This past week a family in our Christian community lost their 13-year-old son. He collapsed while playing soccer and was not able to be revived. In a shocking and tragic situation like this, many of us parents feel a jolt of reality that death is not reserved only for the elderly or for another distant family who we are loosely connected to. Tragedy can strike anywhere and anyone. We think, this could have been my kid.
A few months ago, a close friend of mine witnessed a fatal accident of a 16-year-old boy by the corner near her house. She found herself very shaken after this event as her own boys were just heading out on their bicycles for a ride down the road, exactly where this young man was struck while riding his motorcycle. This could have been her boy.
Last year a family in our church went through cancer treatments with their 8 year-old daughter. Upon hearing the diagnosis, we were shocked. This could have been my kid. Fortunately, by the grace of God, I was able to serve this young girl a s’more this weekend on our church camping trip. It feels even more special to have her with us when we could have lost her to cancer.
Tragic events like these cause everything to come to a screeching halt as we process the loss of such young lives without any warning. It causes us to pause and appreciate the lives of our children and close loved ones.
But it also is an opportunity for fear to settle in. I find myself feeling more afraid of the thing I fear most of all: losing one of my children. I fear the kind of pain that won’t be easily comforted. I fear the kind of family that would no longer feel complete. I fear the agony of missing my child and never watching them grow up to become men and women.
This fear causes me to want to hold on tighter. But I’m not exactly sure what to hold on to. I shouldn’t squeeze the children tighter, that seems ridiculous. It doesn’t make sense to prevent them from going to school or playing at the park or going into our vehicle for a ride to the store. I can’t save them from cancer and I can’t keep them from living their lives normally in case a freak accident happens or they do something reckless. I can’t hold on tighter.
I can make sure their seat belts are on properly but I can’t save them in a tragic accident. I can give them healthy food to eat, but I can’t predict when they will choke on it. I can’t even always prevent them from having that fall that knocks out a tooth or scrapes up their knee.
I can’t hold on to them forever and I can’t protect them from all harm. In fact, that isn’t my job at all. Our children belong to God and he is in control of their lives. He holds them in the palm of his hand, not me.
This is humbling, because I feel like, as the mom, this should be my job. God has given me such an incredible responsibility, along with my husband, to raise our children. To teach them what they need to know, to care for them and to comfort them and guide them in the knowledge of the Lord.
But I can’t save them.
I can only pray to my heavenly father for his grace and protection. I can pray that they continue in their faith and love of Jesus so he will gather them in his arms when they enter heaven.
The knowledge of God’s love for my children, that it is even greater than mine, gives me comfort. He is their father and he has a plan for their lives. I can trust in God’s promise.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
This knowledge also allows me to refocus my love and trust on God and my relationship with him. When I fear losing my family so much, I realize I’m loving them more than I love God. I’m putting them in a place they were not meant to be.
They are not my all. God is my all. They are not my only treasure. God is my treasure. He is the constant. He will never leave me.
He is the only one I can hold on to.