We gather this morning in sadness to mourn the death of Bryson John Sparrow. Bryson was stillborn on Friday, July 25, 2014. To look at him, you would say he was perfect.
We come together today worn out by the emotional roller coaster of going from great hope, anticipation, and joy to deep sorrow, pain, and loss. It is a journey few understand.
This morning we pause to do a few things. First, we publicly acknowledge that Bryson was a real person who was loved by his family. Unfortunately, there are people who believe a child isn’t a person until they are born alive. We reject that notion. Bryson was a true human being, loved by God and his family.
Second, we gather to draw strength from each other. God gave us each other; He gave us families for such a time as this.
Finally, we gather to try to grab hold of a strength that is beyond us. We try to find God and commit Bryson to Him . . . even at this time when His ways confuse us so.
With that in mind, let’s pray together.
Our Father, we don’t know what to say. We want to ask Why? We want to be angry. We want to trust. We know you understand the hurt and anger and love us still. As much as we want to push you away, we long for you to pull us close. So strengthen us today, our Father. Grant us your comfort. Help us see, even if just a little, beyond this existence to the existence that is rightly called eternal life. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
I looked for some Scripture texts that might be helpful today. Here are three. The first is Isaiah 43:2
2 When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
God does not promise that we will be spared deep waters, difficulties and oppressive fires. He says even when they come He will not abandon us. He will stand at our side. This is a time of great difficulty. You do not make this journey alone. He is with you.
The second text is from 2 Samuel 12. David’s newborn son was dying. He fasted and prayed for his newborn child asking God to spare his life. But the child died. David said,
22 “I fasted and wept while the child was alive, for I said, ‘Perhaps the Lord will be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But why should I fast when he is dead? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him one day, but he cannot return to me.”
David understood that this is not the end of the story. He believed and declared that He would see his son again. It is a reminder that you will one day meet and know your son. He is not gone forever, just for awhile.
But probably the best passage for a time such as this is a familiar verse to many of us, Isaiah 55:8-9
My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
It is a reminder that God does things differently than we would do them. For example, we would never allow a baby to die. We would never allow anyone to go through the emptiness and pain you face today. But God’s ways are different, deeper, and more profound than ours. I wish I could explain them to you, but I can’t.
I read about a Pastor who went to see one of his congregation who had just been told that her baby had died and she would have to deliver him. The pastor prayed and as he sadly turned to leave the woman said, Pastor, if I lose my baby I can stand it, because I know it is God’s will.” The Pastor stopped and decided he would address this subject. He said. “If you don’t mind, I would like to talk with you about this very honestly for a few moments.” She agreed, so he said, “I want to tell you it is not God’s will that you lose this baby. If you lose your baby and you are hurt, God is hurt, too. It is as simple as that.” He pointed out that God’s creation was perfect and things like this would not happen. However, when sin entered the world so did a lot of bad things. He stressed that even though God obviously allowed this to happen, it was not His design that caused it. In fact, as God points to the time when He returns creation to what He intended it to be He says,
I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. 20 No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. Isaiah 65:19,20
The woman reached out and took his hand. She started to cry and said, “I only said that because I thought I should say that to be religious. I wondered how I could believe in a God who would take my baby.”
He reminded her that Jesus said, “it is not the will of your Father that one of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew 18:14)
You hurt today. Not only have you lost Bryson (and losing a child is the most severe kind of grief there is); you have also lost the dreams that were attached to Bryson. From the first moment you learned you were going to have a baby you started developing a love relationship, a bond with your son. From the first moments there were dreams for his life. These dreams will not come to be. Even the fact that you did not get to tell your child that you love him while he was alive is a severe loss. Nothing can make that loss any less of a loss. People will utter supportive words to try to “make things better” but there is nothing that can “make it better”. This is a bad thing and there is no way around that fact.
Part of parenting is sacrifice. As soon as a child comes into the world a parent begins to sacrifice for their children. They sacrifice time, money, and all kinds of emotional energy. You have been asked to sacrifice in a way that is greater than all of that. You are asked to give up your child to the loving hands of God.
If God asked me if I would do what you are being forced to do, I would refuse. I guess maybe that is why He doesn’t ask.
So how do we cope? May I gently suggest a few things.
First, talk about Bryson. Don’t pretend he wasn’t real. Don’t “try to be strong” for each other. Grieve. Talk about your pain, your dreams, and what you are learning through the process. This talk may make some people uncomfortable. You need to talk. It is natural to wonder what you could have done differently. In this time we struggle to find some explanation to what happened. We blame God, you may blame yourself. The two of you were the best parents you knew how to be. That’s all any of us can do. It is important that you work through these feelings. Sometimes (though it is hard) you have to come to accept the fact that you will never be able to explain or make sense of this. Doing your best is all you can do.
Second, focus on positive images. For Bryson we mourn that he has missed out on all the joys of life. But consider the fact that he has also escaped the heartache, the frustration, the grief, the sense of lost-ness and alienation that are a part of life. He has been spared the times of confusion, sickness, and suffering. He has been delivered from ever falling into sin and becoming alienated from God. He won’t face the meanness of the other children in school. He won’t have to struggle to make grades. He has gone directly into the presence of the Lord. The Lord has welcomed your son and introduced him to a life that is more wonderful than anything this life has to offer. God asks you to sacrifice your dreams, your plans, and your enjoyment of Bryson so that your son could be held and taught by the Master himself. Remind yourself of what Bryson was spared in this life and the benefits he is enjoying because of that fact.
Third, make the choice to trust God. It is natural to be mad at God. It is normal to feel He has let you down. You have a choice. You can choose to be mad at God (and “punish Him” by walking away from Him) or you can choose to cling to Him.
We can choose to remind ourselves that just because we don’t understand the reason why doesn’t mean there is not a reason. We can choose to entrust ourselves to the goodness, grace and mercy of God. We can trust Him to give strength, hope, and return us to an enjoyment of life. In other words, we can choose to trust His character even though we don’t understand His ways. I would encourage you to hang on to Him for dear life and trust that He likewise will hold on to and strengthen you.
Finally, look forward to the day when you will meet your son. Because Bryson is with Jesus it makes it all the more urgent to make sure that you have a genuine and deep relationship with the Lord. Re-establish a trust in what Christ has done for you. Determine that you are going to follow Him as He gives you strength. The Bible tells us that those who truly put their trust in Him will live even though they die. Then we too will spend eternity in God’s presence. Focus on the fact that there will be a day when you will be able to spend all of eternity knowing and loving your son. Remind yourself over and over that this is not the end of your relationship with him. In the scope of eternity this separation is only for a “little while” (even though it feels painfully long).
I wish there were easy answers. I wish there was an easy way through this time of heartache. Unfortunately, there are no easy paths. All you can do is pray and work toward this long and difficult path will yield growth and a deepening of faith in God as well as a deepening of the love you have for each other.
You will never in this life come to a point where you will call the death of your son “good”. However, good things can come from the heartache. You can emerge deeper, closer, and love others more fully because of this loss. And that’s exactly what I pray for you.
Father, we don’t know what to say. . . our hearts ache and questions flood our minds. Please wrap your arms around Bryson. Love him and let him know that he was (and is) greatly loved here. We wish Bryson was here but we rejoice that he is with you.
Father, please strengthen and heal Ashley and Seth. Give them comfort in the time of sadness. Help them to help each other. Draw them close to each other and to You during this time of heartache. Bring us to a deeper faith in this time of confusion.
Father, we rest in your character. We know that you love us. We know that you love Bryson. Help us to rest in that love. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.