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As we prepare for our offering for Haiti at our Valentine “Heart to Heart” Family Rally, I’ve been pondering how we talk with children, and more importantly listen to them when tragedy strikes.   Not too long ago I heard a parent say to a child, who was upset about the death of another child, that “God just needed her for an angel.”

While I understand the adult’s attempt or need to soften the blow I have to ask, “What is it that makes us want to speak for or on behalf of God?”  For some reason we feel as if we need to defend God, or blame God.  We want to wrap up a tragedy and make it fit into our own construct of reality.

God doesn’t cause bad things to happen to people.  Things simply happen, or some things, so called “destiny producing deeds” are a result from our own behavior.  In short, we reap what we sow.  For example, too much CO2 in the atmosphere creates global warming, a person who has smoked for years develops lung cancer, or our consumptive lifestyle creates an imbalance of justice, not only to other people, but also to the environment.  These are the sad outcomes because of our sinful behavior.   This is something kids can understand.  “If I take a toy away from a friend, I risk a tug of war.”  “When I plant this seed a green shoot pushes through the soil.” 

Natural disasters have nothing to do with God, aside from the fact that God created the earth.    Nor does the fault lie in people.  Tectonic plates shift, and a whole city and her people are smothered and crushed in the dust. No one is to blame, even if insurance companies want to call it an “act of God.”

 Scripture does tell us that God hates with a perfect hatred. God’s heart breaks when our hearts break.   God hates cancer, earthquakes, murder, famine and malaria, most anything that robs all of us of the abundant life.  So what does God do?  God redeems terrible times and brings good out of them.  God stays very close by our sides, and walks with us through our bewilderment and agony.  As scripture promises, God greets us every morning, offering us new mercy, after our “dark nights of the soul” when “our tears have been our food, day and night.” 

Jenny and Hal Runkel of ScreamFree have two excellent articles on how we might respond to our children during a catastrophe.  These are written both out of their expertise and more importantly, their personal experience.  With ScreamFree organization’s permission, I have included them here on our website. 

Suffice it to say, we can say to our children and teens, “I don’t know,” [why this tragedy occurred].   Also we might invite our children to share what they are wondering, by asking, “Tell me more about your thoughts on that…”  Or perhaps, if they are having very strong feelings  in terms of justice, or with regard to their own fear and security, we can simply ask, “how are you feeling about this?”  And it is always important to wonder out loud with our children, and share with them how we feel too, “I have lots of unanswered questions, and my heart breaks when I see and hear the cries of the Haitian people.”

What I do know and believe is that God is with us, beside us, there to catch us when we fall, and there to meet us as a friend, when we depart from this world.”

See you this Sunday at the Heart to Heart Family Rally on Valentines Day! (For more information about this fun event, visit our event page on Facebook! You can also view this informative summary page.)


Rev. Lisa Mullen
Director of Children and Family Ministries
Board of Christian Education

 Read the ScreamFree Parenting articles here…
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