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Seeing Through a Glass Darkly

October 11, 2012
Seeing Through A Glass Darkly

[notice]This article originally appeared in the June-July 1998 issue of No Greater Joy Magazine. It has been updated and reprinted in our November-December 2012 issue.[/notice]

Twenty-two years ago a wonderful, sweet, darling two-year-old boy, whom I loved, came down with a fever. Within 24 hours he was dead.

During the days after his death, while the family grieved, I kept his baby brother. I remember staring at my sweet Rebekah and feeling a sense of relief that it was not she who was taken.

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” What I am about to say will be hard for many of you to understand, but as an older woman I feel compelled to speak.

Death is not the worst enemy. When I was a young mother, this truth was simply beyond comprehension. To lose a child was my worst fear. I avoided long bridges because I was afraid I could not save all my children if the car plunged into the water. I carefully chose cars by the ease of opening the safety buckles and doors—just in case. I studied medications, familiarizing myself with potential problems and learning how to use alternative medicines. My natural instinct to protect my children, regardless of the cost, was in full operation. God gave me that instinct. Along the way, other children whom I knew died, and I continued to cling to my children, trying to guard their safety. Yet how frail my efforts would have been if death had come calling.

When you are young and raising a family, death seems to be the ultimate loss. The grief is a pain you can only know firsthand. When we are young, we see through a glass darkly. As we grow older, life is not as big as we thought it was when it was all before us. Life in this flesh is quite temporary. I am not so old yet. Life is still precious. Death is still the enemy. I continue to cling to life, not only my own, but to that of those I love. Yet, my clinging has changed. Somewhere over the passing years I realized death was not the worst enemy. Grief over death stopped being the worst grief. I can now see just a tiny bit clearer through the dark glass.

Eternity is so eternal, so terribly final, so completely forever. Death is not final. By the grace of God, it is not without hope. There is something yet beyond. Temporarily saying goodbye, even to a child, is still temporary. There will be a glad tomorrow. At the parting of death it is our own loss we grieve, not the child’s, who has gone into the presence of God. But there is a loss into the darkness of eternity that is far more than the loss of temporary separation.

The older you get, the more you see the real enemy; you learn to recognize the real grief. It is not a temporary parting that brings apprehension, but knowledge of certain and eternal judgment awaiting your child. The pain of that rebellious child seeking a life of destruction is a thousand times more grievous than losing a baby. That mother I spoke of earlier, the one who lost her baby, suffered another, far greater loss years later. She lost her second son to the devil. Looking back, she now admits it was her own selfish grief and bitterness. It stole her joy, leaving her without a smile to nurture her living son. I heard her say 14 years after the death of her son, “It would have been easier to have also lost this one to death as a baby than to see what has become of him now.”

I remember when I carried my first child in my womb; I had waited for 3 years, and when I finally got pregnant I was the happiest person I had ever known. One day, as I practiced childbirth relaxation, God spoke to me. I believe He told me to give the child I was carrying to Him. I began to cry and beg God not to take the baby, all afternoon I wrestled with my own feelings and what I believed God wanted of me. Finally, in great grief I surrendered the child to God. As the days passed, I was totally thrilled and amazed that nothing happened. When the baby was born strong and healthy, I knew God had something bigger than what I had feared. Still, I saw through a glass darkly. Life and death were the only two “biggies” in my life.

Thereafter, as each child was conceived, I eagerly gave it to God. Throughout their childhood I had instincts just like every other mother. I would protect my children at any cost. Instinct, although an overwhelming feeling, is just instinct. Even mother animals will die protecting their young. Oh, mother, if we as young mothers could just get a vision of something greater than instinct for our children, and begin to feel just as urgently for their souls, how different it would make us. Things that appear as tragedies are not so tragic. If as young mothers we could have eternity in our eyes. Older mothers, God-fearing mothers see more clearly. Whether it is age or spiritual maturity, I don’t know—maybe both—but it is not for their lives we fear; it for their souls. We are still stirred to pray for their safety and health, but our consuming prayer is that they overcome all the snares and diversions this evil world can offer. Where once a mother begged God’s protection for her child, she now begs Divine intervention at any cost (including life or limb). No, death is not your greatest enemy. Death brings a temporary sadness, a time of great loneliness, but in Christ there is always hope. Your greatest enemies are those vying for your child’s soul.

People often ask me how I could ever let my daughter Rebekah go to the mountains of Papua New Guinea. What they don’t understand is that I let Rebekah go years before when she was still in my womb. Yes, I have fears, but there is great hope. There is great joy. There is wonderful peace in knowing this is only temporary. I shall see her in a few months, or maybe in a few years, but most assuredly I will be with her again. There is no grief, there is no pain, there is only a glad tomorrow. Yes, I cry when she leaves, and I wander from room to room for a few weeks. When there is word she will return I clean and clean, and buy her clothes and talk and cry some more.

