11:30. Sunday Morning. I was sitting in my church. We were in our Life Group. The lesson talked about Thomas. You know. The doubting disciple. He had heard that a resurrected Jesus had been seen by many. Yet he couldn’t believe it without seeing it. So Jesus showed Thomas His hands. He asked Thomas to feel the scar in His side. Thomas had to see, hear and experience Jesus before he could believe that what he had heard was real.
11:30. Sunday Morning. A few hours south of where I live, there were brothers and sisters of mine gathered in a small, rural church. Probably finishing their song service and getting ready to hear the message God had for them that day. But instead of a sermon, they encountered the very heart of evil.
While I was still walking by faith in the unseen, they were walking by sight. Many of them stepped out of an earthly worship service into a heavenly one. What I simply read about, they were experiencing. They were meeting Jesus, face-to-face.
As a parent, I know well the struggle we have in trying to help our children understand things like Sutherland Springs. Whether 911 or Sandy Hook or Columbine, I’ve been confronted with helping my own children process tragedy. There is never an easy way to introduce our innocent children to the horrors of a world wrapped in sin and infected by the evil one. So, as you process your own thoughts and beliefs over such tragedy, here are some considerations as you try to help your children.
Be honest with your children. While you can curb your news-viewing while they are around, all of our kids, from preschool to high school will be exposed to the events in our society. Whether it’s a Vegas concert or a small church worship service, our kids may not know details, but they know something terrible and very frightening has happened. When they ask questions, I’ve always found it better to be honest. They feel things they can’t always express. They absorb our reactions even when we try to hide them. They sense our own fear and horror at these events. While they don’t need to know everything, they need to have their questions answered honestly.
However, keep responses age-appropriate. Older children and teens need an outlet to process much more of the event than small children. Older children have the capacity to discuss and process evil and its impact and origin. Younger children need to know that there are bad people who sometimes do bad things, but that you are there to keep them safe. Don’t discount their fear. Rather, comfort their fear with reassurance. Teaching them the power of prayer to bring comfort and God’s presence is a great tool to help them overcome their own anxiety.
Affirm their desire to do something to help. Sometimes, we feel a level of control over tragedy when we can do something to help. If your children indicate an interest in doing something to help, do what you can to guide and encourage their desire. Maybe it is to write notes or draw pictures to send those who are hurting. It might be doing extra chores around the house to earn some money to send to victims through community-established donation outlets. Whatever they voice a desire to do, affirm their desire to help and do what you can to make it happen.
There are no explanations. There are no answers. But there is hope. There is comfort. There is courage in the face of fear.
Jesus said it best. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33