Last Fall my wife shared with me the amazing news that we were going to be having another child. Instantly my heart was filled with joy and I thanked the Lord for the blessing He had given us. Our prayers were that our child would go full-term (as we have gone through miscarriage in the past) and that he would live to honor the Lord. It has been my prayer for both of my children that they would live to honor the Lord and that I would be able to provide an example for them of how to live a life honoring to Christ. I know the mistakes I have made in the past and I want my children to avoid those same mistakes. I also know that it is my job to teach them how to live properly. This is one of the great burden’s of being a father. A father is expected to be a role model to his children while bearing the burden of the the knowledge of his own sins. This sobering reality always makes me pause and search my actions relative to my children. Am I compromising in my own heart where I would not want my children to compromise? How can I expect them to avoid these compromises if I am unwilling to viciously weed out my own sinful habits?
This existential trouble of trying to be a solid example for my children while recognizing my own sinful dispositions has occupied a great portion of my thoughts. I am concerned over the life that my children will live. I’m not concerned as much (though it is a concern) over the material quality of their lives, but rather the quality of their characters. As a father I am overwhelmed with joy that the Lord has put these lifes (I’m aware of the spelling) into my own, to love and enjoy.
But the life of my son has so far been marked with death. 3 days after his birth my grandfather died, and from the time just before we brought him home from the hospital it has been gradually been unfolding how real the possibility is that his own life will be cut short. I’ve had to move from the place where I am praying that he will live a life honoring to the Lord, to a place where I am praying that he will simply have life. My boy has something wrong with his liver and the doctor’s suspect biliary atresia. Infants do not live past 2 without surgical intervention and most end up having to have a transplant at some point in their life. So far his life has been a life of grief. He has undergone more occasions of blood being drawn, had more medical prescriptions, and been isolated for various medical procedures than any 7-week old should have to go through (7-week olds shouldn’t have to go through any of this). Where my wife and I should have been enjoying the life of this blessing from the Lord, instead we have been sorting through our devastated hearts and trying not to completely break down in front of our eldest. I would say that I cannot express how we feel, but that isn’t true, I can: grieved. Our daughter was given her name because she is a source of joy for us. Our son, whom we are overjoyed to see, has delivered to us a heavy mix of grief with joy.
Some Christians say that when we endure painful trials in our lives that we ought to show ourselves happy, remember the Lord, and continue with steadfast endurance without hesitation. I disagree. I think this advice does a disservice to the recognition of the real pain and suffering that we endure as human beings. I think it downplays the terrible effect of sin on the world. We are suffering right now and we have immense pain in our hearts. Our son is suffering right now and he is having to go through some painful procedures with the prospect of more. I remember that Jesus wept. The context of that verse is that His cousin Lazarus had just died. Jesus knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead, and yet He wept. I find myself indebted to the Apostle John for recording this narrative, because without it I would not have known the fitness of weeping and grieving over my suffering. The Lord knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead, He knew (more intimately than anyone) the character of God, and He knew that all would be made well at the end of history, and yet He wept. He wept because the suffering is real.
I think of Job who is said to have torn his garments, spread ashes over himself, and worship the Lord upon the apprehension of his great misfortunes. Some will key in on the fact that Job worshipped the Lord. However even in his worship he grieved, and grieved more intensely perhaps than I have ever grieved. In this book we read that Job complains that the Lord has acted unfairly and he even despairs of his own life, saying that it would have been better if he had never been born. Ultimately the Lord answers Job that He is just, and His dealings with men are fair. Job acknowledges and repents of his charge against the Lord, but not of his grieving. Through it all there is a recognition that the Lord is fair, He is kind, and there is a gratefulness for the blessings He has given, but grief remains.
The sad reality is that sin is real, and the consequences are real. I see that when I look at my son and think of the suffering he faces. I worship the Lord, I take comfort in His promises, I trust in wisdom and providence; and yet I weep. The grief remains. The suffering is real and deserves attention. I grieve, but not without hope. I grieve not because I don’t trust the Lord, but because the suffering is real. And with this brief reflection I end with a grateful word to my son:
My son, I thank you for helping me to appreciate the grief of life.