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God Is in the Hard Stuff

255 pages
Barbour Publishing
ISBN 1593109245

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Talking to Your Children About the Hard Stuff in Life

By Bruce Bickel & Stan Jantz

CBN.comIt’s hard enough for adults to make sense of life’s difficulties—disease, divorce, and death (and those are just a few that start with “D”!). But just try explaining them to a child. It just may be one of the more challenging things a parent has to do.

What do you say to a youngster who wonders why a hurricane would kill so many people and leave so many more homeless? How do you explain the suffering of millions of children in Africa who have been orphaned as a result of the AIDS pandemic? What’s the best way to comfort a child caught in the middle of a custody battle?

Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz, authors of the newly released God Is in the Hard Stuff (Barbour Publishing), know how difficult it can be to talk with a child about the hard stuff in life. And they think they have some practical advice that will help.

“Children want honest answers that can help make sense of the suffering in the world,” says Bickel. “The worst thing we adults can do is avoid talking about it, hoping they will move on to another subject.”

“Most adults can wrestle with tough issues over time and still maintain a relatively normal life,” Jantz adds. “But a kid may not be able to move on until his or her questions are answered.”

Bickel and Jantz have come up with a short checklist that parents (and others who work with children) can use when talking with kids about the hard stuff in life and the suffering it can cause. Whether the topic is the latest natural disaster or the loss of the family pet, these principles will help frame the conversation.

1. Make sure you have a correct spiritual understanding of suffering.

Before you can respond to a child’s questions about suffering, you need to understand how suffering fits into the world and, more importantly, how suffering fits into God’s plan for the world. If a child has been taught that God loves them, he or she may want to know why a loving God could allow such bad things to happen.

2. Determine your child’s degree of interest.

Before you begin to offer explanations and insights into a particular issue, make sure you know the level of your child’s interest. A younger child who just wants a simple answer may be overwhelmed if you try to say too much.

3. Emphasize the sovereignty of God (but don’t use words like “sovereignty”).

If a child is asking questions about suffering, it’s not too early to introduce the concept of the sovereignty of God. A child who is troubled by a world where it seems like God doesn’t care needs to be reassured that He is in control. Just because God is allowing certain things to happen does not mean He is unable or unwilling to help us.

4. Bring an eternal perspective to your conversation.

It’s important to talk to children about heaven, not as some fairy-tale place, but as a real eternal home that God is preparing for them. If a child understands that there is more to life than our present difficulties, he or she will be much better equipped to handle them.

5. Endure your own suffering with a proper perspective.

Children are incredibly perceptive. If they sense that you have not placed your own struggles into an eternal perspective, they will be less likely to listen to what you have to say. Have you committed your own burdens and trials to God? Do you trust Him for the outcome? Your own faith in the sovereign God who loves you will be a great comfort to your children.

These are not easy issues to deal with—neither for adults nor children. But they need to be addressed, because suffering is a part of our world. “Suffering of any kind is hard,” the authors write, “but it’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, those who suffer gain a perspective on life and an appreciation for God that others do not have.”

Related Links:

Read an excerpt of God is in the Hard Stuff.

Visit the authors' Web site.

Article used with permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.


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