`And all wept and bewailed her. But Jesus said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth.' Luke 8: 52.
In God's great school of tribulation there are many classes. In the department where God trains parents, there is one room which all greatly fear to enter. Many, as they are led into it, are seen struggling and murmuring. As its darkness closes in over them, they almost refuse to believe that God is love. Many pass through it, and come out of it, with hardly aught of the Divine comfort or holiness the chastisement was meant to bring, because they knew not why they were there, and were not silent to wait for the teaching and the blessing Jesus gives. Others, again, who entered trembling, can testify that the chamber of death — for of this we speak — was to them the gate of heaven; it was the death of a little one that first led them truly to know Jesus. As truly as to Jairus with his dead daughter, the child's death was the parent's life.
Let us see how Jesus meets the sorrowing parent in the chamber of death. The first thing He asks is silence and solitude. Jesus comes to the house, and finds `the crowd making a great tumult.' At once He puts out the crowd, and goes in alone, with the parents and the three disciples. One of the things that most effectually hinders the blessing of affliction is that it is too much spent in the relationships with men, and comfort sought in their sympathy. One of God's great objects in chastisement is, by clouding the light and the brightness of visible things, to draw the soul to Himself and the Unseen. `My soul is silent unto God;' `I will hear what God the Lord will speak:' such is the disposition God would fain have in those whom He visits. He has lessons, often difficult lessons, to teach the parents whose little one death has taken away; it is only when there is the teachableness that really looks to God Himself, and waits on Him, that the trial becomes fruitful in blessing.
What the lessons are in the dying chamber of a child it is not difficult to say. The parent is led to ask, Have I loved my child in the Lord, or looked upon it and treated it too much as my own possession? Has the spirit of my life and my home been truly an educating of my children for heaven and its holiness? Is there not worldliness, selfishness, sinfulness, of which this affliction must remind me? Has it indeed been, in all I seek for my family, `the kingdom first'? Affliction never can profit without heart-searching; and heart-searching is impossible except in the holy stillness of soul that is found in separation from man and meeting with God. Oh, let parents beware, in their time of trial, of the dissipation that comes from too much seeing of friends, from seeking and finding comfort in their company. God wants to see us alone; without this He cannot bless or comfort us. Jesus waits to reveal Himself in the power of His great salvation as the Surety of the parental covenant too — the Redeemer in whom the parent will find all the grace and blessing the covenant God has promised; but He cannot do it except the crowd is put out. He takes His three disciples with Him, that all His servants may learn in their ministry to remind us that by the bedside of a dying or a dead child Jesus wants to be alone with the parents. Even His ministers are only to come in as they come with Him, and point to Him.
And now that He is alone with the parents, now comes the comforting. `Weep not,' He says. Jesus does not condemn weeping. He wept Himself; weeping ever touched His heart. And yet He says, `Weep not.' `Woman, why weepest thou?' was His very first resurrection word. It is as the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, leads His redeemed, that all tears are wiped away. Jesus came to dry our tears. He says, `Weep not.' Weeping is often self-indulgence, a nursing of our grief, the fruit of being too absorbed in ourselves, the object we mourn, or the suffering we endure. Weeping often hinders the voice of God being heard, hinders altogether the blessing the affliction was meant to bring. We are only occupied with what we suffer, and God would have us think of the cause of the suffering, the sin with which we have made Him suffer. By taking away a child, God meant to take us away from ourselves, and to make room in the heart for Himself. Weeping often only fills us with ourselves. God would have us in the affliction learn to bear, and love, and worship His will. Weeping is often the homage, yea, the adoration, of our own will.
Beloved mourner! hear the voice of Jesus say, `Weep not.' He does not say it without a reason. It is not enough that the tumult of the crowd outside is put away, and that there is silence in the room; the tumult of thought and feeling must be hushed too, within the soul there must be silence. At the bidding of Jesus the gush of tears must be restrained, and the heart must turn to Him, to ask who this is who thus, with authority, bids us cease our weeping, and what He has to say to justify His injunction. Obedience to the command is the path to the comfort He brings.
