Early this morning, as I lay in bed, my cell phone began to ring. It is never a good thing when my cell phone rings this early. I jumped from bed to answer it. A nurse from the NICU from a local hospital was calling to ask if I could come down and be with a family whose baby was near death. I got dressed as quickly as possible and headed to the hospital.
I met the family in the NICU. The child was already gone. The entire NICU was in tears. I met the parents who took me back to the body of their child. He was a beautiful African American boy with lots of hair and an angelic look on his face. The grief that poured from his parents took the air out of the room. They hurt so badly and there was little, if anything, I could do about it.
Within my soul I wanted to be able to give that child life. I wanted to be able to touch him and see him breath. I would have liked to have given him back to his parents and see their smiles and joy return to the nurses and doctors who stood around. But life is not mine to give. It is certainly a gift, but the gift comes from God, not a preacher who just wants people to stop hurting.
I prayed with the parents and the staff of the hospital NICU. I prayed for comfort and I thanked the Lord that this little one was now in His presence. I thanked God that he would never experience the pain that life can bring. I thanked the Lord that the child was alive with Him. I prayed for the parents to have strength. I asked the Lord to carry them when they couldn't take another step. I wanted the parents to know that the Lord brings life to them even on this day their son had died.
I used to be a person who tried to show people how sinful they were. I wanted them to repent and come to the Lord. I preached hard sermons in which people would come down the aisles of the church weeping. I gave the picture of a god who was angry and would beat the hell out of you if you didn't give up your hell. I forgot about grace. I wanted justice!
In more recent years I have seen God as having a tremendous amount of grace toward sinners. I have received that grace. It is more than I imagined and I didn't deserve an ounce of it. I started preaching messages of life. I have found that more people are coming to the Lord through messages of life. Grace is very attractive; red-faced, yelling preachers aren't.
I have started to understand that God sent Jesus to this world to bring abundant life. I still want people to come out of the darkness of their sins into the light. I still want them to see that the only abundance in life will be found in Jesus but I preach a message of life. I hate it when people hurt and I don't want to hurt them either.
I hope this is the message I gave these parents this morning. They named their child a biblical name. I know they were believers. I also know that believers hurt too. Hurt seems to destroy life. I wanted them to walk into the presence of Jesus and, even though they hurt, know His love.
I may never have any contact with these parents again. I will still pray that they will know the comfort that only Jesus brings. I hope I helped.
You probably don't know who I am writing about. You don't know this couple. You do know their pain. Either you have experienced it or you know someone who has or is in this pain. Would you say a prayer that they might have the abundant life that Jesus brings even in their tragedy? The message of Christ is life. It is the one I must preach. It is the one that all believers must bring to the world.