Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Give Thanks To God"1 (Lyrics)
Psalm 116:15 – Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. (NKJV)
Communication is an art — and difficult to master.
Life is never easy when parents lose an infant or a young child. Though I've never said it myself, I've been in the presence of others who said to grieving parents, "God just wanted another angel in heaven." Every time I hear that sentence, I cringe, and wonder what it means to the hearer. Do they think that God is so capricious that He'd kill their child so that He could add another angel to His force — as if He needs more? He has legions at His disposal. While such speakers are trying their best to give comfort in a difficult situation, they have probably failed.
Today's verse makes it sound as if God gets some sort of weird pleasure when Christians die. A more modern translation makes it plainer: "The Lord cares deeply when his loved ones die." (NLT)
Trying to comfort someone who has lost a child can be better accomplished by avoiding such a statement. Not only could it give them a wrong conception of God, but it could also lead them down an incorrect theological road.
Telling someone that God needed another angel in heaven implies that we become angels when we die — which the Bible never states. In correcting the religious leaders' views about relationships in heaven, Jesus tells them, "At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven." (Matthew 22:30 NIV) He doesn't say that we will be angels, just that angels don't marry, and neither will we.
This saying is one among many used when trying to comfort a grieving person. Situations vary, and it can be challenging to know what to say — which is why it's better not to say anything sometimes. Just be there. Give a hug instead of a statement. Spend a night. Prepare a meal. Get them some groceries. Go pay a bill. Take their other children for an outing. Call friends for them.
The old adage is true: "Actions speak louder than words." They may also very well give the comfort that we're trying to give — better than our words.
Let us always think before we speak when trying to comfort those who are grieving.
Prayer: Father, give us wisdom to use the right words when we are comforting those who have suffered loss. Amen.