And what is the comfort Jesus gives? He leads from the visible to the invisible; where we only see death, He speaks of life; He comes to rouse us to faith, and to it He reveals Himself as the Living and Lifegiving One. `Weep not: she is not dead, but sleepeth.' With these words Jesus draws near to the lifeless form of each little one over whom a mother's bursting heart is weeping, to remind her that death has been conquered,and that the loved one is not dead, in the terrible meaning which sin gave that word, but truly sleeps, in the deep and blessed sense which that word now has in His mouth.
Your little one is not dead. Judge not by sight. There is a better life than the life of this earth — the eternal life in which God dwells. In that eternal life there is a sleep provided for those who are in Christ Jesus, the blessed waiting time till He comes to gather all His own. As the life itself, and the glory in which it shall be fully manifested, is something that has not entered the heart to conceive, so this sleep, too, is something that passes knowledge. We only know for certain that it is a most blessed rest, rest in the bosom of Jesus. And Jesus asks if this is no comfort, to know that your little one, whom with yourself He took into His covenant before it could know Him, or your child, grown up and trained in the faith of the covenant, is now resting with Him. He took it that He might draw you heavenward. He took it that He might empty your heart, to make more room for Himself. He took it that you might be drawn to Him in your need, and be prepared for receiving the new revelation He has to give of His power, of His love, of Himself as your life.
It is Jesus Himself who comes to you to speak of all this. As in the Old Testament it was the God of the covenant who came to one believing parent after another with His promise of what their children should be; so in the New it is Jesus, the Surety of the children, in whom the parent will find the grace for all he needs to train a seed for God. Jesus said, `Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: he that hath seen me hath seen the Father.' In the incarnation of Jesus all that God of old had promised of blessing to parents and children is now fulfilled. If we but learn to know Jesus aright, to believe on Him fully, to live in the faith of Him, our home and family life will be holy to the Lord. No sacrifice is too great, if we only learn to know Jesus aright. It was in the chamber where Jairus' daughter lay dead that her parents learnt to know Jesus.
Weeping parents! this is God's one purpose and desire, this is God's one great thought of blessing and comfort: in His Son Christ Jesus He has come near to bless and take possession of you. Let this your time of affliction not pass without a hitherto unknown experience of what Jesus is as the parents' Friend, their Teacher, Comforter, and Sanctifier. And so the loss you have sustained will be restored tenfold in the blessing it is made to yourself and the children still left you. Or even if it were the only one, in the power and blessing which this new knowledge of Jesus, the Living One, the parent's and the children's Friend, will enable you to bring to others, you will yet be led to confess how that death has become your greatest gain. The presence and the power and the love of Jesus can more than compensate for the absence and the loss of the child.
Blessed Lord! in this my hour of deep sorrow I come to You, my Savior and the Savior of my little one. Condescend, I beseech you, to come in with me, my Lord, to the chamber of death, where Your weeping child waits for You. Oh, come in and be Yourself my Comforter and my Teacher. Put out, I pray You, the tumult of the crowd, all the sad thoughts and uncontrolled feelings that keep me from hearing Your voice. Speak Yourself; say to the storm, Be still! and let Your presence be the great calm. O my Savior! speak: I desire to hear.
Speak, Lord, if it pleases You, of Your holy will, and Your right to do with Your own even what pleases You, and teach me to say, `Thy will be done.' Speak, as You see it is needful, of my sin and wandering from You, of my love of the creature, of my lack of love to You and delight in Your fellowship, and make me see how this chastisement of Your love was what I needed to make me partaker of Your holiness. Speak, Lord! and teach me.
Speak, Lord! and comfort Your child. Reveal Yourself to me as the Resurrection and the Life, the Shepherd who has taken His lamb into His bosom. Reveal Yourself as my Shepherd! who will see to it that the blessing of the affliction is secured, by coming nearer to me with Your abiding presence. Reveal Yourself as from henceforth more than ever the house-Friend, making Yourself at home with us, to sanctify our family life more than ever into the blessed experience of Your care for the homes of Your people. Come in, Lord Jesus! come in to me in the chamber of death, and, as You have taken my child to Yourself, take me and my beloved home, and make us entirely Yours. Amen.