Thursday, March 17, 2011

Talking About Heaven

Last weekend I shared a post (you can read it here) about remembering and learning from those who have gone before us. A few of you asked what we teach our kids about death and dying. This is a short response that I hope helps.

We all know that life here doesn't go on forever and we all will die. But we don't often talk about it. And trying to explain death and "afterlife" to our kids in a way that brings truth-filled hope can feel overwhelming.

We love sharing the gospel with our kids and certainly strive to share often that heaven is real, Jesus is real, He willingly died, taking on all God's wrath (anger/punishment) for sin, and then He rose again. The Bible says that because of that now those who are His will live forever in heaven.

But one day, I received a phone call saying that our good friends' baby died and the mommy was in danger of dying. My son was there as I received the call (and had to call and tell others). The next week Andy's Dad had a heart attack and emergency triple by-pass surgery. While we were there visiting him our Gamma went into the hospital near death. This quickly brought an all new challenge to our family: How to engage our (then) 3 year old in conversation so he could share his fears and ask questions.

FOR YOUNG KIDS- God lead us to a book by Randy Alcorn called Tell Me About Heaven. I highly recommend this as a starting point for conversations with young children wondering about heaven and about someone they love who is dying or has died. It's the story of a boy named Jake who goes to stay with his Grandpa after his Grandma died. He misses her and they talk through his questions and learn what the Bible says about heaven, New Earth, and Jesus. We went through a chapter a night with Jimmy and talked about our loved ones, about questions and fears, about the neat truths we were learning, and then we prayed together. He still loves the book and it has given our whole family a renewed joy for eternal life and living here knowing our home is with Jesus!

FOR OLDER KIDS-If your kids are older, he also wrote a question/answer style book called Heaven for Kids that may work better for you. I learned so much from it and have dug into the Word to learn more myself through passages he shared in this book.

FOR YOURSELF- Suffering and death is not easy or meant to be. Explaining it to our kids is so much harder when we are struggling with our own questions in it. God is certainly good and purposeful in it though. And we need that reminder. Especially in the midst of our grief. The ultimate source of our understanding and comfort is God Himself through His Word. I'd encourage you to pray and ask God to show you Himself as you pour yourself into His Word.
But here are a few resources that have meant a lot to me and may encourage and guide you in Him as well as you seek Him through His Word:
1) Nancy Guthrie: Be Still My Soul This is a collection of sermons about suffering compiled by a woman who lost two of her children from a rare disease. The entries are from passionate theologians of yesterday and today who know suffering (John Piper, Charles Spurgeon, John Calvin, Joni Earickson Tada, Tim Keller, etc.)
2)Nancy Guthrie: the One Year Book of Hope:  A Daily reading that answers hard questions about heaven and suffering, and offers so much hope. I like the length of it. Short daily readings, but something to keep with you as you grieve for a year or however long you take to go through it. Such a great companion in our suffering to answer hard questions while drawing us to Him in our grief.

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