In just the space of just a few days in April, the nation has witnessed a terrorist bombing in Boston and a horrific explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant. It wasn’t too long ago that we watched the senseless murders in Newtown. The reality is, that as long as we live in this fallen world, we will be witnesses to tragedy. And, we may even be swept up into these events personally. While our first reaction is often stunned disbelief coupled with grief, it is essential for Christian parents to view all such events as teachable moments for our children and youth.
Now, as much as I am all about the “formal” Christian education of our children (that’s why I write curriculum!), there is just nothing quite like the “informal” education that can happen in times like this. Our children are especially teachable and open to knowledge and wisdom. So. parents, I encourage you to not miss the opportunities to teach your children this week and whenever tragedy strikes. Don’t just let your children watch the images on television and try to comprehend what life is all about on their own. Here are just a few things to teach them in these moments:
Teach them about a sovereign, good God. During tragedies, the world seems out of control. Life seems meaningless. Evil appears to be winning the day. Your children need to be reminded that God is still on the throne, even when bad things happen. He is sovereign. He is ruling perfectly. Nothing has slipped past His watchful eye or has happened outside His sovereign plan. At the same time, your children need to hear that God is GOOD. He is perfectly holy, loving, and gracious. No tragedy in this world can take away from God’s perfections and His glory. To speak in a way that diminishes God’s sovereignty or God’s goodness during these moments in history is to deny the truth of who God is. Your children need to be reminded and encouraged to trust in this glorious God.
Teach them about a fallen world. “How could this happen?” After explaining God’s sovereignty, the response to this question must be: “Because we live in a fallen, sinful world.” This answer doesn’t sit well with a lot of people. We like to think these tragedies are random, or somehow controllable (let’s make more laws, programs, policies, etc.). But your children need to learn the truth–not so they can have some hopeless, cynical view of people, but so they will look to Christ for salvation. When things are going well, it’s tempting to think that man is good, the world is good, and everything will come up roses every day. Our children need a Biblical view of this world so they can understand why terrorists attack and why disasters occur. In a fallen world, these are horribly “normal” events; and that’s why we groan for this world to be redeemed!
Teach them not to fear. Is is natural for children to become anxious and give into fear when witnessing tragedies. After seeing things on TV, many may not want to ever be a spectator at a marathon, or visit cities that may be prone to attacks, or even want to leave their own homes! Based on God’s sovereignty and goodness, you can teach them not to fear man, or Satan, or the effects of a fallen world. Follow the example of Christ, who repeatedly exhorted His disciples not to fear man–but to fear God instead. Your children need to learn to seek God’s Kingdom rather than fear the kingdom of darkness.
Teach them to think. If your children are watching the news and listening to the endless commentary, you have an opportunity to help them think through all that is being said. Especially if you have teenagers, you can begin talking about all of the political and policy issues involved. They need to learn to be discerning about what they hear, and also to think through possible solutions to tragedies. Much of the world believes that human beings can solve all human tragedy if we just try hard enough and spend enough money. We need our next generation to think Biblically about human suffering!
Teach them compassion. During tragedies, your children may react with tears and tenderness, or with a hopeless hardness of heart. The people of God are to be the most compassionate towards those who are suffering, so we must teach our children to respond in love. Our busy lives should not just continue when tragedy strikes others; instead, we must stop and look for ways to help. Your children may not be able to do a lot, but they certainly need to develop hearts of compassion. They must be taught to care. They must get their eyes off themselves and onto the burdens of others. And if there are tangible ways to show compassion, lead your children to give.
Teach them how to pray. Finally, tragedies give us opportunities to pray. Lead your children to pray–don’t just assume they will do it on their own. This one is always tough for me, and I forget it quite often. In His sovereign grace, God moves us to pray, and uses our prayers to do powerful things in the midst of terrible times. Teach your children to pray in a way that places their hope in the LORD alone, as they ask for mercy for those who are suffering.
Finally, teach them about Heaven. Times like this make believers in Jesus long for Heaven. Point the hearts of your children that way too!