The stated purpose of Jack Hayfordâ€™s book, Iâ€™ll Hold You In Heaven, is â€œto offer a path to hope and healing – not through happy talk or platitudes, but through the solid footing of the holy truth of Godâ€™s Word.â€ (p. 10) This book addresses its message to those who have lost a child prior to birth (as a result of miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion) or shortly thereafter. He carefully addresses many of the hard questions asked by those who have been affected by such losses in a caring and biblical manner, looking to Scripture as the ultimate source of hope and comfort.
For the last few weeks, this book has sat on a table in my living room untouched. It is an easy read, in the literary sense – simple and straightforward in itâ€™s message, and only 117 pages. But, from a purely emotional standpoint, this has been an extremely difficult book to tackle. There were days that I was determined to begin reading, but I could not get past the title before the tears started. But, as the newness of the pain has lessened, I once again decided to pick up this book, and give it another try.
The first three chapters lay the foundation for the hope that can be found in the following pages. First, the author begins with the understanding that true hope, in any situation or circumstance, can only come from Godâ€™s Word. This perspective is key to the hope and encouragement that Hayford offers his readers. He establishes, in the first few pages, that life is a gift from the Creator. God has given man the ability to reproduce not only physical bodies, but eternal souls! Hayford clearly gives evidence that life not only begins at conception, but is real and eternal from that point.
â€œHere is the crux of the matter, for if we are only dealing with chemistry or tissue in examining the nature of the fetus or the stillborn, there is little at stake. Butâ€¦there is something more involved here than mere chemical combinations or complex structures of tissues.â€ (p. 16)
He is quick to point out that â€œno unborn child is without distinct spiritual significance in Godâ€™s design.â€ (p. 52) There is great encouragement to be found in this truth, because
â€œâ€¦there is no being without purpose in the larger providences of God. His purposes may not always harmonize with ours, but in the eternal symphony, we will come to recognize better the part played by each creature â€“ even when the note played by circumstances seems dissonant.â€ (p. 51)
However, this perspective can often raise more questions than it answers. Hayford approaches these difficult questions with the sensitive heart of a pastor, but also with a straightforward and honest look at the reality and consequences of sin.
- Will my unborn child go to Heaven or Hell? Of course, the emotional response is that they would go to Heaven. And, while this is the belief of the author, he is quick to remind the reader that the answer must be based on the authority of Scripture, not on emotional whims.
- What will they look like? Hayford does not attempt to answer the unanswerable. He simply states that their physical form in Heaven is as unpredictable to the parent now as it was before birth. But, the certainty is that they are not â€œwispy spooksâ€ floating about. They have real, heavenly bodies, and they will be recognizable.
- Will I recognize them? Yes, they will be recognized, and known. While the answer to this question can bring great comfort to those who have lost a child that was desired and planned for, the author realizes that it can cause shame and fear for the parent of an aborted child. He does not suggest that one is not responsible for the sinful choices they have made in the past, and the consequences that inevitably result. Instead, he responds with honest compassion, offering hope that the judgment of, and condemnation for sin lies only with God. And, if He has forgiven your sin then you are no longer condemned. (Romans 8:1)
Romans 8:28 says â€œAnd we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.â€ This verse is often quoted, in part, â€œas though we are helpless victims of Godâ€™s sovereign will who, whatever happens, just have to hope for the best.â€ (p. 81) But that is not the case at all! This verse gives hope and certainty to the believer that God can take any circumstance and use it for our good (and His glory).
Throughout the book Hayford offers biblical assurance for the existence of the lost child, their spiritual capacity, and eternal dwelling place. But, he does not pretend to ignore the very real feelings of grief and loss that can result from the experience of losing a child (whatever the reason). And he addresses the bitterness and anger that may result if those feelings are not dealt with biblically. He reminds the reader that we live in a fallen world, and death is the result of sin, it was not Godâ€™s fault.
This book, I believe, achieves its purpose of offering hope and encouragement to those who have lost a child. It does not sidestep human sin and responsibility, but looks to Godâ€™s Word for the answers to some very difficult questions. It was given to me as a gift after our recent miscarriage, by a friend who had been through the same. But, I would not hesitate to recommend it to those who have never experienced the loss of a child as well. Its compassionate and biblical approach to a painful topic would serve as a great resource for any believer.