First Posted: 5/7/2009
For many women, Mothers Day is not a time of celebration at least not as much as they would like it to be. When some women think of Mothers Day, they dont immediately recall the memories of time spent with mom. Many are not able to relish of the joys of motherhood, or look at the refrigerator art stored away in a scrapbook. On Mothers Day, there will be many women who remember with painful clarity the sorrow of losing a baby that was wished for, planned for, bought for, but never held.
According to various sources, somewhere between 20 and 25 percent of all clinically recognized pregnancies terminate due to miscarriage. That means that for a mother of three, theres a good chance shes experienced the pain of miscarriage. Many women endure this grief more than once as they long to give the gift of life, but are not able.
Once the initial heartache has subsided, at least a little, many of them wonder, Where is my baby now? Did she just cease to exist? Is he in heaven? Will I ever see my baby again?
The first time I can remember hearing about a baby dying was when I was about 4 or 5 years old. My mother was pregnant with her third boy. She carried him to full term, but when the time came for him to be born, the doctors discovered that he had moved around so much in my mothers womb that the umbilical cord had wrapped around his neck and he had been strangled. His name was Brock.
I didnt understand very much at the time, but since then, Ive often wondered if Ill ever see Brock again. Ive heard many people say that babies go to heaven when they die, but is that true? Is that just something that people say to try to help grieving moms feel a little better? Warm, sentimental thoughts, however sincere, dont help much. Does the Bible give us any reassurance that theyre in a better place?
To begin with, the Bible does tell us that every child conceived is a person and is valuable to God. God said to the prophet Jeremiah, I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born. I appointed you a prophet to the nations. (Jer. 1:4-5, HCSB used throughout). God uses personal pronouns to refer to Jeremiah in his unborn state.
King David, speaking to God, said, For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mothers womb. (Ps. 139:13). A baby is not simply a mass of tissue, but rather a person whom God is forming. Gods care for us does not begin at age 12, or even at birth, but from the moment of conception.
The Bible also tells us that all children are born sinners. David said, Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me. (Ps. 51:5, HCSB). This is what theologians refer to as original sin. I rebel against God, not because of my environment, but because I was born that way.
So does that mean that babies are punished for their sin? Will an infant who dies go to the same fate as, say, a Stalin or a Hussein?
If you went to Sunday School as a child, you probably remember the story of how Moses sent 12 spies into the Promised Land to scope it out before they actually went in. Ten of them came back and said, No way we cant conquer this land. Two of them, though, said, Hey, if God is for us, who can be against us? Lets do this!
Well, the Israelites believed the ten spies with the bad report, and because of their lack of faith, God told them that the adult generation would not be able to go into the Promised Land. But, He said, Your little children who you said would be plunder, your sons who dont know good from evil, will enter there. (Deut. 1:39, emphasis mine).
You see, even though a baby is born a sinner, that baby is not able to comprehend what it means to sin against God. That baby is not capable of understanding that she has violated Gods holy standard. Those children, who didnt know right from wrong, did not experience Gods punishment as their parents did.
Therefore, we can say with certainty that babies who die go immediately to heaven. Job believed this (see Job 3:11-17), David believed this (see 2 Sam. 12:21-23), and it reconciles with what we know from the Bible of Gods merciful, loving character.
The Rev. Bryan Thompson is the pastor at Victory Baptist Church, Riverside Drive, Mount Airy.