How can I teach my kids anything about God when I don't fully understand who He is? This is something that most Christians seem to take for granted, but I have to confess that it's always been hard for me to grasp. Given my own difficulties in this area, how can I possibly be of any help to my children?
Here's the intriguing thing about the problem you've posed. You're afraid that you won't be able to explain God to your children because you struggle with understanding Him yourself. The Bible, on the other hand, says that you can never really grasp God's nature until you learn to look at Him through your children's eyes. In other words, it's not so much a question of teaching your kids about God as it is of learning something from them.
Remember the words of Jesus: "Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it" (Luke 18:17). Here, as in so many other areas of the spiritual life, Jesus turns our human expectations inside-out and upside-down. The point, of course, is that knowing God is not a matter of mastering difficult theological concepts or immersing yourself in esoteric mystical experiences. It's all about childlike trust.
You can help your children understand God, then, by nurturing their inborn sense of wonder. You can also encourage their confidence by reminding them that they have an unseen Heavenly Father Who watches over and cares for them. Take them outside on a clear evening, have them look up at the millions of stars in the sky, and ask them, "How do you think all of those stars got there?" As opportunities arise – for example, when they're scared by a thunderstorm or unable to sleep because of worries about monsters under the bed – talk to them about what it means to snuggle up in bed as if they were resting in His lap. Help them find their security in His strong love. They'll know exactly what you mean. This kind of thing comes natural to them.
That's just a beginning, of course. Scripture tells us that we're all born with an innate sense of God's reality and an inkling of what it is He wants from us (Ecclesiastes 3:11; Acts 17:26-28; Romans 1:19, 20). But the Bible also makes it plain that we cannot know God clearly and accurately apart from the self-revelation He's given us in Jesus Christ. "No one has seen God at any time," writes John. "The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him" (John 1:18). And Jesus Himself says, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). Everything we need to know and are capable of understanding about God is summed up in His incarnate Son (Colossians 1:15-20).
So if you want your kids to understand God, introduce them to Jesus. Start by getting yourself a good Children's Bible – one with lots of colorful pictures. Focus on the Family offers a number of resources of this kind, including The Illustrated Children's Bible and The Story for Children. Read them stories from the Gospels. Open up the Scriptures and tell your kids how Christ changed the water into wine, healed the man born blind, and touched and cleansed the leper. Or how He multiplied the loaves and fishes, walked on the water, and took the little children on His knee. If you do this, your children won't simply grow in terms of their knowledge of God – they'll also learn to love Him as never before. In the process, you may find your own spiritual life expanding at a rate you never imagined.
If you need help applying these ideas and suggestions, call our pastoral counselors. They'd love to discuss your questions and concerns with you over the phone.
Helping Kids Grow Spiritually: Elisa Morgan offers her ideas for helping children understand God.
Focus on the Family's The Truth Project
Spiritual Growth for Kids