Griefe O're Doth Flow

"With troubled heart and trembling hand I write.
     The heavens have changed to sorrow my delight.
How oft with disappointment have I met
     When I on fading things my hopes have set." [1]

Anne Bradstreet (1612–1672) wrote the above in memory of her granddaughter and namesake, who died in June of 1669 at the age of three and a half. In a similar vein Edward Taylor (c. 1642–1729) put his own grief into verse in “Upon Wedlock and Death of Children”: 

"But oh! the tortures, Vomit, screechings, groans,
And six weeks fever would pierce hearts like stones." [2]

Whatever complaints we may have about modern technology, we should thank God for His incredible mercy towards us and our children through medicine and medical personnel. Yet we've not escaped death, and if you're reading this there's a strong chance that you or someone near to you has lost a child.

Grief, pain, anger, confusion—how could anyone be prepared for such a storm? But we do ourselves no favors by ignoring the reality until it stares us in the face; instead, we should pray to and dwell on the God who comforts us in all our affliction, "so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted" (2 Cor. 1:4).

This is especially true for pastors and pastor-hopefuls. Last month, Danny Hyde shared some thoughts on the subject, particularly with regard to those who have suffered from a miscarriage. He writes,

"Unless seminaries have changed, you won’t deal with ministering after miscarriages. Or what if there’s a tragic accident? How do you minister to a family grieving the loss of child by SIDS? It’s the most challenging pastoral issue I learned to face in my first ten years as a gospel minister. Seminary didn’t prepare me to deal with it. Therefore, you need to be. You will deal with this terrible providence as a pastor. Your theology must be exercised..."

You can read more on his blog, where he directs readers to meditate on the Word,  pray, and consider the wisdom from ages past. He also lists some helpful resources, including prayers from the URCNA: 

"Eternal God, the only Creator, Preserver, Judge, and Savior of the world, You alone hold the powers of life and death. Our Lord Jesus Christ, when He had conquered death and hell, announced, “I was dead, but I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and Hades in my hand.” Yet often our circumstances seem to testify against Your promise. What we see does not appear to agree with what we have heard. Yet, even at the cross, where You seemed so absent and Your Son seemed so cruelly and unjustly abandoned by You, we have been taught that He was thereby fulfilling Your purposes to redeem us from the power of darkness... Teach us through these trials to number our days, recognizing that we are but fading in this age, but will flourish in the age to come. We know that these struggles are not tokens of Your wrath, but are part of Your plan to save us, sanctify us, and glorify Yourself." [3]

Taylor and his wife Elizabeth lost five of their eight children before Elizabeth herself died in 1689. Prior to that, Taylor penned “Upon Wedlock,” concluding with these lines:

Griefe o're doth flow: and nature fault would finde
    Were not thy Will, my Spell, Charm, Joy, and Gem:
That as I said, I say, take, Lord, they're thine.
   I piecemeale pass to Glory bright in them.
   In joy, may I sweet Flowers for Glory breed,
   Whether thou getst them green, or lets them seed. 


Ben Ciavolella is a student at Westminster Theological Seminary. He works as a publishing assistant and editor for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.


Related Links

"Joining the Resistance: Lament and the Kingdom" by J. Todd Billings

"Bradstreet's Doubts" by Amy Mantravadi

"Upon a Fit of Sickness" by Ben Ciavolella

Meet the Puritans by Joel Beeke & Randall Pederson

Pastors in the Classics by Leeland Ryken, Philip Ryken, and Todd Wilson


Notes

[1] As published in The Poems of Mrs. Anne Bradstreet (1897), 280.

[2] www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46134/upon-wedlock-and-death-of-children. For more information about the life of Edward Taylor, see Meet the Puritans, p. 571–76; https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/edward-taylor.

[3] https://formsandprayers.com/prayers-meditations/#part_iv-15.