God and Our Little Ones: A Theology of Infant Mortality

baby-hand-holding-mothers-hand1According to studies, nearly 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and about 15% of recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage.  That means that if you are reading this article, chances are you either already have experienced or one day will experience the sorrow of losing a child.  You are not alone.  My wife and I suffered the loss of our third child at nine weeks, and it is tough.

However, we do not weep over our little ones as those without hope.  I firmly believe I will see my little girl when I go to be with the Lord, and it’s not on the basis of sentimentality or “a hunch”.  If you have lost a little one, read with me as we discover what the Bible has to say about infant mortality, and discover hope in God’s goodness.  Please stick with me.  The reward lies in the conclusion.

Original Sin is an Obstacle.

Original sin keeps all men from the presence of God regardless of their age.  The Psalmist plainly states, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5).  Sin is a genetic problem.  We received sin from our parents, because they received it from their parents, who received it from their parents, who…received it from Adam: “Therefore…sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).

No matter how badly God wants to receive our little ones into his presence, he cannot tolerate sin–whether original sin or actualized sin.  Sin is not merely something that happens, it is a state of rebellion against God.  Every human is conceived as an enemy of God because he is a son of Adam.

Jesus Is the Only Solution.

If a man, woman, child, or baby is going to be with the Father, there is only one way: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'” (John 14:6).  There is no side entrance to Heaven.  There is no second doorway that our little ones sneak through.  There is no back door.  Anyone who gets to the Father gets to him through JesusOur children need to be saved through Jesus Christ whether they are a day old or or 10 years old, and Peter makes it plain, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

How, then, can our little ones be saved through Jesus Christ?  Our babies have no way of expressing faith in Jesus so how can they be saved?  Jesus’ words in John 10:27-28 shed some light–“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”  Jesus knows his sheep, and he guarantees their salvation.  Nothing, not even sudden infant death, abortion, or miscarriage will be able to snatch them out his hand.

Here’s the question: Are all of our little ones who die in infancy sheep of Jesus?

Salvation is a Divine Plan.

I’m not going to quote all of Ephesians 1 and 2, but you need to go visit these chapters if you are going to find solace.  Let Ephesians 1:4-6a suffice for now: “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace…”  Salvation is not something that spontaneously happens when someone expresses faith.  God’s purpose of salvation has been established and working since before the foundation of the world.  Jesus can speak confidently about saving his sheep in John 10 because he knows the plan of salvation is older than creation itself.

Ephesians 2:5-9 lays out how our individual salvation takes place.  We were dead in our trespasses.  God loved us.  God made us alive with Christ.  God raised us up.  God seated us with Him.  God showed us his immeasurable grace.  We have been saved by grace.  In summary, Paul says, “[Salvation] is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:9).  Our salvation does not depend on us at all.  By extension, the salvation of our little ones does not depend on their ability to do anything.  God is able, through Jesus’ sacrifice, to save anyone.  

In Revelation, John writes about the Lamb’s book of Life.  He says that men have their names “written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain” (Rev. 13:8).  When John sees the New Jerusalem, he says that “only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” are permitted to enter (Rev. 21:27).

Have the names of our little ones been written in the Lamb’s book?

God Has Tenderness for Children.

The Bible chronicles plenty of evidence of God’s tenderness toward little ones.  In Ezekiel 16:20-21, God is furious with the Israelites for offering their infants as sacrifices to idols: “you slaughtered my children and delivered them up as an offering by fire to them.”  “My Children,” God says.  These people had not just slaughtered their own children; they had slaughtered God’s children.

When Jesus walked this earth, he had a special place for children.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke all include accounts of Jesus welcoming little children: “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14).  When he sat in the Temple in Matthew 21, he received praise from the little children as they shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

God is not taken off guard when our little ones pass away.  Indeed, Psalm 139:16 clearly states, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”  God knew that our little ones would die before they had the chance to express faith.

God Has Saved in the Womb.

The Bible gives multiple examples of individuals who are saved even from the womb, long before they could express faith.  The angel tells Zechariah that his son John the Baptist would “be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15).  Even in the womb, John the Baptist leaped for joy at the presence of Jesus in utero! (Luke 1:44).

In Psalm 22, King David intimates that God was at work in him to save him even from before birth: “Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.  On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.”

When God comes to call the young prophet Jeremiah, he explains that his plan to save Jeremiah began long before he was born: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:4-5).

Conclusion: We Share David’s Hope.

In view of the evidence of Scripture, here is where we land.  All descendants of Adam are infected with original sin and must be saved through Jesus.  Jesus died to secure salvation for all of his sheep, and God’s work of salvation is a gift not dependent on us.  God has a special heart for children, and examples in Scripture demonstrate that God is able to save even in the womb.

Ultimately, 2 Samuel 12 presents the most comforting story for those of us who have lost our young children.  After Bathsheba gives birth to David’s son, God tells David that the child will not live.  David prays, fasts, and cries out to God to save his son.  However, God’s promise comes true: the child passes away.  To the astonishment of his servants, David washes up, gets dressed, and sits down to dinner.  How is it that he mourns before the child’s death, but he stops weeping after the child’s death?

Listen to the confidence and hope in David’s response: “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Sam. 12:22-23).

If you are a believer, you can share David’s confidence.  Those of us who have lost our little ones have hope.  They will not return to us, but we will go to them.  They are safely cradled in the arms of the Father; they are gently shepherded as sheep of Jesus’ flock.  Praise the Lord, we have a hope through Jesus Christ!

(photo credit)