to be become less self-centered. But as they grow, something miraculous takes place. They become independent persons. If we are fortunate, they become our friends, and we see in them the bright potential of unfulfilled dreams and continuing possibility. Children give us hope for the future and remind us that life is good. The tragedy, then, of losing a child is compounded by losing a friend, losing a future, losing part of the goodness in life.
For some, the grief is so great that they become angry and bitter toward God. Some have rejected God, becoming atheists because they cannot believe in a God who would cause or allow such pain. Others, those who have learned to trust their loving Father, run to him in their pain, crying out to him, raging against him—yes—but also taking comfort in his arms.
No distant or abstract God took Scott from us. Our own dear Father took him or—perhaps more charitably—allowed him to be taken. If we turn away from him, where can we go for comfort? “[T]o whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). So the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away (Job 1:21). But more than that, the Lord comforts those who mourn (Matt. 5:4).
We live still in a world groaning under the burden of our first parent’s rebellion. It was not supposed to be this way. In a perfect world, there would be no car accidents, no sudden, tragic deaths. But our enemy still seeks to kill and steal and destroy. Sometimes he succeeds. But when he does, we remind him of our Savior’s victory over death. We comfort one another with the hope of rejoining those we have lost.
My heart is broken for my brother Mark and his wife Amy, for their children, and especially for Marshall, whom Scott was driving to meet. Words fail me, but I will be there soon. Meanwhile, may our Father comfort you and give you peace.