When kids ask: “Why does God let people be bad and mean?”

By Emily Powers

 

This is the conclusion of a two-part series on how Christian parents can guide their children through big and scary times, such as invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing pandemic. Part 1 is “Helping Children Process World Events.” 

 

It’s hard to process complicated and scary world events – and that’s doubly true for kids. Yesterday, I gave some tips that I have found useful in talking through these events in an age-appropriate way with my 6-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son, and helping them think and feel their way through all of this. 

 

Today, I want to address how parents can respond when their kids ask a really big question, the one my son asked after we discussed the invasion of Ukraine.

“Why does God let people be bad and mean?”

It’s a question I think we’ve all wrestled with at some point, right? If God is all-knowing, almighty and all loving, how can He stand by and watch bad things happen?

You might be wondering why I brought up such a grown-up topic with my children. It’s a valid question. We live in a world, and a time, when we ourselves are fearful of many things. Our natural instinct is to shelter those we love from pain. As a parent, I am constantly fighting the urge to create a bubble of peace and innocence around my kids. I want to take on their struggles, tune out the bad news and step out of the hard periods of discipline. 

And then I look at the big picture, the charge to raise responsible adults who can integrate their faith into the world. The reality is that nothing, outside of heaven, is fully safe. Allowing my children to experience struggles and pain allows me the opportunity to teach them how to navigate those things with grace, compassion and trust in Jesus. 

In Luke 18 we hear Jesus say, “Let the children come to me.” If my children aren’t allowed to walk through struggles or process difficult topics and ideas, I am robbing them of the need to come to Jesus. It is in our sin, our pain, our struggles, our confusion, that we see our need for a Savior. It is in uncertainty that we learn to trust our God. It is when we are confronted with ideas contrary to our own that we learn to think deeply about our faith and worldview.

When children are confronted with these things, they will have questions that bubble up. They will want help in navigating what it means to follow Jesus while understanding this big world around them. And that is when the discipleship moment happens. 

That is what happened when I discussed the situation in Ukraine with my children. My 8-year-old-son had a big question, and I had a discipleship moment.

So, I thought it might be helpful to share the conversation I had with my son. Hopefully, this can help you navigate conversations with your own kids. 

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“Why does God let people be bad and mean?”

That’s a great question, buddy. It’s a question that a lot of people have. It can be hard to know why God lets evil happen. Do you remember how God created Adam and Eve? Well, when he made people, He let them be able to make choices between right and wrong. We have bad things because Satan is real, and people make bad choices.

“But why did God have to let people make choices?”

Well, what do you think is a better friendship – one where you are forced to love someone or one where you get to choose to love someone?

“When you get to choose.”

Right. God was being kind and loving when he gave people the choice to love him or not, instead of forcing everyone to be his friend. God knows that relationships are better when people get to make the decision to be part of the friendship.

“So why doesn’t God just squish Satan and get rid of Him?”

If God got rid of Satan, he’d get rid of our option to choose and love God. And Jesus DID stomp out Satan. When Jesus rose from the dead he said, “I’m bigger and stronger than you, Satan. I’m in charge!” And Jesus IS in charge. When we are on earth we have to struggle with people having the choice between right and wrong, but in heaven, there is nothing bad or evil. There is only God and all good things that come from God. 

“I wish all people could be friends with God so the bad things wouldn’t happen.”

Me, too. And that’s our job. We get to help people see God’s love in how we act and help and talk to others. Other people see God’s goodness when we show them. And, when sad and scary things happen, we have another job, too. Our other job is to look for how God’s love is showing up in the middle of the bad things. We can see God working even when evil happens. And we can find ways to be part of the good things that God is doing.

 

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May God bless you as you lead your family through these challenging times. We here at the Church are praying that you are blessed with wisdom, patience and faith, secure in the knowledge that God does, indeed, have the whole world in His hands. If you’d like to discuss Christian parenting, I’m here, and I welcome that conversation. Just email me at epowers@livelifetogether.com. – Emily