(The following are adapted excerpts from a much longer review essay soon to be published elsewhere. I’ll provide more info when it’s available. But for now, these excerpts serve to highly recommend this book.)With her recently published book, Little One Lost: Living With Early Infant Loss (Grandville, MI: Reformed Fellowship, 2012), Glenda Mathes has provided the church with a biblically wise treatment of a difficult and often neglected topic. She calls us to develop a more biblically robust view of life in the womb and of the gift of children. She thereby calls us to be radically counter-cultural in how we speak of early infant loss, in how we grieve, and in how we find hope and comfort in the promises of the gospel.
Because of Little One Lost, I now have a greater appreciation for the loss involved in all aspects of infant loss, including infertility and failed adoption efforts. Glenda Mathes has done a great service here even for those who may already be clear on these issues in the abstract, as the experience of reading and wrestling with these stories will deepen one’s appreciation for the experiences of others.
Glenda Mathes applies biblical themes, together with her own reflection and experience, to this very difficult topic, doing so in a way that is valuable for the church as a whole. Those who have experienced early infant loss will be encouraged by a greater sense of a shared experience and by the clear biblical discussions of our hope in the midst of loss. At the same time, the value of Little One Lost is not just for those who have known such loss directly; it is valuable for their loved ones and communities as well. All of us need to be more thoughtful in how we speak, not only of early infant loss, but of infertility, adoption, and similar challenges in the Christian life. Pastors would benefit from the book’s urging to be more understanding and sensitive, and to speak clearly to both the grief and hope that God’s people experience. Family members may be helped in empathizing with the unique suffering experienced on the part of mothers in early infant loss. And the book is perhaps most of all needed to help our wider communities – friends and congregation members – to speak more lovingly and biblically into these difficult situations.
One of the most valuable things about Little One Lost was the way in which the book repeatedly spurred on my thinking about various aspects of the Christian life. Glenda Mathes challenges us to think more deeply about the life of the church and the hope of God’s people in several different areas: our calling to live as a community, the comfort of the covenant, the importance of resurrection hope, and the reality of tragedy in the Christian life. She provides clarity and offers many biblical answers: God is sovereign and has a purpose in our suffering; the hope of resurrection constitutes God’s promise to finally undo the brokenness of this world; difficult providences can provide unique opportunities to be a blessing to others. But God’s ways are often mysterious, and the hope of the gospel does not undo the realities of grief and confusion and the consequences of the curse in this broken world. This is one of the most important lessons to be learned from Little One Lost. The biblical answers are clear and true, but they are not always easy. Little One Lost challenges us to acknowledge that the Christian faith does not supply a hope that eliminates all tears. Rather, it supplies a hope that tears cannot drive away, a hope that remains even in the midst of tears.