We have gathered here at this small grave in order to honor the departure of a small child of God. Through Christ, what we share together on this occasion is a mixture of grief, sympathy, joy, and hope.
The reasons for the grief are obvious. The Tutinos were looking forward to this additional great joy for their family, but then through the providence of God those expectations were abruptly and suddenly denied. This is a profound grief, and so we all grieve together. The sympathy is understandable as well. Every mother understands how a woman’s entire body is transformed in the expectation of giving birth, and then to have that expectation denied is a profound physical and emotional trial.
But how could there be joy? How is there hope?
We know from Scripture that real grief is not inconsistent with real joy. We can have joy down at the bedrock level, even at the same time that sorrows grow in the topsoil above. The apostle Paul experienced this combination—“as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Cor. 6:10, NKJV). Sorrow and joy are not exclusionary opposites. The joy we have in Christ does not make sorrow impossible, but it does give meaning to the sorrow because it provides direction for the sorrow, and a promised fulfillment for it, a fulfillment that will be of quite a different character. What is planted in sorrow, as we are doing here today, will be harvested in unspeakable, ineffable, and everlasting joy.
And of course, we have this hope because as Christians we confess our faith in the resurrection of the dead. Every one of us here will live forever, and this most certainly includes Anna Hisae Tutino.
We know all these things from Scripture generally. But does Scripture speak to the issue of stillbirth specifically? Yes, it does. Not surprisingly, one of the passages that refers to it treats it as a straight negative—it is used as part of a curse that David applies to his enemies (Ps. 58:8). In that place we see that stillbirth is a consequence of the fall, and as such, it is thought of as a disaster, one that is fittingly included in a curse on David’s enemies.
But that is not the whole story. As believers in Christ, as Reformed Christians, as members of His covenant, we believe that God writes the story of the world perfectly. Not only so, but we believe that the same thing is true for every part of the Lord’s body. He writes our individual story lines perfectly. What you and I go through—including this grief—is part of God’s purpose and plan for us. We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which includes what we are doing here today in this graveside service (Eph. 2:10). The circumstances of our lives are hand-stitched for us, tailormade for us. Our griefs are fitted to us exactly, as well as our joys.
But this also includes Anna and her short life. The circumstances of her life were hand-stitched for her, and what is a blessing for us would not have been a blessing for her. What has been a blessing for her—going straight to glory—would not have been a blessing for us. If it would have been the best thing for us, then that is what God would have given us (Rom. 8:28). Our God does all things well, which means that He apportions all things well.
This is why Job, in one of his moments of despair, envied the lot of a stillborn child. “Or why was I not hidden like a stillborn child, like infants who never saw light?” (Job 3:16, NKJV). But, as we can see from the conclusion of the book of Job, this moment of dark envy was misplaced. Job’s actual story was best for Job, as the end of it revealed. But a corollary follows. The lot of a stillborn child is still God’s perfect best for that child.
So we see that stillbirth is considered in one place as a simple negative, such that it could be used in a curse. And we also see that Job, in the midst of his affliction, could consider the lot of a stillborn child as enviable—even though he was mistaken as regards the trajectory of his life.
But there is still one more comparison. Scripture teaches that the blessing of being stillborn is actually better than the lot of many people who are in positions of external privilege. There are a number of people who possess many material blessing but they cannot seem to be able to squeeze any true satisfaction out of them. There are quite a few people who are rich, but like the man in Christ’s parable, are not “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).
This is how the Preacher put it:
“A man to whom God has given riches and wealth and honor, so that he lacks nothing for himself of all he desires; yet God does not give him power to eat of it, but a foreigner consumes it. This is vanity, and it is an evil affliction. If a man begets a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with goodness, or indeed he has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better than he—”
Ecclesiastes 6:2–3 (NKJV)
All of this taken together resolves in our resurrection hope. If there is no resurrection, as Paul argued, then what’s the point of anything? Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die (1 Cor. 15:32). But just a few verses down, Paul also says that our labors in the Lord are not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). The labors may be little compared to others, but through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, the labors of Anna Hisae Tutino have been welcomed into glory.
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”” (, NKJV)
John 11:25–26 (NKJV)
And as Samuel Rutherford once said:
“The child hath but changed a bed in the garden, and is planted up higher, nearer the sun, where he shall thrive better than in this out-field moor-ground.”
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.