Do your kids ask tough questions that you just cannot answer? Children’s Minister Kori and I will be addressing several tough questions over the next few weeks, with help from The Bible and the book, “Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions” by Elyse Fitzpatrick & Jessica Thompson.
It is inevitable that you will have a moment where your child asks: “Why did grandma have to die? What happened to her?” or some other form of these same questions insert another family member or friend. Well I am not by any means claiming to have the way to talk about death but I know that the bible has something to say on the topic.
It seems like it was yesterday that I got a phone call at 12:30pm on March 24th of 2012 that my dad had suffered a heart attack and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. I got a second call at 12:35pm that he had died. In that moment I didn’t know I would have a daughter and now another child on the way. This now has caused me to think about how I would describe what happened to my dad, their grandfather.
This left me with a simple question: Why do people die? And what happens to them?
I realized much like many of us will:
Children begin to hear about and see images of death at a very young age. It is a universal part of our human experience, but our culture also portrays images of death on television and in video games while the rest of the world sees death all around them on a daily basis.
I know some day my daughter will have to cope with death, and that it will probably be sooner rather than later. A question you might be asking: What are they mature enough to hear?
Short answer, it depends on their age group. Preschool children see death as “reversible, temporary, and impersonal.” Children ages 5 to 9 are beginning to realize that death is final and that all living things die. Children 9+ comprehend that death is final and that they will die some day.
This whole post is morbid at this point but it all starts with the reality of death. We have a Savior that knows death and knows life. He understands the finality of death but as a Christian a follower of Jesus we will be like Him alive in heaven.
“…we are the only faith community that has a God who understand grief and loss…God the Father knows the grief of losing a son. Jesus Himself wept at Lazarus’s tomb when he faced the death of his friend.”
Understanding this can help children and bring them comfort knowing Jesus knows what its like to lose a friend. Knowing that God knows what its like to lose a son and the gravity of that.
“Experiencing grief and sadness at death is not sinful, but avoiding teaching our children about the realities of faith, life, and death is. It is wrong not only because they are missing out on the peace and freedom that comes from knowing that God is in control of everything (even death), but also because they will be left with their own ideas and confusion.”
When you say something that can be misinterpreted if taken in a concrete literal way then you leave things open for confusion about death.
For example: you tell your child or maybe they overhear you talking to someone about how the neighbor had a heart attack and fell out of bed and was dead.
The response of your child is: I am not going into a bed ever again. Why would anyone go there if you can have a heart attack and die.
Having open and honest dialogue about death is something that changes over the span of the growing up years. Waiting till death happens is not the best way of communicating with your child. Because if you wait for death to hit someone you know, then you have the struggle of your own emotions and faith to deal with as well. Your heart and mind will be hurting from the loss you are experiencing. Set the foundation now because as death will inevitably come and what you teach them now will be beneficial for them and for you in that time.
So for what to say I am going to give some extended quotes from: “Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions”
When God first created the world, there was no death. But when Adam and Eve sinned, they brought death into the world. Sin is disobeying God. Sin hurts everything it touches. It is kind of like an ugly weed that comes into a beautiful garden and makes it a big mess. When Adam and Eve sinned, they broke what was beautiful and perfect, but that is not the end of the story. Everyone will die someday, but we don’t have to be afraid of death. Jesus came to the world and made a way so that we can have life forever. Jesus even said that he has won the fight with death. We know this because when he died, he was stronger than death, and came back to life again. We will die here on earth, but if you are one of God’s kids, you will come back to life, too. Then you will live forever with him in his house. You will be in the best place. Everything that was broken will be fixed, and it will never break again. In our forever home, heaven, there will be no more death, no more sadness, no more tears.
For Ages 5-10 Years old
You know that when God first created everything there was no death in the world. We would have lived forever with each other and him. When Adam and Eve sinned, death entered the world. Anytime sin shows up, life always gets messed up. Sin occurs when we don’t obey God–when we choose that we want over what he wants. Each of us will die, but we done have to be afraid of death if we are christians. I know that death seems scary because it is forever, but there is something stronger than death. The one who created life can also destroy death. Do you know who that is? The bible tells us that Jesus created all things, and all things were created for him and through him. Jesus is the one who has beaten death. He died so that he could pay for our sins, but he also rose from the dead. He came back to life, and because he conquered death, his promise is that all who love him will, too. The promise is that you will come back to life like he did and will live with Him forever in heaven. Heaven is the one place where death will never be able to hurt anybody again. We will live forever with him there. In our forever home there will be nothing sad, nothing that makes us sick, nothing that makes us cry; there will only be happiness and love forever.
If you think your child is mature enough at this age giving only one side of the reality of death will not help. You might need to talk about the realities of hell, which becomes a clear presentation of the Gospel.
I want you to understand there isn’t just a heaven for God’s children and then nothing else for the rest of the people. There is a place called hell, and that place was made for the devil and all the people who do not believe they need God. The bible promises there will be punishment for all sin. You have been given two options: The first is that you can believe you are a sinner and you need someone to take that punishment for you. If you believe Jesus died on the cross for your sins, then he promises he has already taken all the punishment for your sin. The other option is that you have to pay for all of your sin. The punishment for sin is so great that if we choose to pay it for ourselves, it will take eternity. We can never pay for the way we have sinned against God; there is not enough time. In hell, everybody who didn’t believe in God will experience the anger of God against sin forever. But Jesus has already experienced the anger of God against sin for those who believe–for Christians. If you believe in Him, then he took your punishment, and God has no anger left for you. Hell is only for those who do not want to be with God and his son, Jesus Christ.
This in no way should become a conversation that manipulates your child. Fear of hell should not be a motivation. Prayer that the Holy Spirit will change the heart of your child would be something that happens before any conversation like this. In a child fear is temporary, love is for a lifetime.
Why do people die? In a word, sin.
What happens to them? For those that believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior, the only permanent sacrifice for sin, heaven awaits with eternity with God and Jesus Christ. For those that don’t believe they need God they will end up in hell eternally feeling God’s anger against sin.
– Death comes to everyone and every living thing.
– Death is caused by sin, but not necessarily by specific sins.
– Although a Christian will be resurrected just like he was to live with him forever.
– For the Christian, death is not a punishment; it is a release from this sin-cursed world to be with Jesus.
For more reading: 1 Corinthians 15; 1 John 3:14; 5:16; Revelation 21:1-8