Pastor Mitchell sat in the chair across the hospital bed from Janet, whose eyes were red with tears and whose face reflected deep sorrow. She cradled a baby who appeared to be peacefully asleep in his mother’s arms. But this baby would never know the warmth of his mother’s body nor the taste of his mother’s milk. Just twenty-four hours after his birth, this baby went to be with Jesus.
No words were spoken for some time. Pastor prayed silently, uncertain of what to say to the grieving mother, or even if he should remain. Perhaps he should quietly leave the mother with her child.
“Pastor Mitchell,” she spoke, hesitantly at first, breaking the silence of the room. “Thank you for coming. I appreciate your prayers and your concern.” Tears began to flow afresh. “Please tell me why God did this to me.”
Pastor shifted uncomfortably in his chair, praying silently for the right words. Suddenly, a phrase from Psalm 23 flashed in his heart.
“Thy rod and Thy staff,” he quoted, “they comfort me.”
Janet looked at Pastor through tears, and then back to the face of her child. “What does that mean?” she asked.
“Well, Janet,” said Pastor, still praying for wisdom, “David, the Psalmist, was a shepherd for many years before he became the king of ancient Israel. He took care of sheep that belonged to someone else.”
Pastor paused for a moment, then continued.
“David knew that sometimes the sheep needed to be corrected, because they had a tendency to wander away and into danger. He used the rod to prod the sheep back into place, and he used the staff, or crook, to rescue the sheep from danger
“You see, Janet, God uses the experiences of our lives like the shepherd used the rod and staff. Both can be unpleasant, even painful. But both are used by the Lord to keep us where He wants us to be. And that, being where the Lord wants us, brings us great comfort.”
Janet’s tears continued to flow down her cheeks. “I know. I’ve been out of God’s will since I hooked up with Johnnie.”
“Has he come to see you,” asked Pastor gently, knowing the answer already.
“No. He says he can’t handle this. I don’t think he is ever coming back. He’s not my husband, and he thinks faith in Jesus is useless. So, why would he come back?
“You know, Janet,” Pastor said. “David, who wrote the psalm I quoted a moment ago, also had a baby who died shortly after he was born. The baby was the son of David and another man’s wife, Bathsheba. David had sinned with her, and had ordered her husband, a soldier, to be killed in battle so he could marry her. But when the baby was born, ill and frail, and everyone knew the baby would not live, David felt the rod and staff of the Lord chastening him for his sin and comforting him in his repentance.”
“You think God is doing that to me?” she asked.
“I don’t know, Janet,” he replied. “That’s something you will have to figure out as you read God’s word and ask Him for help. I just know that God often does use the hard things in life in the same way David used the rod and staff to keep the sheep where they needed to be for their own good.”
“But what about my baby? Is he suffering now for my sin?”
“No. I don’t believe that for a moment. Jesus told His disciples to let the little children come to Him. He said in order to enter His kingdom, a person had to become like a little child. He said that the angels of little children always behold the Father in Heaven. I believe your little boy is safe with Jesus.”
“Pastor?” said Janet. “I want to come back to the Lord. Do you think He will let me?”
Now tears filled Pastor’s eyes as he responded with a wide smile. “Of course He will, Janet. You are His sheep whom He has sworn to love and protect until you are safe at home with Him.”
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