Take a minute and think back to, oh, maybe about sixth grade. You’re sitting in your classroom at school, minding your own business, when the kid sitting behind you fires off a large spitball at the teacher, hitting her square in the back of the head. The teacher whirls around and says, “All right, who did that?” Of course, no one raises their hand. So she says, “All right, class, we’re all just going to sit here until the guilty person confesses.” She crosses her arms and waits, tapping her foot on the floor. As the seconds tick by, and the silence lengthens, you start squirming in your seat. You may even begin to sweat a little bit. You KNOW you didn’t do it, but for some reason you begin to feel guilty. Should you confess, just to end the tension? You finally breathe a huge sigh of relief when the kid behind you says, “It was me.”
Guilt. It's a heavy weight to bear. Paralyzing, really.
Guilt is a common emotion among parents. From the time our kids are born, it seems like there’s something to feel guilty about. For us moms, it starts even before they’re born … “Oh man, I shouldn’t have had that sip of Diet Coke.” Then, as they grow, there are more and more things to feel guilty about … not sterilizing that pacifier that was dropped on the floor, letting your kids watch too much TV, eating ice cream for supper occasionally. The list could go on and on. It seems that, as parents, we are just wired to feel guilt.
When a child dies, that guilt can be overwhelming. I think every parent who has lost a child deals with guilt to some degree or another. As parents, we believe that our main responsibility is to protect our child, so it just follows that sometimes we feel that our child’s death must somehow be our fault.
This idea is as old as the oldest book in the Bible. Even Job’s friends told Job that he must somehow be responsible for all the tragedy that had befallen him.
But this idea assumes that the power of life and death are in our hands, and our child died because we dropped the ball somehow. The Bible tells us again and again that only God is sovereign over life and death. Job 14:5 (NIV) says, "A person's days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed." And Psalm 139:16 reminds us that God ordained our days before we were ever born.
We talk with a lot of parents as we host While We're Waiting events, and we sometimes encounter parents who believe their child’s death is a punishment from God because of some kind of sin in their own life.
We always remind them that the price for all of our sins was paid by Jesus’ death on the cross. Most everyone is familiar with John 3:16 … “For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” But, we often neglect the following verse, John 3:17 … “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”
And listen to what Romans 8:31-34 has to say about this topic …
"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us."
And then there’s Romans 8:1, which says …
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus..."
When we continue to wallow in guilt, we are demonstrating a lack of trust in God. If we are Christians, and we believe Jesus died on the cross so we could be forgiven of our sin, yet we continue to believe that the loss of our child is somehow a punishment from God, we are saying that we do not trust Him to hold up His end of the bargain in forgiving us.
We must continually make the choice to put our trust in God’s Word and not our feelings. Our feelings will lie to us every time. This choice must be made daily, or even moment by moment.
Romans 8:34 says that Christ Jesus is at the right hand of God and is interceding for us. As long as we remain shackled by guilt, we can do nothing for Him ... and Satan loves that! We honor our Lord and His sacrifice for us by accepting the grace and peace He so freely offers.