Keeping up with current events can be frightening. There are new reports of violence, murder, abuse, and devastation each and every day. Sensational stories receive the most attention and to an alert and watching child, they may cause fear and anxiety in their young, impressionable mind.
I recognized this when my oldest had to prepare a current events project two years ago which she chose to do on ISIS. As we read a few articles together and discussed the information, she asked me, “Mom, are they coming here?” Will they come for us? ISIS, was after all, in the headlines for their latest string of beheadings of Christians, westerners, and non-converts.
And today, we hear new stories of mass shootings nearly every week… Lord give us strength…
In my last post, I shared the first three things that we tell OUR children when we are talking about violence in the world around us. But to give our children better handles and ultimately set their hearts at peace, we as their parents, must first have the right perspective ourselves. We must not be cowering in fear. We must not be confused about the driving forces behind such violence. We must not view things from the ground level, but rather pull back to the 35,000 foot view in order to gain clarity on what’s happening all around us.
Once we have our own grip on things, we can share this with our children, helping them see a bigger picture without getting caught up in the frenzy of shock and fear. Of course, we adapt this information based on their curiosity (actual interest/ fear generated by the subject), their age, and maturity level. We want to be careful to NOT introduce fear into the hearts and minds of our kids by answering questions that have not yet been asked. So again, discretion for YOUR child and family is paramount to setting their minds at ease, which is the objective.
The first three things we share with our kids about violence in the world around us can be found here and help lay the foundation for a broader perspective we must take when considering the present activities in the world today. They are based on a Biblical world view meaning that we, as Christ followers, view life and the world around us, through the lens of our faith in a benevolent, sovereign God who created this world and mankind, giving us human spirits that can choose or refuse to acknowledge Him and what He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to accomplish on our behalf. That perspective gives much greater depth and clarity compared to a view of the world without it. It reminds us that we are not alone, without purpose, or without power!
The first three foundational truths are: that both good and evil DO exist, everyone has an enemy, and our battle is not against people (flesh and blood) but against spiritual forces of evil. Once we understand the overarching war which has been waged since that epic day when Eve was deceived by Satan, we can free ourselves from the grip of fear fueled by smaller battles we see happening around us.
Which brings me to the next four points…
- The Day of Christ is Approaching
Jesus told His disciples what was to come, even after he would be beaten, crucified, and risen after three days. He described near-future and distant-future events pointing to His victorious return at “end of the age.” The writer of the book of Hebrews urged Christians to continue meeting, gathering, and encouraging one another more and more as we “see the Day approaching”(Heb 10:25). Jesus Christ will indeed return and that day is now closer than it has ever been! And because of that, our enemy knows his time is short, so we must be ready for anything!
- Facing Violence May Be a Necessary Part of Following Christ
Paul told the Corinthian church that “the sufferings of Christ overflow into our lives”( 2 Cor 1:5) and that “we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body”(2 Cor 4:11).
We must understand that following Christ may result in greater struggles, persecution, and possible martyrdom as many Christians around the world have experienced. We may be “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed”(2 Cor 4:7-9). This is a disclosure statement of sorts of the cost of following Christ. We may not all face these extreme difficulties, but those who do, have eternal hope in life beyond these temporary albeit painful circumstances.
- Victims are Not Necessarily Deserving
Some Christians believe that bad things happen to bad people, because of something sinful they or their parents / grandparents must have done. This is loosely based on Old Testament practices and teaching, but is no longer the case! God spoke through the prophet Ezekiel explaining that each individual would now be responsible for his own sins (Ezek 18:19-20) and that judgment based on previous generations would no longer be a threat or an excuse for sin.
Centuries later, Jesus described an incident where a tower in Siloam fell and killed 18 people. People still believed that bad things happened to people because of extreme sins they or their parents must have committed. But he said, “Do you think they [the eighteen who died] were more guilty than all others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish”(Luke 13:4-5 ). Jesus explained that it was not about guilt or comeuppance, but that everyone must repent and do so quickly because no one knows when their end will come.
Accidents happen. Sometimes we are “at the wrong place at the wrong time.” But David wrote, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.“(Ps 139:16) and Solomon determined that “no one has power over the day of his death.”(Eccl 8:8)
Our minds want to make sense of death, to understand motive or purpose, but sometimes lives are cut short (from our perspective) and we feel better placing the blame on a person, guilt for their sins, or a poor choice. We should rather be focusing on the fragility of life and that no one has the promise of tomorrow. Therefore, we must repent as Jesus said, while we still can.
- Can We Understand or Make Sense of it All?
My answer is probably not. At least not to our full satisfaction.
Again, Solomon wrote, “No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it” (Eccl 8:17 NIV).
We have such limited capacity to completely understand the vast interplay between all of the events, people, and activities that happen in the grand scheme of this world. That is for God to know, not us. We can search and search, but it is beyond us.
Personally, this gives me freedom. Because if I fully understood everything from beginning to end, I would then feel responsible to fix it all. I cannot. You cannot either. We can only control our own self and live according to what we have already attained (understand) (Phil 3:16).
Thankfully, as I will share in my third and final post in this series, God has a plan and we have nothing and no one to fear because “He that is in us is greater than he that is in this world” (I John 4:4).
I pray that this series on speaking to our children about the violence in our world is informative and encouraging to each of you! I recognize that some of these points may or may not bring comfort to YOUR child, but that you may want additional counterpoints to these notes. For example, one of my readers suggested taking the Fred Rogers’ approach with very young children– draw their attention away from the violence and highlight the GOOD work being done all over the world! We don’t have to look very far at all to see regular people showing kindness, empathy, compassion, and love to others both near and far. We must never lose sight of the GOOD that is also happening in this world!
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