Men and women are different. The roles they have as parents are different. I am speaking in broad generalizations. Usually the husband and father is the provider and protector. Usually the wife and mother is the nurturer and comforter. The mother gently soothes the child when her little girl is hurt and strengthens her to go back out into life. She teaches her in every waking moment to function as a healthy human being in the real world. Together they teach the child to have an inner heart of faith, hope and love. They guide the child to know Christ and to love and trust Him.
When a child dies, the father and the mother are grieving very different losses because of the different roles and relationships they had with the child. When the child dies, the father feels that he didn’t protect her. He didn’t provide for her safety. The father feels like he’s a failure.
When a child dies the mom who is the nurturer also feels like a failure. She couldn’t kiss his boo-boo and make it all better. He died. Both parents expected to bring the child to successful adulthood. He is not an adult. He is not successful and well adjusted. Each may feel like a failure, but having failed in a different responsibility.
I know that these feelings really are part of a parent’s experience since I have listened to parents talk about them. But I also know these are not categories in which our Lord speaks. The Lord does help us find our roles in parenthood. But He does not measure us on a scale of success or failure, like grades we used to get in school. He wants from us qualities like faithfulness, obedience, trust, perseverance, humility.
God made each of you, exactly as you are, with all your strengths and weaknesses. He gave you certain responsibilities in His kingdom. He gave you, mothers and dads, to each other as partners in your life. He placed that child in your specific family. All for your good and for His glory, ultimately.
He knows each of you, and knows your role and your circumstances. He knows the generalities and the specifics of your life. He understands the differing roles of men and women. He even used the images of mothers and fathers to help us understand Him and His kingdom.
Isaiah (chapter 66:12-13) uses the image of a mother and little child to describe the kingdom of God, where the God of the universe is also the one who takes us up in His arms to comfort and encourage us. The child is never far from a mother’s mind, and so it is with God (Isaiah 49:15).
The authors of Scripture use the image of father to describe His relationship with us. Psalm 68:5 says God is like a “father to the fatherless.” Paul, in his letters (Galatians 4:5-7 and Romans 8:15-17), helps us understand that we’re adopted by God into His family and have rights like children. We’re heirs, and when we’re hurting we get to climb up into His lap for comfort.
In the prayer Jesus taught us to pray (Mt 6:9), we’re taught to address God as Father – that’s “our” Father, Jesus’ and ours. Later in the Luke passage (11:3-13), Jesus draws a clear analogy between earthly fathers and His father-like relationship to us: fathers give their children good gifts; He gives His children the best! The Kingdom is like that.
He knows your heart. He knows what you have been called to do as a mom or a dad. He knows how you’re feeling about the death of your child. He knows your true failings and your feelings of failure, which may not be the same thing. Parents, instead of struggling with feelings of failure, go to your Heavenly Father, climb into His lap and receive comfort in His compassion. Can you humbly trust Him now? Can you faithfully persevere through your grief? He welcomes you into His arms of comfort.