Hurricane Irma has united our country as political leaders only dream of doing. Its recent predecessor, Harvey, did the same. Millions have been watching the news and weather apps, praying as one for the safety of those facing this new storm. Even while praying for these new victims, the whole country is still giving generous help to those recovering in Texas, like my brother whose flooded house has now been stripped to the studs, water-logged belongings piled outside in heaps.
Earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires, tornados, hurricanes, and floods are thankfully rare, but when they do occur they provide necessary and important opportunities to talk with your children about God, to answer their many why questions.
But let’s be honest. Our kids aren’t the only ones searching for answers.
Suffering, trials, and everyday hard things force us to look up, to step outside of our predictable routines and search for meaning and purpose as we clean up the debris.
More than any other parenting responsibility, what you teach your children about God—the theology of Who He is—will most shape who your children become and how they will manage future suffering.
Here are three big truths from the Bible to teach your kids this week as we watch Irma create havoc and destruction for too many of our fellow citizens.
1.God never intended for His children to suffer and die. If you still have electricity, read the story of creation (Genesis 1-2) aloud to your kids right out of the Bible. They need to hear every inspired word teaching us that everything God made was good and perfect.
Then reread Genesis 2:29-30 and ask the question, “What kind of food did Adam and Eve eat? What did the animals eat?” This verse explains that no one originally ate meat, which means there was no killing of animals. Even lions, tigers, and bears ate plants. Death, even the death of animals, was not a part of the Garden or God’s original design.
Then read Genesis 3. Discuss how and why everything changed forever. Especially note Genesis 3:22 which implies the fruit of the tree of life, which was not forbidden, was in the garden so Adam and Eve could eat from it and live forever. God’s original intention was life forever with no death! But after Adam and Eve sinned, God moved them out of the garden so they would not eat from that tree and live forever in their sin.
This concept is a big one. Explaining sin and death is complicated but it is the first step to helping children understand where and why suffering and death entered our world. Remind your children that we can find comfort knowing God’s heart of love never intended for any of us to die. We were the ones who messed up His perfect plan.
2. Storms will happen. The temptation as moms is to teach our children feel good verses. Like this one: “Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). Or this verse, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing” (Philippians 2:14). I liked that one best as a mom. I hoped it would work like a magic wand. Sadly, it did not.
The point is that we must teach our children all of the truth about God, even the parts that are hard. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” He does not lie, so He tells us honestly that life will be challenging.
In Isaiah 45:7, God speaks these words about Himself that are truly shocking to our human thinking. “I am the LORD, and there is no other; the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.”
What did you feel reading well-being and calamity in the same sentence? We cannot grasp this verse with our finite minds, but we dare not ignore it.
While safety and peace are to be pursued at home and in our communities, our children need to understand that permanent safety and peace will only happen one day in heaven. Moms and dads need to work hard to create a healthy home environment, but also teach that there will be storms that disrupt life. We cannot stop them any more than we can stop this hurricane or any other natural disaster.
Perhaps your children know the song about the wise man who built on the rock and the foolish one who built on the sand. The storm hit both houses, not just the house of the fool. Your job as a parent is to teach your children about the Rock, to help them build their faith on Him alone and not on a peace and prosperity gospel.
3. God can be trusted when disasters happen. How can we trust a God Who tells us He creates calamity? And why should we?
Because His character is good and pure. He never has evil motives. He acts out of justice and love toward His creatures.
How do you explain this to a child? Turnto the Bible again. Read Romans 8:28 to your child, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Talk about this promise and what it means to love God and be called to His purpose. Remind your children and yourself that God is working in literally thousands of ways in every individual life and circumstance, most of which we cannot see which is why we must believe by faith.
Two other verses of great hope and comfort are Hebrews 13:8, “He is the same yesterday, today and forever,” and “He shall be the stability of your times” (Isaiah 33:6). He never changes, which means He is always our stability, our Rock on which we stand in the storm and in uncertain times.
He can be trusted implicitly even if we don’t understand why He does what He does.
As parents, we long to protect our children, to keep them from harm and pain and loss. But we cannot isolate our children from these difficulties and more. To do so would be to create an invalid.
Yes, you must monitor how much they hear. God will give you wisdom if you ask Him to guide you. Your goal must be to grow your little people into strong men and women of godly character.
We adults often feel like the world is about to end when we are in seasons of what appears to be unusually dramatic weather or other natural disasters. But our memories are short. In the spring of 2011, massive tornados tore across the south, destroying wide swaths of towns, killing many. The Mississippi flooded towns all along its winding path to the Gulf.
What doesn’t ever change is our God and His sure Word to us.
What our children learn begins with us, moms and dads.
-Do we trust God with adversity?
-Do we complain, panic, or accuse when disaster approaches and strikes?
-Or are we modeling for our children a heart that trusts God’s character in all things?
-Are we doing our best listening to Him, following Him, watching for His provision and protection?
Take your children’s little hands and put them in the hand of Jesus. It is Jesus that they must trust, not us. It is His character of love and grace that will guide your children throughout life.
In the end, our response should be like Job who said, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” Will you trust Him as Job did?
PS. Pray with us for all those in Irma’s path, especially our ETH friend Kristy in St Augustine, Florida, for their family and their church.