Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mourning for Me

Ever since I began with this blog, I have given some thought to whether the title of this blog appropriately summarizes our grief. As summarized in this blog post, I have tried to preach to myself that there is no Biblical basis for needing to mourn for Micah. Rather than grieving for Micah, we grieve for ourselves because of our physical and temporal separation from our first-born son.

Current life expectancies project a “full life” of approximately 80 years. In our age of advanced medical technology, anything short of living this full life is deemed to be “tragic.” I can think of four reasons why someone might argue that a child’s death is tragic. I have tried to preach to myself that if I view Micah’s life and death in light of scripture, three of these four reasons are not tragic. Scripture does, however, support the fourth reason for Micah’s death as tragic.

1. Micah’s Standing Before God.

First, Micah did not lose the opportunity to save himself, eternally, through living a life pleasing to God. To argue that Micah is not saved because he never had the opportunity to accept Christ means that Micah (and all of us) could only be saved through “works.” In other words, if it were up to us to make a decision to follow Christ, then God is not sovereign, because God has to “wait on us.” God’s intentions could be thwarted by an obstinate human. In fact, the Bible says we are saved by God even in spite of ourselves.

Ephesians 2:8,9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” As I have previously summarized on this blog, there is very good scriptural evidence for arguing that God, through the work of Christ, saves all children who die before the age of accountability. God saved Micah by the work of Christ on the cross. Scripture clearly demonstrates that all of us, Micah included, are saved by grace—and not because anything we do.

As summarized by John MacArthur in “Safe in the Arms of God,” we are saved by faith but damned by works. “Nowhere in the Bible is anyone ever threatened with hell merely for the guilt inherited from Adam. Instead, whenever Scripture describes the inhabitants of hell, the stress is on their willful acts of sin and rebellion” MacArthur, Safe in the Arms of God, 79-80, citing 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:6; Rev. 21:8; Rev. 22:15.

When I recently visited Micah’s grave, I had no doubts that his spirit now resides in Heaven with His Savior. Please don’t mourn Micah’s lost opportunity to “prove” himself to God. Rather, rejoice with me that God saved him eternally.

2. Micah’s Own Reputation

Second, Micah lost the opportunity to “make a name for himself” in the world. But how worthwhile, how lasting, is human fame? Warriors of ancient times were said to have been drawn into certain death in bloody battle by the promise of eternal glory. Presidents nearing the end of their terms in office are said to be concerned about leaving their legacy—how the generations and historians that follow will view their careers. Professional athletes (or at least the sports journalists who cover them) are view by how successful they were in the “big games.”

Scripture clearly teaches us that the universe exists to manifest God’s glory, not our glory. In the end, we will exist to manifest God’s glory, not ours, whether that is singing praises around His throne in heaven, or serving as objects of His just wrath in hell.

Not only are any attempts to gain personal glory irrelevant to who receives eternal glory, but such attempts eventually lead to death. In his book, “Reason for God,” Timothy Keller defines sin as “the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get an identity apart from him.” Timothy Keller, Reason for God, p. 162. Keller cites Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard for a definition of faith: “that the self in being itself and wanting to be itself is grounded transparently in God.” Keller, 162. Unless we define ourselves, any attempts to define oneself outside of Christ will lead to sin and death and hell.

If Micah had lived a “full life” for the sole purpose of making a name for himself, not only would his life been in vain, but it would ultimately be washed away in the sea of God’s own glory. Even if Micah would have become a prestigious business man or author or political leader, the glory of his own name is infinitely smaller than the glory due to God. Now that He is safely in the arms of His Savior, he has had no opportunity to depart from God. Please don’t mourn for Micah because he never had his own identity in the eyes of the world. Rejoice with me because all of who Micah is now, all of Micah’s identity, is tied to the identity of his Lord and Savior.

3. Earthly Pleasures

Third, Micah lost the opportunity to experience the pleasures of this world. We know that Micah forever lost the opportunity to marry (Matthew 22:30). We don’t know what other additional pleasures that Micah “lost” when he entered Heaven. But what pleasures did Micah gain when he entered eternity with Christ?

