Thursday, May 13, 2010

Safe in the Arms of Jesus

I wanted to work on the Book of Ruth in our Interpreting the Books of the Bible section, but kept feeling compelled to write this article on death and life instead. This subject is way out of my comfort zone, but I knew from past experience that I wouldn’t get anything else done until I had completed this post.

To provide a little background on my mental state, we’ve been receiving frequent news that our son’s marine unit in Afghanistan continues to sustain numerous casualties, including several on Mother’s Day alone. We hope our readers are praying daily for the brave men and women risking their lives to protect our country and to secure freedom for other parts of the world. It is unthinkable that anyone can face death without knowing whether his or her future is eternally secure. After my father died, I wrote an article contrasting the differing views of death between believers and non-believers.

Now, we turn to the subject of this post, a baby named Smith, born to parents Kori and Jon up in McKinney (TX) on April 29, weighing only 24 oz. After clinging valiantly to life for almost two weeks, Smith went home to Jesus on May 10. I was alerted to their situation by email from a friend of a friend of a friend, so I don’t know Kori, Jon and family personally, but they have been a real inspiration the past few weeks. Through the various difficulties of this ordeal, Jon shared Smith’s brief, but miraculous and inspiring life on his blog.

I kept thinking, what does one say to such a courageous couple, or to anyone else who has just lost a loved one? Let me preface these comments by saying that I’m no counselor, so these are just my personal thoughts. As Christians, we’re always tempted to quote Scripture (particularly Ro 8:28) in a well-meaning effort to ease the person’s grief, or to defend God. This is good to a point, but I believe it’s sometimes best just to grieve along with the person and let them know you care. You can then speak of the goodness of God as the healing process begins, which will be sooner or later in different instances. In Jon and Kori’s case, it is apparent that they never questioned God’s goodness, but this still does not ease the pain of their loss.

I’ve met a few well wishers with the attitude that, we should not grieve for a loved one because “they’re in a better place”. Fortunately, these folks (almost always meaning well) are usually a small minority. While the destination of the departed is a great comfort, it is entirely biblical to mourn. Jesus Himself wept at the death of His friend Lazarus, even though He knew that He would shortly raise him from the dead (Jn 11:32-36).

As some of my regular readers may know, I love the old hymns and often research their author and some of the fascinating circumstances surrounding their writing. Earlier today, I came across an old hymn by Frances (Fanny) Crosby, who is credited with writing thousands of hymns even though she was blind. Ms Crosby caught a slight cold at about six weeks of age. A country doctor, who (it was later learned) was not qualified to practice medicine, was called because their family physician was away. He recommended the use of hot poultices, which practically destroyed her eyesight. When the doctor learned of the results, he left town, never to be heard of again. Ms Crosby later said "I have not, for a moment, in more than eighty-five years, felt a spark of resentment against him; for I have always believed that the good Lord, in His infinite mercy, by this means consecrated me to the work that I am still permitted to do”.

In 1859, a child was born to Fanny and her husband, but the child died in infancy, and to this day, no one knows whether it was a boy or a girl. Fanny refused to speak of it, even to her closest friends and relatives, except to later say, “God gave us a tender babe… and soon the angels came and took the infant up to God and His throne”.

On April 30, 1968, about a decade after the infant’s death, a Christian musician, Dr WH (Howard) Doane, knocked on Fanny’s door and said “I have exactly forty minutes before my train leaves for Cincinnati. I need some words for this melody”, then began humming a tune. Fanny quickly prayed, went to work and twenty minutes later, dictated the words to Dr Doane just in time for him to catch his train. This brief collaboration produced one of Ms Crosby’s most beloved hymns, Safe in the Arms of Jesus, which became a great comfort to thousands who had lost a loved one, especially a child.

Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast,
There by His love o’ershaded, sweetly my soul shall rest.
Hark! ’tis the voice of angels, borne in a song to me.
Over the fields of glory, over the jasper sea.

Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast
There by His love o’ershaded, sweetly my soul shall rest.

Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe from corroding care,
Safe from the world’s temptations, sin cannot harm me there.
Free from the blight of sorrow, free from my doubts and fears;
Only a few more trials, only a few more tears!


Jesus, my heart’s dear Refuge, Jesus has died for me;
Firm on the Rock of Ages, ever my trust shall be.
Here let me wait with patience, wait till the night is over;
Wait till I see the morning break on the golden shore.


We must not assume that God allowed Ms Crosby to lose her child for the sole purpose of providing comfort to others, but we can say that God can use all our experiences, good and bad, to minister to others in similar situations.

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