Talking About Pain (and Evil) With Your Kids

2017-10-17 19.56.50.jpgI still remember the first time my oldest son noticed that something is wrong with the world.  He was around 1-½ years old, and one of his books developed a hole on one page, right over the picture of a baby’s face.  He was very upset about that hole, and together we had to mourn the loss of the previously perfect page every time we read the book, which was often.  He would point to it and make a crying, oh-no-please-fix-this sound, and I would verbalize his concern and sadness, agreeing with him that the ruined page was very sad. I often strategically attempted to skip that page, but he always remembered it and insisted on returning and repeating the ritual.

As he has grown, his disappointments have deepened, and so has his understanding of the pain and evil so prevalent in this world.  I remember watching fish together in a pond by our house, and then later he asked why Jesus ate fish, exclaiming, “Fish are for swimming, Mom–not eating!”

As his mom, I wish with my whole heart that I could totally shield and protect him from the horrors present in this world.  I don’t want him or my other children to ever experience the raw, crippling abuse that people inflict on other people.  I wish I didn’t have to explain murder, child abuse, war, starvation, lack of clean water, or genocide.  I never want to explain rape or adultery or pornography.  I don’t want to talk to them about people being killed in tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, tsunamis, earthquakes, or floods.  I don’t want them to experience physical illness, depression, paralyzing stress, or anxiety.  To sum it up, all of these things are clearly bad; and I want good for them, instead.

I want my children to live in a world free of evil, suffering, and death.  I want them to be happy and fulfilled; to have all their needs met; and to look with joy and anticipation at the coming days, months, and years ahead.  I want them to enjoy perfect relationships with people, with God, and with all of creation.

Why do I want these things?  How can I long for something I’ve never experienced myself–a perfect world free of all evil and pain?  What fuels such unrealistic hopes and dreams?

I’ve found the answer to those questions, and the source of that longing, in an ancient book written long, long ago.  The book has been carefully copied and preserved for centuries upon centuries.  Many have read it, many have misread it, and many have twisted its words to further their own selfish ambitions.  Nonetheless, it paints a sweeping picture of beauty, horror, loss…and bright hope.

In the beginning, the Creator made everything good.  Evil, suffering, and death were totally absent.  God made a paradise and filled it with beautiful trees and delicious plants.  He made the first man and woman and placed them in this perfect garden, along with lots of fascinating animals.  The man’s job was to care for the garden and the animals.  Adam and Eve had a perfect life, enjoying a perfect relationship with each other; with God; and with all of creation.  They were completely happy–they loved and knew they were loved!

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But they had an enemy who crept into their Garden of life, laughter, and light.  He whispered lies to Adam and Eve, and they believed those lies instead of believing their good Creator.  God had given them all the trees to eat from except one, the tree of knowing good and evil.  They had no concept of evil or death…until they believed the serpent, defied God, and ate from that tree.  

And then everything shattered.  

Before, they had known only good; now, they knew evil, as well.  Evil broke both them and their relationships, ruining the good that God had intended.  And their evil has spawned more evil, and that is why I have to explain horrors to my children today.

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Before Adam and Eve left God’s presence and His perfect garden, He spoke a promise.  He promised that one day, a Son would come who would crush the head of the serpent. This Promised Son would rescue both people and the world, making everything good and new again, like it was in the beginning.  This Promised Son is Jesus, and we celebrate His arrival every Christmas.  He is our hope, because He came to rescue us and make everything good and new again!

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The reason I long for a perfect world is because that’s what I was created to enjoy!  We were all made to love God, people, and all of creation, and we were all made to be loved by them.  Love is meeting the needs of another even at great cost to oneself; love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another.  Love is utterly beautiful and utterly beyond our capabilities in our current state of evil and brokenness.

Every time I have to discuss evil with one of my children, I place it in this framework:

  • The world is broken.  
  • People are broken.  
  • But we have hope, because Jesus came to rescue us and make everything good and new again, like it was in the beginning.  He came to fix all that we broke.

That’s one of the biggest reasons I wrote The Advent StorybookI wanted my kids to understand the history of evil and pain but also the hope we have in the midst of evil and pain.  People and the world won’t always be like this!  God promised to crush evil and rescue us.

 

For behold, I create new heavens

   and a new earth,

and the former things shall not be remembered

   or come into mind.

Isaiah 65:17

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