How do I handle my children's questions about God in the midst of disaster and trauma? Over the past month our community has been devastated by a terrible flood. The physical impact of this disaster has been overwhelming, of course. But I'm also deeply concerned about what it may be doing to my children's faith in God. So far, we haven't talked a great deal about this aspect of our situation, but I can tell that they're shaken. In their own way, they're wrestling with the deeper spiritual questions these events bring up. How can I help?
Your concerns are right on target. In the immediate aftermath of a disaster basic survival has to be a parent's main concern. But sooner or later it also becomes important to address your children's faith-questions. Somehow you have to find a way to help them use this tragedy as a foundation on which to build an even stronger faith in God.
Kids have an incredible ability to ask the most insightful theological questions in the simplest ways. You can make the most of these precious opportunities by keeping the following points in mind:
- First, don't squelch the discussion. Encourage your children to grapple with hard questions. You don't have to know all the answers. You just have to be willing to engage. If you have teenagers, give them the freedom to wrestle with the theological and philosophical implications of what they're experiencing. Take time to discuss these issues openly and honestly.
- Talk about the biblical doctrine of the fall. Explain that God created a perfect world, but that it didn't stay that way. That's because He also gave each one of us the ability to choose whether we will do good or evil. Help your kids understand that sin is not just a personal problem. The Bible tells us that, in some mysterious way, its negative effects have been felt even in the physical, natural world.
- Remind your children that God loves us and that He's always with us. If we wonder where He is when disaster strikes, we have to remember that He has never moved. He's right where He was when Jesus suffered and died on the cross. No matter what happens, He has promised never to leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
When you've done everything you can, remember that God is the Help of the helpless and the Strength of those who have no strength. When your burden as a parent seems too heavy, turn to Him in prayer and learn what it means to take shelter under His everlasting arms. Lean upon the promise He has given us in His Word:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35, 38-39).
Focus on the Family has a staff of professional counselors available who would consider it a privilege to discuss your questions and concerns with you over the phone. If this option appeals to you, feel free to call us.
Parenting in the Midst of Tragedy