Joshua Mills

A Letter to the Bereaved Parent

It will not always be winter, though it may be a long and dark winter. On that final Day, “the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings” (Malachi 4:2). In the meantime, you must meditate on the goodness of God, even when we do not see it. I do not know why the Lord has brought us into “the sacred circle of the sorrowing,” but that is okay. We do not have to make “calculations” and always find the “purpose” behind things. God knows. I don’t need to know. What I do need to know in my affliction is His character. 

Dear bereaved parent,
I am so sorry for the loss of your precious child. No words can adequately describe the piercing pain and deep sorrow you are going through right now. No English word can describe a parent who has lost a child. When a wife loses a husband, she is called a widow. When a child loses a parent, they are called an orphan. There are no sufficient words to describe the bereaved parent. Due to original sin, we understand that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 3:23; 6:23) and that, in most circumstances, we will bury our parents and spouse. One day, you assume your child will be planning your funeral. But, oh, the horror of burying your own child. In that, you see the grim enemy of death in full force. After losing his son in infancy, theologian R. L. Dabney wrote, “Ah! When the mighty wings of the angel of death nestles over your heart’s treasures, and his black shadow broods over your home, it shakes the heart with a shuddering terror and a horror of great darkness.”
My friend, my heart breaks for you. Part of you dies when your child dies. To bury your own child is also to bury half of yourself. The bitter cup and the sharp thorn will always be with you until glory. Though the grief and sorrow change over time, a missing family member will always be at the dinner table. There will always be one less family member during family photos. But, my friend, there is hope in the darkness. As a fellow sufferer and bereaved parent, I hope these words will be a source of comfort in your affliction. As I write this letter to you, I am also preaching these truths repeatedly to my soul. I need these reminders daily.
In 2022, my wife and I lost our precious son Isaac in his infant years. During this past year, the Lord has brought us a new ‘circle of friends who have been on a similar journey as a bereaved parent. In his book, Seasons of Sorrow, Tim Challies describes this group as “The Sacred Circle of the Sorrowing,” which was taken from Theodore Cuyler. Challies writes:
If you have lost a child, you are not alone. After Theodore Cuyler’s child passed away, “he was ushered into “the sacred circle of the sorrowing,” a community made up of fellow sufferer … He had not been invited into the circle or asked if he wished to join. Rather, Providence had directed him to be part of it, and he had chosen to submit, to bow the knee…  (p.128-129).
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“R. C. Sproul: A Life,” by Stephen J. Nichols

Nichols, one of Sproul’s successors, does a fantastic job at bringing the reader into the story of God’s grace through His servant R.C. Sproul. As you work through each page, it is as if you are listening to Sproul himself, sitting at the fire next to him and hearing his own story. 

Down through the centuries, God has been pleased to raise up a long line of godly men who were ‘pillars of truth’ in their day. These men were identified as the “reformers” of their day in succeeding generations, calling men and women back to the Bible. Like the people in Nehemiah 8:1, they long to let the Bible loose and roar! As one scans the landscape of Church history, we find very quickly that most of these men were gripped by the truths of sovereign grace and emboldened to further the cause of Christ on the earth. Bishop J. C. Ryle identifies these men in the following manner:
“God stirred up and brought out [men] to do his work, without previous concert, scheme, or plan. They did his work in the old apostolic way by becoming the evangelists of their day. They taught one set of truths. They taught them in the same way, with fire, reality, earnestness, as men fully convinced of what they taught. They taught them in the same spirit, always loving, compassionate, and, like Paul, even weeping, but always bold, unflinching, and not fearing the face of man. And they taught them on the same plan, always acting on the aggressive; not waiting for sinners to come to them, but going after, and seeking sinners; not sitting idle till sinners offered to repent, but assaulting the high places of ungodliness like men storming a breach, and giving sinners to rest so long as they stuck to their sins.”[1]
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