I remember the feeling of being huddled in our basement during a tornado warning when my big kids were preschoolers. My husband was at work, they were afraid, I was nervous - tornadoes and lightning (along with spiders...) are high up on my list of biggest fears.
Everything in me wanted to look into their wide eyes and confidently assure them, "Nothing bad will happen! We are safe! God will protect us!" The words were on the tip of my tongue. I wanted to say them. I wanted to believe them. I wanted to see them relax in the reassurance that we were invincible.
Except that it's not true, and I couldn't say it. I've seen too many people wrestle with ramifications of this bad childhood theology that was drilled deeply into their view of the world from a young age.
Because the truth is that this world is utterly broken. Creation groans. People sin. Tornadoes strike. Diseases rage. People die. Bad things do happen - all the time. I don't want them to face these realities and come to the conclusion that God doesn't love them, or He isn't good, or He isn't powerful enough, or He's just a childhood platitude you grow out of like Santa or the Tooth Fairy.
As we walk through this pandemic and quarantine, how can we give our kids sturdy faith that is grounded in the truth? Here are some core truths I want to repeat to them (and to myself) over and over.
God is good.
Really, really good. There is no darkness in Him. He is worthy of our trust.
Psalm 36:5, Psalm 57:10, Psalm 106:1, Psalm 145:9
He has not forgotten us, and He is with us.
God never promises that bad things won't happen. 100 out of 100 of us will die - the world is cursed and our bodies are broken; all creation is groaning for redemption (Romans 8:22-23). But what does He promise us? He is with us, and we are never alone. When we face suffering and hardship of many kinds, God uses it all for His good purposes.
Luke 12:6-7, Psalm 23, John 14:15-16, Hebrews 13:5b-6
The world is broken, but will one day be fully restored.
Creation is groaning, as mentioned above (Romans 8:22-23). This world is not as it was meant to be. Our sin and the curse has created a deep brokenness. Jesus has redeemed us spiritually and His resurrection promises that one day He will redeem us physically and all things will be restored and made new. What a day that will be! We aren't there yet, and we see suffering and sadness all around us now, but that doesn't mean He has forgotten us.
Our kids don't need platitudes. They need the whole truth - they need the gospel. They need to know that God is good and created all things good (Genesis 1). They need to know that sin is the root behind why everything has gone wrong. Why diseases ravage and people do awful things and the creation itself seems to be unraveling at the edges. They need to know that God loved us so much that He sent His only Son to deliver us from our own rebellion - and that one day all will be set right. They need to know that the gospel speaks to everything.
It would have been easier to look at my kids that day in the basement and tell them not to worry because God wouldn't let anything bad happen. But instead, I told them the fuller truth, the truer truth. That God is trustworthy, that He loves us so much, that He is great and nothing is out of His control - and that even if, even when bad things happen, we can trust Him because He loves His children and He is with us. That He weeps with us.
Is it confusing? Yes. That's why it's a walk of faith. But in the years since that day in the basement, we have faced cancer and death in our extended family. We have grieved through the broken system of foster care. We've been wounded by people's sin and selfishness. We've said very hard goodbyes. And you know what? I'm so grateful we've been telling them the truth all along. The whole truth.
That the world is broken.
That they will suffer.
That their hurt is real and valid.
That Jesus sees and knows.
That He is with them.
That we will never fully understand this side of heaven, but we can trust Him.
Lord, grow in them a sturdy faith, a robust and honest theology, a tenacity to trust You when life doesn't make sense to us.
Help me to tell them the truth.
Suggested resources to help you and your family see and discuss the truer truth:
Kevin DeYoung's The Biggest Story book and film - this is also available on Right Now Media if you have an account
"The Riot and the Dance" film - I love how Dr. Gordon Wilson addresses what it means that creation is groaning
N.D. Wilson's Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl - I'm not sure how many times I've read this book. It's a creative work and probably not equally enjoyed by everyone. But I find it to be a profoundly satisfying reflection on the mystery and wonder of life on this beautiful and badly broken planet.
John Piper's "Look at the Book" study of Romans 8:22-25 - This whole series is wonderful, but I find this particular video challenging and helpful as he digs into what it means that creation is groaning and we are longing for redemption. He calls this the great corrective to the prosperity gospel.