Safe in the Arms of God: Words from Heaven About the Death of a ChildSafe in the Arms of God: Words from Heaven About the Death of a Child
John MacArthur
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Every parent who has lost a child has dealt with disturbing, haunting questions. Why my child? Where is my baby now? Will I ever see my child again? Renowned Bible expositor John MacArthur tackles the question of infant death (in the womb or following birth) in his trademark style - with detailed attention to Scriptures that hold the answers. No death occurs apart from the purposes of God. MacArthur assures readers, just as no life occurs apart from the purposes of God. This comforting book is certain to bring consolation to those experiencing this most painful loss.

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John MacArthur is pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, as well as an author, conference speaker, president of The Master's College and seminary, and featured teacher with Grace to You, the nonprofit organization responsible for producing the Grace to You, Portraits of Grace, and Grace to You weekend radio programs. John has written over six dozen books, including The MacArthur Study Bible, Can God Bless America? and Twelve Ordinary Men. You are one of our customerís favorite authors, and we were wondering if there is anything special you would like to tell them about yourself.

John MacArthur: Well, Iím just very grateful to even be an author. I started out being a preacher. My passion is still to preach the Word of God, but along the way there was always seemingly an interest in putting what I was preaching into print. So I came in the back door, and just about everything I write is material that has arisen in my preaching ministry and then was refined and made into books. So I get double duty out of my preaching. Itís been a joy though, because I know that print is such a dynamic and such a helpful way to communicate the truth. God, when he gave us his truth, put it in a book and thatís a great example to follow. And you also get to reach a much larger audience.

John MacArthur: Sure, and you canít study a sermon. But a book is letters frozen on a page permanently, and it lends itself to careful study, thought, analysis, comparison and all that. And thatís what God did, he gave us a book. We appreciate your new book, Safe in the Arms of God, which thoroughly explores what the Bible says about the death of a young child. What prompted you to address this particularly painful topic?

John MacArthur: There were two things that drove me to into this. The first was when I was on the Larry King Show one night right after the 9/11 disaster. Larry asked me out of nowhere, "What about a two-year-old baby crushed at the bottom of the world trade center? Where is that baby?" He just spun around and asked me that without any connection to anything else. And I thought, "My goodness, hereís a guy who doesnít profess to be a Christian at all, but is deeply concerned about the death of a child." Off the air, he pursued that question with me. "What happens to all the babies that die? They die all over the world. What happens to all these little babies?" And I realized that even for him, this is a huge dilemma: third world issues, disasters, miscarriages, abortions, and so forth.

And the second factor occurred when I was in a pastorís conference, the very opposite environment, a safe environment with pastors. There were four other pastors on a panel, very prominent well known pastors, and the question was asked, "What happens to babies that die? Where do they go?" And the four pastors couldnít find and answer. Not one of them was certain about that. And I thought, "As a pastor you have to deal with that constantly in your church congregation. I donít believe God would leave us without an answer." When it came to me, I gave the answer that appears in the book. So I was prompted to write the book, not only to help those people in the world who wonder about this, but also to help pastors and those in the church who need to comfort people when this happens. You devoted the first half of the book giving a very, very thorough explanation of what Scripture has to say, Old and New Testaments.

John MacArthur: Well, thatís critical. Itís a great gift to grieving parents to be given this air-tight case. It's a wonderful thing to be able to back up your instant reaction, "They're with Jesus," in a way that's rational and cerebral and isn't just based on emotions.

John MacArthur: Yes, you know thatís very insightful on your part, because you did understand the flow of the book. The point is that everybody wants to tell parents that lose a child that the child is in heaven. And a parent in the midst of pain and grief might grab on to that just because they want to believe it. But as days go on, they need to have a supportable, biblical argument that, as you said, really is airtight and is a reflection of what the Bible teaches. So when they get past that emotional need to believe, they're anchored in what is rational, cerebral and biblical. And I wanted to make sure that case was there. And itís encouraging to hear from you that you found that the case indeed. Yes, because you wouldnít want parents to be wondering, "Is this just wishful thinking?"

John MacArthur: Exactly, and that is what they come to if theyíre not anchored. You dealt with the issues of miscarriage and abortion, and even the issue of a parent who to some degree is responsible for their child's death in a very candid way and were able to offer hope.

John MacArthur: Well, that was a very important component, too, that even in the worst case scenario, the best outcome occurs by the goodness and the grace of God. You mention a prayer service that somebody went to that was a very positive thing. Have you thought of developing some sort of service that could be used in your own church or given to other pastors?
John MacArthur: We've had various kinds of services for people who are grieving over their loss, but we have found that trying to formalize that or standardize that doesnít fit. Everybody deals with this loss differently. It ranges all the way from some people who just want to deal with it alone to people who literally want have a service and invite friends and pray and thank the Lord and sing a hymn. I havenít found that I could standardize something that's one-size-fits-all in that kind of grieving process. But thatís where the life of the church comes in. And certainly in our church, our congregation surrounds those people at whatever level of grief they might be in, and has provided whatever kind of resource and experience they want. So itís really a very individual thing. Once you built your case that a child is safe in Godís arms, you then tackled difficult questions like: "Will I see my child again?" and "Why our baby?"

John MacArthur: Yes, itís very important, because even when you know the child is in heaven, the question still lingers, "But why did God give us this child, raise all these expectations, hopes, joys, and then take the child away?" And that question has to be asked, and of course that leads to the hope of heaven and the hope of reunion. And then the question comes up, because parents have asked me this, "What will my child be like in heaven? Will I know my child in heaven?" Because once they know their child is there, and is a real child there alive with Christ, then those questions need to be answered as well. So we did a section, as you know, in the book on heaven and what it is like, and what theyíll be like there. And parents have found that very encouraging. Do you have anything in the works for your next study that youíre either preaching on or writing on?

John MacArthur: Yes, thereís a new book coming called, Hard to Believe. Safe in the Arms of God is a comforting, encouraging book. The new book is a kind of a confrontive, sort of book. The subtitle is "The High Cost and Infinite Value of Following Christ." It essentially tackles the cheap gospel, easy believe-ism, the shallowness, the sort of seeker-friendly, designer gospel, let's-craft-whatever-kind-of-message-people-will-buy approach, and goes back to the words of Jesus in Luke 9:23 where he said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself." The heart of the book is that the gospel is not about self-fulfillment. Itís about self-denial. Is it sort of like a Bonhoeffer's Cost of Discipleship for the twenty-first century?

John MacArthur: It is exactly. It's like a Bonhoeffer for this generation, and itís written for the popular market. The first chapter is titled, "Tastes Great, Less Filling." Itís not a book written for the eggheads and theologians, because Iím convinced thereís just a lot of people who donít understand the cost of discipleship. I even quote Bonhoeffer in the book. But youíve got it. Thatís exactly where it's going to go. I think itís going to have some shock impact, because it deals with what Jesus taught which is largely ignored in the kind of the designer messages which are coming forth today. Well itís been a pleasure to talk with you. We wish you all the best with your ministry and in your writing, and we thank you for your great exegesis and clear teaching.

John MacArthur: Thank you, youíve been very kind, and youíve encouraged me a great deal.