Based upon the example of Jesus himself, the pleasures of Heaven must greatly outnumber the pleasures of earth. Hebrew 12:1-3 says, “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God...”

Even before Jesus went to the cross, he knew both (i) the joy set before him in Heaven as well as (ii) the physical, emotion and spiritual “cost” of his impending suffering, death and separation from God. Jesus had the joy “set before him” from the very beginning. In Matthew 4, Jesus was tempted by Satan to worship Satan in exchange for “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.” Matthew 4:8. Even after Satan showed Jesus “all of the kingdoms of the world and their glory,” Jesus rejected this temptation, choosing instead to live the servant life and suffer and die for us. Jesus, knowing fully all that the world had to offer, chose obedience to His father over all of the pleasures of the world.

In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays earnestly about his impending torture and death. Matthew 26:36-39. He knew what was to happen to him, and yet, as the writer of Hebrew writes, Jesus “endured the cross, despising its shame,” for the joy that Jesus knew was set before Him.

Jesus endured the greatest suffering imaginable because he knew the joy before Him. Now in God’s presence, it is difficult for us to fathom what pleasures Micah is now experiencing. As Pastor John Piper said recently, “I won’t deny that the pleasures of earth are real; they are, however, fleeting.” Micah’s pleasures are not just real; they are eternal. Please don’t mourn for my son for his loss of worldly pleasures. Rejoice with me that Micah is with Jesus, “in whose presence there is fullness of joy; at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11).

4. Our loss of a physical and temporal relationship with Micah

I live in the hope that I will indeed see my son again. As important as that hope is to me, it is so painful to be here, now, without him. We are temporal beings, living in time and space. When you are looking ahead to eternity, it seems that our temporal earthly lives slow to a crawl. If the next 45 years pass as slow as the last 6 months, it seems like I have a long, long way to go before I see my son again. This is the great pressure point of our son’s death—the day by day, moment by moment realization that my son is not with us.

Last week, I had a dream about Micah. In my dream, I would wake up every morning on successive days and, as in the Bill Murray character in the movie “Groundhog Day,” find myself engaging in the exact same motions and events each day. Each day, I would pick Micah out of his crib, and bring him to our bed with the hopes that he would sleep between Heather and me. Just as he did the last morning of his life, he would wind up playing with me in bed rather than sleeping. This morning routine repeated itself over and over again in my dream—every morning the same routine, every morning the same blessed time together. The dream highlighted for me the source of my deep sorrow. While I relish the memories of my time with Micah, we cannot see our son grow old with us. All we know of him on earth, all of our blessed time together, is now in the past.

In Zechariah 12:10, the prophet compares the grief of “the one whom they have pierced” (Jesus, the Messiah) with the loss of a first born son. “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.”

God knows the bitterness of our tears. In John 11, Jesus wept following the death of his friend Lazarus, despite the fact that he knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead very shortly. Jesus wept because he could empathize with the grief experienced by his friends. He wept because he could understand what the loss meant to Lazarus’s family and friends. Please mourn with me the tragedy of our loss—the loss of the opportunity, here and now, to love our first born son Micah.

A few days after Micah died, I wrote a little poem for his funeral and visitation. The end of the poem I think summarizes why we grieve—not for Micah, but for ourselves. It reads,
“And while our pain is sweeping and deep
It is only for ourselves that we weep.
For you, Micah, are now drinking in the Lord’s presence
Swimming in His eternal ocean of love
Laughing in the joy of eternal salvation
And smiling into the face of Jesus.”


  1. Yes, as you say, he is swimming in the eternal ocean of God's love and presence. I pray for you peace, though it is certainly normal to grieve. One day you will see this not as, one more day without Micah, but each day will be one day closer to seeing him in heaven. Our tears are not wasted, you will comfort someone else one day.


  2. Though I've not lost a child, your words are comforting me this day over the recent loss of my mother, as well as all the smaller but still precious "losses" life has handed me. Knowing how God is pouring out His wisdom, peace, knowledge, grace, and comfort in the worst situation possible, gives me hope that He will do the same for me if I should face that, too. I have learned so much reading your journal, and thank you for sharing. You have no idea how your journey is changing others' journeys, but you will know in Heaven. God bless you!