As the winter sky drew dark Mitch began to fade. He didn’t need to say anything, his tired eyes said a million things at once. Natalie tenderly scooped him up in her arms and carried little Mitch to his room. My heart sank as I saw my little boy listless and drifting away. I could almost hear death violently gashing at our door … about to barge in like a terrifying home invasion to steal my son away. 

Later that night I prayed to my Father, knees bruised from prayer. I prayed the words of a broken son and terrified dad in need of comfort and council, “Oh Father, how am I to do this difficult thing? I’m so afraid. My hands and soul tremble. I love my son and don’t want to see him suffer. I will take his place, if you will allow me. Please … not my son. If there is any other way … please …”

I often hear people speak of God’s grace when their children are spared suffering or sorrow. Some will say, almost in a tone of victory, “God is good. All the time.” But what happens when our children are not spared? What then? What happens when things go from bad to terribly, horribly, unimaginably wrong? Has God forsaken us? Has he left us abandoned in a wasteland of grief and sorrow? My experience tells me no. In fact, I have come to see there is a purpose to all things … and when I quiet my mind and focus my spiritual eyes, however blinded by tears, I begin to see things as they really are. That gives me hope.

The death of a child is uniquely and exquisitely painful, whatever the age. At least for me, my son’s passing at the age of 10 was a scene from my worst nightmare. As his father, Mitch saw me as the ultimate problem solver, his protector and soul mate. He was so innocent and believing and good. Yet, despite all that we tried to do, I was unable to save my son. With that harsh reality comes unavoidable feelings of failure and regret, despite what I already know. Such is the burden of grief. And a terrible burden it is.

Though the path that lay before us was dark and frightening, I also know my Father put a dim lamp before our feet so we could find our way. We knew we were not alone. Despite our journey through the dark wilderness of grief, we have come to realize were not abandoned. Not once. To the contrary, in our moments of greatest darkness we were carried, sight unseen. I can see that now. I can see it plain as noon day.

I don’t know the secrets of heaven, however much I wish to see and understand them. I don’t know why innocent children are made to suffer. But they are … and they do. God could stop it, but He doesn’t. Clearly suffering is allowed to happen. So, rather than shake my fists at the heavens – as though my puny protests could change the grand design … I have learned to listen with my soul and see where I was once blind. 

I have learned that bruised knees and broken hearts are important keys to building our spiritual parts. Being human we would avoid pain and sorrow … but that is where growth starts: bruised knees and broken hearts.