On November 22nd, 1991, at 8:20 PM, Marshall and Susan Shelley welcomed a baby boy into the world. At 8:22 – two minutes later – he died. The nurse asked, “Do you have a name for the baby?” Susan answered, “Toby. It’s short for a Biblical name, Tobaiah, which means, ‘God is good.’” When her husband Marshall told the story at a Wheaton College Alumni meeting, he summed up his talk, “Life is hard, and God is good.”
How did Marshall and Susan Shelley – seeing their son’s life end after only two minutes – find the spiritual resources to testify to God’s unwavering goodness? They did not measure God’s goodness in earthly circumstances and comforts, but in the eternal riches of kindness that has been provided for them in Jesus Christ.
The first verse of the first chapter of the Bible says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” In verse 31, we are told that it was all very good. There was no sickness, sorrow, pain or death in God’s original, good creation. But in chapter three, Adam and Eve reject God as their loving Lord and thus bring down His curse of judgment on themselves, their posterity, and the natural order of creation. God said:
“Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:17).
But in the wake of God’s judgment on sin, God provided a window of hope, promising to send a Redeemer to crush the enemy who had deceived Adam and Eve, and undo all the futility that has resulted from that horrible sin in Eden (Genesis 3:15). The Apostle Paul spoke of this hope in the midst of curse when he wrote in his letter to the Romans:
"For the creation was subjected to futility…in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (Romans 8:20-21).
In that day, the physical creation will be set free from its bondage to corruption (disease, famine, hurricanes, and death), every tear will be wiped away from our eyes, and the world will be all that we long for it to be. This is the inheritance of God’s children.
But how can we be sure? Our confidence is in the historical reality of the appearing of Jesus Christ in the world 2,000 years ago. Because God is righteous, He could not simply overlook the rebellion that took place in Eden, rebellion that we ourselves have committed, as we have relied on and lived for ourselves rather than for God. But in His supreme goodness, God would not allow us to simply suffer the consequences of our rebellion. He sent His beloved Son, Jesus Christ into the world to suffer the curse of God’s judgment upon sinners (Romans 3:23-25, John 3:16).
God then raised Jesus from the dead to testify to all that His death truly was sufficient to secure our redemption from sin. By His grace, He has reconciled to Himself all who receive Jesus by faith, and given us the hope of being a part of the restoration of all things when Jesus comes again (Revelation 21:1-5).
We believe that in His mercy, this resurrection hope remains for babies and those with profound mental disabilities, who could not personally put their faith in Christ. Though your child was denied a lifetime of leaping and running and singing and dancing and hugging on this earth, a new heavens and a new earth is coming, where, freed from all disease and disability, he or she will have not just a lifetime, but an eternity, to run and leap and celebrate to the glory of God.
This is the comfort that stabilized Marshall and Susan Shelley in their profound loss, and it’s our sincere prayer that it encourages you to seek refuge from your distress in the loving arms of our Lord Jesus. If you’re unsure what it means to put your faith in Christ and follow Him as His disciple, please contact us, as we would be happy to assist you in finding a Bible-believing church in your area, where your faith can be strengthened and where you can receive support in your process of grief.