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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.
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Good advice… Thank you, Martin.
Let silence speak at times!
Excellent! Thank you – as always, you have touched on something that makes me cringe too, but I’ve never thought about how to respond kindly.
Well done Martin – I can’t believe the well-intentioned, but thoughtless things I was told when my husband passed away. Thanks for tackling this subject.
Thanks for tackling this important misconception. I’ve also cringed when I’ve heard such misguided statements. This one in particular never comforts. Thanks again for tackling this topic. Blessings.
Martin, you touched on an important topic. I’ve also heard of people finding comfort in the idea that their loved one is transformed into an angel, but either way it’s not biblical truth so it cannot be helpful in the long run. Thanks for your input in handling these types of delicate situations. Blessings.
Years ago I remember a conversation with our pastor. He had been to visit a relative who was dying with cancer. Someone in an elevator made a statement similar to the one you quoted about God needing so and so. He said, “It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut.” And then went on to talk in a way similar to yours. I was very young at the time but I have always remembered that conversation and tried “to do instead of say,” especially something unwise.
Yes, God has received another angel, but that isn’t the way I felt when He took our 2 years old. Her life on earth was finished.
Her father’s life was finished after a severe accident when he was in his 70’s. I was in the same accident and very severely injured but my life wasn’t finished on earth yet. I now am almost 88 and I would like to be finished here but God doesn’t think I am. When our mother became ill her doctor stated that God didn’t have her house shingling finished yet. She lasted about a week and the shingling was finished…
Thank you Very much for these words of wisdom. It has always bothered me when I hear that angel statement! We don’t become angels!!!! I love Psalm 116: 15 since it is His Word and not some nice little saying that really has very little value. I love animals and my husband and I have had many dogs during our marriage. The Rainbow Bridge story has always bothered me, also. The thought is that we will see them at the Rainbow
Bridge, be reunited and go to heaven together. The problem is … is the former owner a believer who knows Jesus as Savior. If not, that presents a sticky problem for the pet and an even more drastic situation for the unsaved person. Just some thoughts.
For me the intention in the verse is rather: In a fallen world where bad things happen (including untimely death)
God watches over His people and, even through death’s transitional process, God values us and accompanies us on the journey, even babies.
Although I would also look at 1 Kings 14:13 where a child is taken out of situation because the times for the child are so bad he is better off out of it (1 Corinthians 10:13) such as in war zones.
However, grief and sorrow are fact of life and cannot be evaded. So the best we can do is to stand with those who are suffering, meet their immediate needs to keep them functioning, and help them through the process into a new normality in time.
Part of the process of a death of a loved one is also a wake up call that we are all mortal and some fear it is contagious so that not only do they have to deal with the loss of the dear one but also the fact that some day they too will die.
Thank you, Martin, for your thoughts about the way of comfort.
Yes, sometimes it’s better not to say anything in the midst of grief.
Just being there, and giving hugs and hands are more helpful.
Blessings on your days!
Dear Martin Wiles,
Thank you for sharing Godly wisdom.
And I add regarding “Actions.” Dear God, please guide us in our choice of Actions as well as in our choice of words.
I know what you mean, our first child died at birth and people say I know what you are going through, but they really don’t, this was our child.
I refrain from saying meaningless words when someone dies. Your prayer is right on.
Always words of common sense and wisdom come from your devotionals, Martin. Thank you.