But, mother, what would it be like if she were to disappear from home, leaving in anger and rebellion? If I knew she left with a man I didn’t like or respect. Weeks pass and there is no word, there is no hope. Grief? That is real grief. You think because they are grown you cease to feel? Death is such a simple thing compared to this grief. You lose a child to death, and everyone understands your sorrow and shares your pain. But lose a child to Satan’s grip and you are an island alone, buffeted on every side with such turmoil, such pain, sleepless nights, exhausted prayer, and hopelessness. Grief? Only the older mother understands eternal grief. Only the older mother can look in the face of a young mother and say, train your children to obey, raise them to love God, be real in the home, so much depends on it.

When you are a young mother raising a family, it is so easy to care about your own feelings, your own hurts, your little fuss with your husband. Oh, but Mother, there is coming a day when your own feelings, hurts, and fusses will seem so immaterial, so silly. It is that atmosphere emanating from your relationship to your husband, your attitude and responses that help decide your baby’s future in eternity. It is not your child training techniques; it is who you are today. It is how you respond to life’s ups and downs and to life’s grief and joy. It is how you honor your husband, thus how you honor God.

We go through life so protective of our children’s bodies. Let us as mothers early look to the protection of their souls. The enemy is not death. The enemy is not outside, lurking to get in; the enemy is a mother’s heart dedicated to a mother’s feelings. It is our own selfishness, our own anger, our own bitterness, and our own disappointments. The enemy is Mother, doing what is right in her own eyes instead of obeying God. God, grant us the wisdom to get beyond instinct to the wisdom of true love. God, grant us hearts to see, to feel, and to live with eternity in our eyes.

“The aged women likewise, that…they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children” (Titus 2:3-4).

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16 comments on “Seeing Through a Glass Darkly”

  1. I found this article to be very eye opening. I am a new mother. I married three years ago and became a wife and mother instantly. I became a step-mother to my husbands 12yr old son. Dylon was a very broken young man. He was sweet when he wanted to be and bitter when he didn’t get his way. I soon discovered that he had been abused phsyically, and emotionally as a young child by his mother. I did my best to mother him over these past few years. I have also prayed a lot for him. Shortly after being married my husband and I became guardians to my niece she was just nine months old. The day after we got legal custody, we found out we were expecting our first. To date we have three great kids: Dylon-16, Ella-3 and Carlee-2. Although things haven’t been perfect we have figured them out. I as a mother of young children was fretting over death and watching my girls closely. I will continue to watch them, but after reading this I can see things a little clearer. I too agree that loosing a child to Satin would be far worse than having God babysit. Thanks for writting this.

  2. There are so many things in this article that are very true. I guess i want to offer encouragement to those mothers whose children are lost to the devil. As long as they are alive, there is hope. My brother has been living for the devil & running from God for many years and although you are right of the heartache and pain & sorrow my mom has felt over the years, the sleepless nights calling out to God for his soul, she also has found the peace of entrusting his soul to her Savior. We have seen the hand of God in his life many times, protecting him, bringing about circumstances to draw him to the Father. She continues to fast & pray for his salvation, resting in God, trusting him in all circumstances & believing He is able to bring this sinner to his knees. The greatest thing is for our children to come to salvation in Christ at an early age, to walk in His ways all of their life. Yes, train your child up in the way he should go. Yes, put on joy & love & submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For it is pleasing to God, it is His greatest plan for us. But it is not an assurance of salvation for our children. Living in debilitating guilt & grief because of a prodigal child, blaming ourselves for their sinfulness is not productive & certainly is not trusting in the Sovereignty of God. If we live in the past stewing over all the things we did wrong, all the things we should have done differently, we are acting as if there is no hope for that child outside of our home. Stay on your knees for him, love him with all your heart & do not be afraid to place your hope in Jesus, the lover of His soul, the one who died for him, the one who can save even the most sinful of sinners!

    1. Yes!!! Never give up praying, as long as they’re alive, there is HOPE. Yesterday I was listening to a sermon on YouTube by David Wilkerson called “God Can Fix Anything”, on this very subject. The question is, do we believe it?

  3. Thank you so much for this article. One of my children dying has been a crippling fear for me for the last year. I would lay in bed to afraid to sleep, sick to my stomach like the flu had hit. Afraid to let them walk down to church, afraid, afraid, afraid!
    I have begun to see, and your article has helped even more, there is eternity with Christ, and whether my child is with him in heaven now or in 20 years or 50, what is important us that he gets to be in heaven, not stolen by the enemy.
    Thank you thank you thank you!

  4. Ouch! That hurt in a good way, that was a huge heart check for me! My EYES WERE OPEN TO WHAT TRULY IS THE ENEMY, my own selfishness, my own anger, bittnerness, bad attitude, unthankfulness, laziness, unwillingness to serve my Husband in all areas, my self pity, ect OUCH.
    Thank you DEBI for this article!!!!! I SOOOOO NEEDED TO HEAR THIS

  5. oh boy!…you speak to my heart…I am an older woman..still raising children, some grown & gone…many heartaches…some regrets…but joys abound…I had many of the same fears you speak of. I have also thot often of late how I look forward to the other side of this life~ there is something rewarding & better awaiting me & mine…

    I do often remind myself that Eve had such heartaches that we sometimes suffer. Not murder of her own child by her own child, but heartache none the less. David having to let his son be killed because of his sin…there are so many in God’s word to give us a shared knowledge that we are not alone in our heartaches, but hope as well.

