This morning I was reading a well-written and edifying article about cancer, the sovereignty of God and facing the reality of an uncertain future (humanly speaking). I think most parents have, at some time, gone through this thought process: what will happen to my children if something happens to me?
We can plan, and we should plan, for such eventualities, both spiritually and materially. I have life insurance for myself and my wife; we are working on finding guardians for our children should both of us die. Our financial plans are in place, more or less. Material planning is so very important. It is not, however, as important as spiritual planning for our children and loved ones.
I frequently speak of death and resurrection to our children, indeed in family worship last night, the subject came up again. I hope, by the drip-drip of teaching on death, resurrection and eternal life my children will become accustomed to the idea of all three realities. My third son, already, tells me he wants to be in heaven already. I also prepare my boys for the eventuality of my passing, or my wife's passing. We have told them about both material and spiritual needs and how they will be met by God.
I do wonder how they will fair if God calls me and or my wife home. I have fears for them. Will the be looked after? Will they walk with the Lord? Will they trust him all their days? Will they be spared the sins and mistake I made? How will they cope with the loss of a parent?
The above article caused me to realize this important truth: my children's need for God is greater than their need for me. That's right. How could it not be? We believe in an almighty and sovereign God who "ordains whatsoever shall come to pass" - of course their need for God as their Heavenly Father, for Christ as their Savior and the Spirit as their Comforter is greater than their need for me! They need to see and believe that God, should He take me or my wife, is simply enacting a just, wise and righteous plan. They need to know and believe that the God who they all profess to love is able and more willing to care for them than I ever could. They need to know, in a real and true sense, they will be better off without me, simply because that is the perfect will of God. (Jesus said the same to his disciples, John 16:7).
Is that not one of my great tasks in life? To teach them, by example and by the Word, that they are to long for God more than for me? To teach them that their need for God and reliance upon his grace and mercy is more than an earthly parent could ever give them? Yes, I believe my children need to know that we are made for eternity, and they must know this truth in the days of their youth. They must know, that to be with the Lord is better (Phil. 1:23), even if that means separation in this life.
Yes, they need to learn that their need for God is greater than their need for me.
But what if the shoe is on the other foot? Frankly, for myself, this is even more fearful option than the earlier one, if I am honest. What will happen to me if something happens to them? How will I cope with the sorrow and brokenness that some of us know and live with daily - the death of a child?
I would suggest that we can also reverse the principle above. Not only is my children's need for God greater than their need for me, my need for God is greater than my need for my children.
Should God take one or all of my children from me, it would most assuredly break my heart, but not my faith. I would have to learn, experientially, the truth of my own belief - I need God more than I need my children. If it were God's will to take those whom he has given to me, that will remains good, just and wise. I know it is for my good because God is good (Rom. 8:28). I know it is tailored for me perfectly because God is wise (Rom. 16:27). I know it is just, because God only does what is right (Gen. 18.25). I could go on...
The reality is that while God has given us many, many, great blessing, we ought always remember two things: first, he gives and he takes away, and both actions are perfectly consonant with his excellent character. Second, his blessing is in both giving and taking away: he gives to show us his great love for us, and he take to reveal our great need for his excellent character and provision.
And so, in days of blessing, let us situate these truths in our hearts, to be ready for the day of hardship: we need God more than we need anything or anyone on this earth. It is the same God who gives and takes away and His name is always to be blessed.
Matthew Holst is the Pastor of Shiloh Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, NC.