Like many other parents, I have the nighttime routine of reading bedtime stories to my children before tucking them in at night. Our last book of the night is always a story from one of the children’s bibles that we own. Our newest bible is called the Laugh and Learn Bible. In it’s very description, it was designed to make reading the Bible fun for families! Last night I opened up to the fun and whimsical story of Job. In this fast forwarded kids version, we see Satan asking God to test Job’s faith and God allowing it. First all of Job’s animals get stolen, then his sheep burn up and die, and then a house falls on top of all of his kids and they die! My sons’ lips begin to quiver and their hands go in front of their faces, but wait then Job gets super sick and his friends and his wife get pretty mean to him and say it’s all his fault. At this, my boys’ can no longer hold in their emotions and tears begin to flow. “This is way too sad!” Why does the Bible have so many sad stories in it?” “I wish we could just throw this story out of the Bible!”. Their exclamations made me stop and reflect. The book of Job is a pretty heavy story for anyone let alone for small children. My first reaction was to skip through it and go the cute happy stories in the Bible like David and Goliath, wait ….like Daniel in the Lion’s Den…wait like Queen Esther….wait like Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego.. wait like Jesus on the cross…. Okay well truthfully most of the Bible is full of really heavy stories even if we do try to lighten them up with fun illustrations and focus on the “happy” part. How often do we as adults wish we could just throw out the sad stories and skip ahead as well? For example, many Christians are quick to quote Proverbs which is filled with uplifting seemingly easy remarks of how life can be better for us, but often forget that the other two books of wisdom are Ecclesiastes and Job. Those books show us the reality that life is full of trouble for the righteous and unrighteous alike.
In order to answer my kids and help them process the reason the Bible is full of sad stories, I told them it’s because it’s true. It’s real life and in real life, sad things happen to people all the time. I saw the light bulbs clicking and the connections being made before I ever drew them, “just like us” they said. Our family has experienced heartbreak and my children have not been shielded from it. In fact they are the ones who may suffer the most. Last night was one of those nights when all that heartbreak came flooding out of them. So many tears and so many questions that feel nearly impossible to answer. “Why would God allow this to happen?” , ‘It’s not fair at all”, “What happens if you leave us too and we are all alone?” Oh how I wish my kids weren’t asking such questions at such young ages. I lay there in their bed with tears streaming down my face knowing I don’t have all the answers. Honestly, when these moments come up, I really want to push through and just cheer them up. I want to change the topic and make them laugh instead. As a parent I don’t want to face the pain of my child, however as a parent it is my duty to validate their pain, not brush it to the side. It’s uncomfortable to sit in the grief with them, but it is also healing. It is in these moments where I find opportunities for the authenticity of our faith to come on full display. See I also realize that as much as I wanted for my kids to have a suffering free life, the fact that they don’t is the very thing that is making them push into God and learn more about His heart for theirs. It’s in the sad stories, that we find God and his care and compassion the most. In the story of Job, we actually don’t get all the answers, but we are directed towards the character of who God is. This is where I can take my boys as well.
My boys don’t know it yet, but what they were crying out for was justice, hope and a call for redemption. They are crying out for the gospel. My pastor explained last week that we are all longing for Eden when all was right and perfect in the world. I saw this never more clearly than in my children’s tears this week. We know this is not the way it should be. No matter what situation we are in, we know there is something very broken and sad about the lives we all live. We have spent the last months and weeks with a pandemic and racial injustices at the very center of our attention. We see children being separated from their families at the border and living in despicable situations. The brokenness of it all is on display. For me, I have the privilege of saying that it’s just too heavy, and I would rather look away and be comfortable. However I know all too well, that as a follower of Jesus I am called to enter into the despair and mourn with those who mourn. I am called to not look away from the sad stories, but to call for justice, pray for mercy and shine the light and love of Jesus wherever I go. I think this is true in our parenting too. Christian parents often view sheltering our kids from hard things as important and necessary and in some cases that is true. Of course we want to protect their hearts and minds from unnecessary heartbreak . However, we do our kids a disservice if they think the world is all rainbows and unicorns or even if it’s just about them being happy. There is great value in showing our kids the hurting world around us. First,it gives us opportunity to look off of ourselves and actually serve those whose lives look a bit harder than our own. Most importantly, it turns Jesus from a nice guy who loves me, to a hero who rescues and saves from death and hell. It makes Jesus actually relevant to our lives as he becomes a desperate necessity rather than an extra add-on we talk about sometimes. If there is anything I have learned over the last years as I have walked through hardship, is that I need Jesus every moment of the day. When do I forget my need for him? It’s when life feel stable and alright. So as much as I want to take the sad stories out of my life, I know I need them to keep me near to my Savior. They make the days of rejoicing all that much sweeter.
So if you are parent I encourage you to take those opportunities of sadness that your kids experience and don’t push past them. Use them as a way to invite Jesus into them. When they hear the news and learn of injustices, don’t try to silence it, but lead your children into prayer. Teach them that Jesus is near to the broken hearted. I have far to go and much to learn in all of this. Today I am thankful for God’s grace and wisdom, and even for all those sad stories.