Like most of you I'm sure you have had some deep conversations with your kids lately about why things happen and the fears that might bring up in them. Things like the Boston bombings, earthquakes and tornados always bring up a sense of fear in my children that I want to protect them from, but also expose them to. I do want to shelter my children from these things, and yet at the same time I don't want to shelter them from this at all. Let me explain what I'm saying here.
First off I do want to shelter my kids from the craziness of this world. There are so many things that are too much for their innocent brains and hearts to bear. We hardly ever have the news on during our kids waking hours because it's too much for them. They don't need to be burdened with the evil in the world. They are too young for this. So this leads me to want to protect their hearts. When tragedy does strike we will talk about it, but leave out most of it because it's too much for them.
But on the other hand I want to expose them to evil, tragedy and suffering because the truth of the matter is that none of us are exempt from these things in life. Evil is lurking all around us and we don't get to pick where it strikes. Tragedies happen daily in the world and we know good and well from movie theatre shootings to race bombings that you don't get to be safe anywhere anymore. There is no more safe. And if I never expose my children to suffering their world be turned even more upside down when tragedy does strike our family, and the odds are that it will strike us sometime.
So how do I go about this with my kids? How do I protect them and yet expose them at the same time? Here's what we do in these situations. I'll use the OK tornado and the Sandy Hook shooting as an example since it's fresh on our minds. My kids do know about this tornado because we have had the news reports on about it. But they don't know everything and I don't think they should. Do they need to know that kids drowned in the basement of the school? No, that's information that's too much for them. My kids know about the Sandy Hooks shooting because I told them before their teacher or friends could. Do they need to know all the details about how the shooter killed those childcare? Nope, that is too much for them.
We have told our kids about these tragedies and sufferings, but only age level appropriateness. They don't need to know it all.
Secondly, we teach our kids that this did not surprise God. He's still in control and he hasn't left us or abandoned us during trials and sufferings. I want my kids to know that God's word says that he “accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph 1:11). All things, not just the good things. I want my kids to know that God's word says that he “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt 5:45). I want them to know that no one is exempt from hard times. It's not bad people that have bad things happen to them. We can't be good enough to escape trials and sufferings.
When Amos asked why the tornado happened and I explained like I always do, that we don't know, but God was not surprised by that tornado and he wasn't caught off guard. He didn't turn his head to talk to someone and low and behold a disaster happened. God was there the whole time, for his word says “He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who make lightings for the rain and brings forth the wind from this storehouses” (Psalm 153:7).
Amos then asks the question we are all asking, and that's why. Why would God do this? Why would God be in control when a disaster strikes and people die. I tell him the same thing I always tell my kids when they ask this question, and that's that I don't know. I don't know why God would chose this route, but I do trust him. I do believe that he is in control. Those verses above that I quoted assure me of that. I tell my kids that God's word tells us that he's a part of everything in this world and nothing is by chance or luck. Amos 3:6 says “Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city unless the LORD has done it?”
Here's what I want my kids to know.
God is in control. Eph 1:11
God has not left us. Matt 6:26
God is in the good and the bad, and this brings us hope and peace when the bad strikes. Amos 3:6, Gen 50:20,
God is not beat by disaster/trial/suffering. He uses it to bring us closer to him. James 1, John 16:33, Romans 5:3
So, when tragedy strikes our family in disease, death, or natural disaster, I want my kids to cling to the hope that God is with us. He hasn't turned his back on us through tragedy, instead he is bringing us closer to him. Suffering leads us to persevere and to joy. May this be what my children learn in life. Tragedy will happen to us. We can still stay strong through suffering. Not by our own measures, but because of Jesus and what he's done for us.