In light of the shooting at First Baptist Church Sutherland Springs, your kids will ask some hard questions, and “Why didn’t God stop him?” is probably in the top five. Why didn’t God stop the crazy man from shooting people in a church service? If God was going to protect anyone, wouldn’t it be a little baby in his mother’s arms?
It is important to tell your kids the truth, even when the truth is something you wish your kids didn’t need to hear. It is even more important for your kids to see you model the truth you are teaching. We tell our kids that we will watch out for them and keep them safe. We don’t want them to know that occasionally things happen even when parents do their best. But if your child has seen the news or listened to adult conversations, they know that sometimes bad things happen in this world.
Your children know that you aren’t perfect. Your kids also know that you love them and will always do your best, with God’s help, to keep them safe. Another great gift you give your children is the confidence that you will always tell them the truth. A difficult news story like the church shooting will require an honest conversation.
We teach children that God loves them. We pray for God to watch over us and we trust God to keep us safe. That is why things like a church shooting can be difficult to explain. If a child is first grade and under, do your best to delay or limit the details of this tough conversation. But, if there are older siblings in the home, you will probably need to include the little ones in some way.
I used to teach second grade, and any time there was a news story that parents were discussing, the kids wanted to talk about it at school as well. It is good to remember that when you drop your voice, the kids probably become more interested in whatever you are saying. Children hear a lot more than we realize, and if they don’t feel comfortable talking about it, they will process information through their own filters and come up with their own conclusions.
What do kids need to discuss, process, and understand about God in light of a church shooting?
First, start with what you know is truth. God loved everyone in that church. He is a perfect Father who loves his children completely. God also loved the man who carried the gun into that church. Sadly, the man with the gun didn’t choose to love God or others.
Why did God allow the man to make such a horrible choice? Because God had to create people with the ability to make choices so we could choose to love him and accept Jesus as our Savior. If people couldn’t make choices, none of us could choose Jesus and go to heaven. Most people make good choices. Christians try to make the choices God wants for our lives. But, there will always be a few people who make bad choices and some, like the man with the gun, who make a terrible one.
How do we know the choices God wants for our lives? We study God’s word. He made sure that we would have the Bible which tells us everything we need to know about God. God taught us to know him and the best way to live our lives. The Bible teaches us the choices God is able and anxious to bless. We can choose Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We can choose to forgive the bad choices others make, knowing that one day, we will need to be forgiven too. We can choose to treat other people like Jesus would treat them. We can choose to be a friend to others and try never to do anyone harm. And God gave us his Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts and give us the strength and courage to live like we should.
What does God do when people make bad choices? God disciplines his children when they need to make better choices. God forgives his children when they are truly sorry. God loves his children even when they make mistakes. God’s choices are always perfect, so we can trust him to redeem every wrong into something right.
How should we pray for the people in Sutherland Springs? We can ask God to comfort them and pray they will choose to receive the comfort he wants to give. We can know God takes Christians to heaven when they die, and all those people are already feeling happy and at home there. We can ask God to bless the people of that town in his perfect way and pray that they will understand that God has always loved them. And we can pray for the family of the man who did the shooting and then died. We can pray that they would know they are loved by God and by God’s children too.
Sometimes people make bad choices, and a few people will make a terrible choice. None of our choices change God. We can trust him to be the same yesterday, today, and forever. We can know the choices God wants us to make because we can know God’s word. The question we all need to ask is this: What can we do to help others know and love God so they can make the best choices for their lives too?