Catholic Parenting: Talking to Your Kids about Natural Disasters (Pt 1 of 2)

Our kids are asking: If God is all-good and all-powerful, then why is He allowing so many people to suffer in natural disasters?

(Part 1 of 2)

Part 1: Before you can talk to your child,
you have to find peace in your own heart

At some point in our lives, we each face serious tests of our trust in God.  The terminal diagnosis of a loved one, sudden unemployment, or a serious accident can leave us reeling, wondering:  Why would God let this happen?  I thought He loved me?  Is He even there?

Truths to Hold Onto in Dark Times…

  • God never originally wanted suffering, sin, or pain. These things came into the world because of the human choice to sin.  When we encounter death, suffering, and pain, we can hold onto the truth that this was not what God wanted for His beloved children. These are evils that God permits for a short time now, but we are correct to feel that they are “wrong” and not how life is “supposed to be.”  God permits suffering for now (for reasons we cannot always understand), but it will cease in Heaven.  Christianity is the “good news” that suffering does not have the last word.
  • God is WITH US when we suffer. One of the last things Jesus said before ascending into Heaven was, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). One of the names of Jesus is “Emmanuel”, which means “God is with us.” Even in our darkest hour, God is not up on a cloud looking down on us from afar.  God is in the situation alongside of us, supporting us and guiding us.  This makes all the difference.
  • God works ALL THINGS, even bad things, for the good of those who love Him. (See Romans 8:28)  We can and should cling to this promise.  Our God is a mighty God, and He can and will bring goodness out of even the darkest situations when we invite Him to do so.
  • Someday in Heaven we will finally be told “why.” For many, it’s impossible to understand intellectually how God can let truly devastating things happen.  But we can choose to trust in God’s goodness, and cling to the promise that someday we will be told the answer to all our questions.  In the valley of the shadow of death, we can still say to the Lord, “I don’t see where this is going, but I trust You.  I don’t see how You could let this happen, but I trust You.  I know that You are good, and You love us, and I trust You.”

Practical Actions You Can Take To Search for Peace…

  • Tell God how you feel.  Seriously!  He can take it.  Go to an empty chapel or talk a walk or open a notepad and tell God how you feel Are you frightened?  Exhausted?  Overwhelmed?  Angry?  Tell Him!  He created our emotions – He is not surprised or offended by them.  Use those emotions as a chance to reach out for God.  God is not mad at us if we are angry or upset… God simply wants us to bring that emotion to Him so that He can turn it into something beautiful.  God can redeem all things, but only when we bring them to Him and lay them down at His feet!
  • LISTEN FOR HIS RESPONSE. After we have “let out” our frustrations, fears, and other emotions, we must wait for God to speak with a humble heart. God WILL eventually speak if we are patient, persistent, and open.  He may not use words (sometimes God speaks to us with an insight, a sense of His presence, or the blessing of someone’s help), and it may take days or weeks of waiting to hear Him.  But if we come patiently and confidently before Him, begging for His help and guidance, He will respond.  Suffering is a holy ground where God speaks if we listen.
  • Consider the life of Jesus.  Too often, we feel betrayed by God when suffering comes into our life.  Yet we serve a God who came down to earth to suffer with and for us.  The life of Jesus on earth was not easy – He was born into poverty, was a refugee in Egypt, was repeatedly mocked and ridiculed by his own people, and was eventually betrayed by a close friend, tortured, and killed.  We serve and follow a suffering God.  God has made the Suffering Christ on the Cross the center of all history, and our pathway to Heaven.  This does not “solve” suffering or makes it easy… but the suffering of Christ means that suffering has become a holy ground in which we will find God if we “pick up our cross and follow Him.”  Often, God will not take our suffering away, but He will redeem it from within and make it a place where He is present if we let Him.

The first step to talking with your child about natural disasters or any type of suffering is finding your own peace on this issue. For many of us, dealing with the issue of suffering is one of the greatest challenges of our faith.  This week, I invite you to consider some of the points above, and prayerfully begin a conversation with God about this difficult and emotional topic.

Pt 2 coming soon: Talking with your Child about Natural Disasters