Who is God: Teaching Kids About God and His Nature

girl with her face in a sunflower

My family was sitting around the table one Sunday evening, enjoying an all-too-frequent dinner selection of pizza, carrot sticks and root beer. Our daughters were chatting about the morning at church. It was all light and fun, but then 6-year-old Isabelle turned things serious: "I believe in God, and I love Jesus so much. But I can never hear God. Why can't we hear God or see God?"

I suppose most kids ask a similar question, a natural response after studying the dramatic scriptural accounts of God’s revelation to His people. God spoke, often with smoke and fire and burning bushes. He instructed His people and declared His truth. Who hasn't wondered why He doesn't speak with that same audible clarity today?

It's not a question parents can answer in a tidy sound bite. Recognizing when God speaks, when His Word gives instruction to our lives or when His Spirit nudges us in a certain direction, is an ongoing part of every faith journey. But my response that night wasn't about the Bible or the Holy Spirit. I told my daughter that when I see and hear the things God has made, it's very much like I am hearing and seeing Him.

A simplistic answer, perhaps. And certainly not the end of that conversation. But creation is an important part of God's revelation to humankind. No, we can't fully understand God's message without encountering the truth of His Word and the gift of His Son, but for kids just becoming aware of what a faith in "things not seen" really means, this hearable, seeable, touchable world gives parents a powerful opportunity to reinforce key aspects of God's character.

His Glory

One rainy evening a few years back, we were shopping for kids' shoes when I turned to see Isabelle standing perfectly still in the main aisle, staring toward the front of the store. From where I stood, I couldn't see anything interesting. A few clothing racks, some checkout lanes.

"Izzy," I said, "can you come here?"

She didn't respond. Couldn't respond, it seemed. I walked over and knelt down next to her. From her angle, I could see out through the windows at the front of the store. A stunning sunset was breaking through the rain clouds and enflaming the western sky. It was changing quickly—a dark front was rumbling in to re-shroud those brilliant colors—so I stayed down next to my daughter. "It's like God made a painting that moves," I said.

Isabelle was only 2 at the time, four years before she would ask why she couldn't see or hear God, but the moment assured me of the truth of the psalmist’s words: “The heavens declare the glory of God.” (Psalm 19:1). Yes, at times God may feel distant and “wordless,” but other times His proclamations and presence are truly undeniable—to young and old alike. As parents, do we stop amid the flurry of family life to recognize those moments when the King throws back the curtains to declare His glory?

His Power

My girls have all gone through a little stage where they enjoy understanding the differences between the things God has made and the things people have made. They'll ask if God made the moon, the elephants at the zoo, the houses on our street, those really big telephone poles. Of course, there are really only two answers to these questions: 1) God made it, or 2) People made it using stuff that God made.

I've enjoyed watching my girls grow in their awareness of the sheer scale of God's creativity and power—power to design the rhinoceros and the rain forests, snowflakes and the solar system. No, we can’t yet look upon God’s face, but His power and divine nature surround us and are “clearly perceived” by the things that have been made (Romans 1:20).

I was saying good night to my youngest daughter, 3-year-old Lexi, after a day spent at a nearby reservoir. "Did God really make all those mountains?" she asked.

"Yes," I said. "And the birds and the trees."

"Well," Lexi said, settling in with Ella, her stuffed elephant, "He must have really big hands."

I suppose most kids don’t progress too far beyond a “big hands” notion of a super-intelligence who governs the cosmos. Not that we as parents can truly comprehend the scope of that majesty, either. But a limited understanding shouldn’t stop us from appreciating, with our kids, that this world clearly demonstrates the power and divinity of the Creator.

His Goodness

Does nature reveal God’s love? Scripture teaches that God's love was primarily demonstrated to us in the sacrifice of His Son (Romans 5:8). But the apostle Paul also taught that God uses nature to testify to His goodness, giving "rains from heaven and fruitful season, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17). I think we all experience some degree of God’s love and goodness to us when we enjoy the sights and sounds and tastes of this world. A friend once said, "I don't know how you can't believe in God's love once you've had a really good mango.”

We can't grow mangos in our family’s backyard, but we have some raspberry bushes and a few fruit trees. On mornings in late summer, our girls enjoy running down to the garden to see if any berries are “ready”—not that being unready ever prevents them from enjoying these tastes of God’s goodness.

As you raise your children to understand the reality of God's love, study Scripture together and thank Him for the gift of His Son. But if you can ever do this while sharing a bowl of fresh fruit—all the better.

His Redemption

"Why doesn't God just make it rain?" my oldest daughter, Mikayla, asked one evening last June as a wildfire raged near our community. It was the second blisteringly hot summer in a row that wildfires were a big part of our conversations and prayers.

Natural disasters can seem incompatible with our view of a world created by an all-powerful, all-loving God. But kids will also wonder why this world is filled with all other manners of misery and death. Scorching deserts and deadly cold winter nights. Vicious hyenas. Cancer. Did God really make these things?

Not all of them, or at least not in their current state. Yes, this world was crafted by God, and in it we see His glory and power and love reflected, but we can't forget that this world has been sickened by the consequences of sin. Creation, Paul wrote, continually suffers the pains of its "bondage to corruption" (Romans 8:21).

I don't know if we can help our kids see a clear-cut distinction between God's perfect design and our fallen world, although it's difficult to imagine a pre-fall Eden with tornadoes and man-eating tigers. But we can always remind our children that sin brought all death into this world, and the infection remains to this day.

The story doesn't end there, however. Someday God's redemption will be complete. Just as God saved us, so too will He redeem all the things He has made. And we who trust in the Savior will experience the full glory of the Creator—and of His creation (Romans 8:18-25).

This article first appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of Thriving Family magazine.

Copyright © 2014 by Focus on the Family.

Next in this Series: Engaging Your Teen

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