Deborah commented below,
How are other people dealing with yesterday’s events in Boston? It really hit home for me – I knew people running yesterday. Plus, if I were to have run it, I would have finished close to that time. So during Faith 5 last night, I mentioned that as my low. My kids are young (6 and 3) and I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to expose them to something like that so young. I certainly didn’t want to create any fear in their lives, but I did a watered down version (some people got hurt because a bomb went off) and we prayed for those people who got hurt. But my son (the 6 year old) made a comment that God can’t help. I asked him later to elaborate and he told me that when we pray for things (ie God help dad’s finger feel better, dad’s finger still hurts). I tried explaining that God works in his own way and it may not be what we want it to be, but I’m not sure if he’s too young to understand that concept. Any advice?
Thanks Deborah for the question and for sharing your experience last week. These are universal questions – why do bad things happen to good people? if God is a loving God why do bad things happen? If we pray to God and ask for something in prayer why doesn’t God do it?
The issue of “theodicy” or an attempt to resolve the problem of evil in our world with the omniscient, all-loving, all-powerful God. And there is no “one answer” that anyone can offer. These are questions that can’t be answered in a simple, cut-and-dry format. But they are questions that are incredibly common and have some benefit in wrestling with.
When the questions are struggled with by children, it raises a whole other level of difficulty. But our kids are often much more advanced in their thinking than we give them credit – so my first response is don’t “discount” the questions or statements that point to this struggle. Like Deborah – ask your child to talk more about what they are struggling with. Ask them what they are feeling when they are asking these questions. And then them know that these questions are okay to ask, and that it is okay to not have an answer.
The other piece I would note is that simply bringing up the difficult questions and struggles in conversation creates a space of strength and security. Rich Melheim, the creator of Faith 5 calls this “the Voldemort Effect.” He writes,
There is great power in being able to speak the name of your problems out loud. I call this the “Voldemort Effect,” after the evil beingin the Harry Potterseries by J. K. Rowling. No one dared speak hisname aloud except Harry.
“He who shall not be named” holds a mysterious and sinister
grip on everyone—a hidden power—until the Harry Potters of the
world decide, “We are not going to remain silent. We will not cower
as captives to fear. We are going to name that sucker out loud. We
are going to call him what he is and who he is so that we can deal
with the real problem, not the myth. We are going to draw him out
into the open, and then kill him together or together die trying!”
A strange and wonderful thing happens the moment you dare
speak the name of “he who shall not be named” aloud. A subtle but
significant power transfer begins. The moment the silence is broken, the power starts to drain away from its sinister source and move
in the direction of those who dare deal with it.
In that moment, if spoken aloud and shared within the confidence of a loving family or a trusted family of friends, the newly
transferred power begins to grow, strengthen and multiply. There,
in the hands and hearts of the people who love you and want the
best for you, a treasure trove of solutions, allies, creativity and untapped resources suddenly spring to the surface. The Rebel Alliance,
the Elves, the Hobbits, the students of Hogwarts and the Narnians
are emboldened as they suddenly see that they have a chance.
Okay, too many mixed “narraphors.” You get the point. As for
Lord Voldemort, let’s just say, “Leave him unnamed and he grows
each day; name him aloud and he shrinks away.”
The other note I would add is that there is a great power in talking about how God created us good and we turned from God. The sin/evil that we do – to others, to ourselves, to the environment around us – is our own, and the ripple effects of those are felt by others. God didn’t cause the bombings, or Dad’s sore finger, or the deaths in the explosion at the fertilizer plant in TX. But God is there in the midst of the brokenness, in the midst of the violence, in the midst of the tears, in the midst of the pain. God knows the pain we experience, as Jesus took on our human form and lived our lives. He stubbed his toes, he was hurt by friends, he grieved the death of loved ones, and he was beaten and died a most brutal death on the cross. This doesn’t take away the pain, the questions, the fear – but it does point to God’s promise to be with us in the darkest parts of our lives and to indeed rise out of the darkness in newness and life.
So let your kids and yourself know that it is okay to ask these questions or struggle with these elements of life and faith that don’t seem to connect. Then create space to sit and wander in these questions together. Pray about it together. Ask them what they feel. Invite them to express their thoughts in drawings, in words, in song – or write a letter to God, or to the families who lost loved ones, or one of the folks recovering, or even a letter to the accused who sits in custody telling him that God loves him and that there are people who are praying that he comes to know his evil acts and repent of them.
You, as the parents, are the ones to determine how much and what to share with your kids – but invite them to talk. Because if they’ve heard about this tragedy, they most likely have questions and simply having a safe space to share those will make the most difference.
Prayers surround you and all who engage these difficult parts of our lives and know that Pastor David and I are around to help.
~ Pastor Kim