Talking to Children About Suffering

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I’m burdened this week by many things. Many of these burdens are on behalf of others. I’m talking about learning the language of lament and teaching it to our children today at WORLDMag.com.

How do you talk about tough things with your own children?

PS: Joanne, I’m praying for you. Rob, I’m praying for you too.

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It is so easy to be affected by the suffering all around us. And to some extent we should be, shouldn’t we? We are to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn, which can seem a hard pill to swallow when it comes to involving our kids in the suffering of others. Yet, somehow we are supposed to do that, too, to an extent.

It isn’t hard to expose our children to suffering-all we need do is watch the news together at night, when ready-made case studies present themselves for discussion. Yesterday, for example, was the one year anniversary of the Haiti earthquake. Five days ago, it was the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona.

Do we hide this from our children? Or do we use it to talk about sin and sorrow? How do we talk about major national and international events in a way that presents truth but doesn’t scare our children to death? Most importantly, how do we teach our children to weep with those who weep, mourn with those who mourn?

We recently heard from a friend that he will begin cancer treatments soon. He’s my husband’s age. Weep with those who weep. The wife of one of my husband’s past work acquaintances had a stroke this week while on her treadmill. She is my age. Mourn with those who mourn. I pulled the car over on our way home today and told my two oldest daughters about these two situations. I felt like they were old enough to handle the heaviness, to bear some of the burden. It is time they learn to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn.

In his book A Sacred Sorrow: Reaching Out to God in the Lost Language of Lament, Michael Card wrote:

“We are all born into a world we were not really made to inhabit. We were created for God, made to flourish in the comfort of the Presence of our Father within the warm context of His undeniable ‘hesed’ (loving-kindness). Now, in this fallen world, we are cut off from them both. Only the loving sovereignty of all-wise God could redeem such a hopeless situation. His solution? To use suffering to save us. To redeem our own suffering and most significantly to redeem all mankind, through His own suffering on the cross to pay the price for our sin. In order to turn around and move once more in the direction of God, we must find this path He has carved out. We must call out to Him in the language He has provided. We must regain the tearful trail. We must relearn lament.”

The language of lament. I may not have all the answers to give my kids when they begin asking their own “why” questions, but I can give them the gift of learning how to bring their sadness and suffering to God. I want them to know, even from a very early age, that He can handle it.

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