  6. I am grateful too for this article Mrs. Debbi. I’m a mother of three kids under the age of 4. I have committed myself to raise these little ones in the ways of the Lord. Oh… many nights I go to bed in tears asking the Lord for forgiveness for failing in my call of being the mother He wants me to be because I know everything I do will influence their lives (for good or bad).

    I never forget what a lady told me one time as she watch me looking after my two older kids (3 years old and almost two) running everywhere in a gymnasium. She said “when you have little children your days may be long but the years go by very quick.”

    Let us beware of our real enemy during this early years that we may raise strong sons and daughters that may fear God in spite of the worldly influence and Satan’s attacks.

  7. Hi

    All is well said and so true, but when you just lost your baby it still does not take away the hurt. I prayed for my child, I bought all his stuff and prayed that God would save him from meningitis, today 4 months later I only have an empty crib and empty arms…

    I am so hurt when people who have never lost a child has the audacity to give advise, just be glad yours is still alive and leave me with my selfishness alone.

  8. Thank you so much for this article. I believe it was God’s timing for you to run it again. It was in the mail waiting for me when I came back from seeing my daughter marry and having no peace about it. I cried because I too seen myself in this article. I also printed it out and sent it to my child because it was everything I wanted to say and couldn’t put it in words. I have never lost a child to death and pray for the mothers that have, nor would I ever tell them I know how they feel, but I know how a mother feels to see the child you raised turn into someone you don’t even know. But God is faithful. We must stay strong and trust Him.

  9. Due to temperament and upbringing, I brought all my fears and negativity into our home and ultimately after and during the first decade of being a Christian. I had the head knowledge about the faith but not the heart understanding. I was lacking in humility and trust. I’m so ashamed of myself for carrying on that way. And the worst of course is the bad example I set for our children. I had always committed the 3 C’s in our marriage: complaining, controlling and criticizing. I continued to do so, but oh boy, I had an additional weapon: THE CHRISTIAN FAITH! Now I could use the tenets of the Faith to browbeat my H with my incredible righteousness and supremacy. I was the only one to teach and raise our children correctly. I was the only one who truly cared.

    It makes me sick to my stomach how repulsive I was and am. But what really really woke me up even after years of reading all the right books … my pet hobby has been Christian marriage books, which all talked about submission etc., but I never “got it” .. was the fact that one of our children has left the faith. Stopped attending church, stopped practicing the tenets of Christianity. Got tattooed. Listened to the worst, garbage, hateful music you can imagine. Is consumed with materialism and me-ism. Now has a significant other who is pierced and tattooed (also comes from a Christian home, a divorced one however) … and now I get to deal with the fact that I played a large role in turning this child off to the Christian religion., And this was the child I wasn’t worried about for years!

    This child is now 23 and has kept us at an arm’s length for several years. We have continued to have him over for dinner on weekly basis, and now with his girlfriend. But he stays are very short, have the sense of being a duty fulfilled and he’s gone again.

    I’m grateful that he comes at all. He is polite to us. But he is making concerning choices in his life regarding work etc. and while he is and has been entirely self-sufficient, I worry (not supposed to worry) that he’s not got the motivation and self confidence he had when he was a child and teenager. He jumped from our house into the world and that world was everything I knew it would be. He has apparently taken all that I tried to protect him from as the the correct way to do things.

    I pray daily to have and maintain hope in his salvation and I pray and ask forgiveness for my failures and pray that I become a better Christian.

    It is the most painful feeling of all to feel that your child is in the clutches of the evil one.

    1. Debbie thank you so very much for sharing this, there are so many of us that Think that we need to protect our childre’s body and helth. But the true is that we need to protect their soul even when we face the attacks of the any through our Family and Society. We must obey God and do His will even when the whole world is against us. I Think our children do not need a Great education and all the luxury the world have to offer, I Think they need to know God as He is and be content with what ever He provides. And I think is why God said “give thanks in everything” and as we do we realize we need to thank God when a baby is Born and we need to give thanks when some body dies. it is finish, all pain, all worries, all sin, it is finish,Praise the Lord. There are worse separations than death

  10. Beautifully written. You nailed it and I thank you for encouraging us mothers to again, get perspective!
    When I was young I did fear death of a child. Now that I am older and most of my children are grown, I read this and couldn’t agree with you more.
    This brings hope and joy! I will pass this along to a friend who has not been able to get over the death of her 10th baby. She now has 11.

  11. God used this precious article to show me how that I raised my children without the faith to trust God. I prayed but didn’t trust. I lived with a weak conscience thinking I wasn’t worthy of Him answering me. So I feared. Afraid I would love them too much, I didn’t learn to wait on God to learn how to love. I disciplined, played a lot with them, did our chores together on our farm, but was not full of joy and ease. I just repented now of being so untrusting. My heart is at peace. Our three children are living unbelievably difficult lives and having a strong trust in our Lord. But tonight I am rejoicing in that and not sad about all the poor ways I was a mother and wife. Thank you so much!! And God’s blessings abound in all of you there.