We were recently asked if we could write a blog answering this commonly asked question.
While everybody wrestles with this topic at some point in their lives, there’s no easy answer. Many Christians fall back to a very trite, and often unsatisfying reply, simply concluding that “It must be part of God’s plan”. This is easy to say when we’re offering counsel to others who are suffering, but it’s a difficult pill to swallow when we’re the ones hurting.
There’s certainly no one-size-fits-all answer, and in most cases, there’s really no way to know exactly why we experience certain types of suffering. But we should know how to respond to this question, particularly when our children are the ones searching for answers.
As parents, the most important thing to remember is to tell our kids the truth. And the truth is that we really don’t know the specific reasons behind most trials. What we do know is that God’s Word is true, and it has a lot to say about pain and suffering. When we encourage our children to examine their trials through the eternal lens of Scripture, their focus will shift from the temporal to the eternal; from short-term struggles to everlasting joy.
Here are just a few simple truths that might help your children appreciate trials from a Biblical perspective.
When God first created the universe, it was perfect. In fact, in Genesis 1:31, God Himself looked upon all that He had made, and declared it to be “very good”. It wasn’t until Adam and Eve disobeyed God that pain and suffering entered the world.
So what if your children ask, “Then why did God allow Adam and Eve to sin?”
Perhaps you could try answering this question with another question. “What do you think would make Mom and Dad happier – if you were forced to obey us, or if you chose to obey us out of your love for us?” In John 14:23, Jesus explained that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments, so it’s significant that our children understand that out of love flows heartfelt obedience.
God chose to give the first couple free will to choose whether to love and obey Him. God’s reward for obedience is blessing and the joy of knowing that we’re His children (1 John 2:3, Psalm 128:1). On the other hand, the consequences of disobedience and sin is death (Romans 6:23). And because of Adam and Eve’s original sin, death and suffering will always be present until the day Christ returns.
While God allows us the freedom to make choices, our children need to understand that those choices have consequences. But they should also recognize that perfection isn’t attainable because we no longer live in that perfect world that God first created.
Our goals are usually rooted in the pursuit of happiness, but the Bible teaches that God’s will for us is to be holy and more Christ-like (Philippians 2:5, 1 Thessalonians 4:3). What’s so remarkable is that He has the power to turn our bad choices into something good (Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28).
In the scope of eternity, our present trials are like a blip on a screen. 2 Corinthians 4:17 says, “for our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” It’s important that our kids know how fleeting life really is (James 4:14), and to be eager to redeem the time while they’re on this earth (Ephesians 5:16).
Even though we don’t deserve it, our Savior willingly suffered and died for our sins. There’s simply no greater love than this (John 15:13), so the least we can do is respond with a willingness to temporarily suffer for God’s glory out of our love for Christ.
While our children may not fully comprehend the purpose of pain and suffering, we should remind them to trust in the Lord, not try to figure things out, continually acknowledge God, and trust Him to direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Our kids need to be encouraged to face trials with joy (James 1:2), and to keep pressing on and forgetting those things that are behind them (Philippians 3:12-14). And the more they look onto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of their faith (Hebrews 12:2), the less they will be concerned about getting explanations for the brief suffering that they experience on this earth.
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