How great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the Lord’s thoughts?
Who knows enough to give him advice?
Part of parenting means answering tough faith questions. And the older our kids get, the harder the questions seem. It’s so tempting to side-step those questions! Or worse offer up pat answers. I ought to know. I’ve done both more than I want to admit.
BUT, if we really want to nurture our kids’ faith we’ve got to enter in to their struggles with them, without feeling like we have to package everything up nice and neat. Walking alongside them doesn’t mean knowing the perfect answer but it does mean processing along with them.
Recently a friend asked me this question. Since everyone I know has grappled with the same issue, I thought I’d share her question here:
“Death and healing have been issues in our family for the last 3 years. My mother died after she had a small stroke, ended up in hospice, and died shortly after. My sister’s husband died of cancer after 4 years of suffering. In both instances, our families prayed for healing. I want my kids to know that God answers prayer and that he heals but how do I explain situations like these?”
What to say. What not to say.
Good question. Really hard answer. And the answer will be a “messy” one, one that isn’t packaged up neatly.
- Don’t try to explain what you don’t know.
- Do focus on what you do know.
You don’t know the reason why your mom died or why your brother-in-law wasn’t healed from cancer. Even if you did, when you’re grieving, often no answer is good enough. It just hurts too much. I remember when someone very close to me died. We had prayed. We had believed. (Okay, there were days when I wasn’t quite sure but you get the gist.) When they died, my heart just ached. At that point, I wouldn’t have been receptive to any reason. No reason would bring that person back and let me hug them again.
Instead have conversations about what you do know. When your child asks, “If God heals, why didn’t he heal auntie? Why didn’t he heal grandma?,” they’re really asking…
- Can I trust what God says…about healing, about prayer? Is he trustworthy?
- If bad things happen, how do I really know God loves me? Is he really loving?
These real questions have to do with God’s character. So instead of trying to answer “why” questions–which honestly are going to get you so tangled up you won’t know up from down–have conversations that point to God’s character.
God is always good; he is always love (Psalm 23:6; 1 John 4:8). His character doesn’t change, regardless of what happens. Rather than interpreting what you do know (God is love) in light of what you don’t (why they died), interpret what you don’t know in light of what you do.
God does heal today. Jesus and his disciples healed. Jesus is the same person yesterday, today, and forever. The same Spirit that lived inside him lives in us. And God tells us to pray for healing (Jas 5:14-16).
But God isn’t a vending machine. You can’t stick faith and a fistful of prayers in the slot and expect to get out what you ordered. It’s not a cop out to say that God has wisdom that goes beyond what we can understand.
I guess I’d add one more thing. When someone gets sick, our first response is to pray. Before that it’s important to be still before God, wait and listen to him. George Muller, an amazing man of prayer, said that 90% of our problem is letting go of what we want and listening to what God says.
Several months after our family member was diagnosed with a terminal illness, I was praying for them one morning. As I was reading the Bible my eyes rested on Psalm 116:15. “The Lord cares deeply when his loved ones die.” I can’t explain it, but in that moment, I knew the Lord would not heal them but that their death would be precious to him, something he wouldn’t take lightly. That wasn’t the answer I’d hoped for, though, so I shoved it aside, clinging instead to what I wanted. Years later God reminded me that he’d tried to tell me what was going to happen. I hadn’t listened. So before you pray, ask God for direction.
Copyright © Carol Garborg 2018