It was not the first time a topic relating to God brought my young son to tears.
After reading a bedtime story that mentioned Heaven, he began to sniffle and the tears began. “I don’t ever want to go to Heaven.”
My daughter hugged him and told him God loves him and has a place prepared just for him. She asked him to imagine a room full of his favorite toys, “Heaven will be greater than that!” He cried harder and looked at me, “I don’t want to be with God, I want to stay here with you!”
We were all tired. I acknowledged his fears and pulled his sobbing body close. I tried to redirect his thoughts, but he would not let it go.
I shared with him God has a purpose for him on Earth. He does not get to go to Heaven yet, but that didn’t help. My son did not want a job or to leave this place and the people he loved to go to a “fantasy world” of Heaven no matter how much God loved him or his sister tried to sell it to him.
I understood his fear. Not only from the developmental standpoint that he had not yet grasped the universality of death, but from the common thought that his life was heaven enough. He had heard “Jesus loves me, this I know” since he was born, but that did not mean he believed it.
He is young, but he already sees the contradiction between a loving God and a world where bad things happen. He asks practical, amazing questions like, “Why would God make me sick?” and, “Why did God make worms to dry up in the sun?” I may be able to breeze over these questions now, but that is not going to cut it as he grows older and witnesses tragedies in life.
I realized he, I and everyone needs the truth in the second line of the all familiar song, “For the Bible tells me so.” The Word of God shares the entire story of his plan that reveals His mercy, sacrifice, justice and grace, all things that scream genuine LOVE for us. To have any hope of facing fears and answering the hard questions that beckon each one of us, we must know the whole story.
It explains why death feels scary and unnatural. God made us to live with him eternally. We were not created to die, worms were not intended to shrivel up and sickness directly reflects the evil that first entered the world at the beginning of time.
It explains why God has rules for people just like parents have rules for kids. The rules are for our safety, protection and for a bigger purpose, but like every child breaks his parent’s rules, every human breaks God’s rules; we all sin. That includes me, my son and the “bad guys” on the news.
It explains the effect of sin beyond our daily life and into eternity. As we stub our toe, grieve over a loss of a loved one or learn of inhumane acts occurring, we are reminded that this place is not Heaven. Heaven is a place without sin, thus, we cannot go there. No matter how much good we do, we are marked by it, and therefore separated from God.
The Gospel explains God’s love is much more than him wanting to be with us and having a purpose for us. It is about him saving us from a terrifying eternity at an enormous cost to Him. His selfless act to leave His perfect dwelling place and live a life of service and painful sacrifice made a way for our mark of sin to be erased. He took the blame for all we have done and will do wrong so that we might accept the gift and live with Him in Heaven.
It seems this is a ton of information to throw on a child, and it is. This story of God’s plan and His character is not one to be told once. It is something that can relate to all things, whether it be fears, questions, bedtime stories, worms or illness.
My son is young, but as he and I continue to learn more about God through His Word, I pray we will understand and confidently sing, “Jesus Loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”