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How to Talk to Your Kids About Why Bad Things Happen




Children are inquisitive, and that's a good thing!

They desire to understand—a trait we want to encourage as parents and, more often than not, be the voice that answers their questions. Remember the “why” years? Those years where every day you are bombarded by dozens upon dozens of questions, one on top of the next, until you’ve almost been “why-ed” to the point of exhaustion? 

Those questions keep showing up through the years. Maybe not as often—typically with a much weightier question like, “Why do bad things happen?” Our kids eventually begin to recognize that there are beautiful moments and beauty to behold in life but also seasons of loss, disappointment, and pain. While this is not an easy topic to dive into, we absolutely want to be the ones to create a Scriptural narrative around why bad things happen. 

This conversation could go in a lot of different directions. And while we need to keep it age-appropriate, we don’t want to water down the truth for our children. 

Here are a few thoughts to help frame these conversations:

  1. Genesis 3. This is a great place to start to establish that there’s an adversary who wants to convince us to doubt God and turn away from what God says is best. That began in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. Because Eve chose to listen to and obey the serpent, the Devil, rather than God, sin entered the world. Sin brought destruction and death into our world, and it continues to this day. But God, in every way and in every season since then, is in the process of redeeming and bringing beauty from ashes. Even in that pivotal moment in the garden, God promised to provide redemption and hope for the whole world through Jesus Christ. (Gen 3:15) 
  2. Personal stories. There is incredible power in personal testimony. When we’ve witnessed God move in our own lives or the lives of our family and friends, those are stories we want to share and leverage for faith-building and encouragement. Psalm 145:4 challenges us to commend His works from one generation to the next! Praising Jesus for what He’s done for us brings remembrance. And remembering can produce thanksgiving, joy, and hope! 
  3. The story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50). An incredible story to demonstrate how someone can be mistreated and misunderstood, and one in which our humanity might normally choose to cry ‘unfair’ and lose hope. But Joseph models faithfulness to God and never gives up hope. Through all the details, we see God in Joseph’s story preparing and moving Joseph into a position of leadership, second in command to Pharaoh, where he eventually saves his family and all of Egypt during a famine. He declares in Genesis 50, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” 
  4. Jesus Christ. The greatest example of all! Our Savior, of whose story we know the end, and it is victory. He came knowing He would live a perfect life, He would be crucified, buried, and He would rise from the dead, conquering death and sin and offering salvation to all people and one day, full redemption of the whole world! His life, death, and resurrection give us hope in every season we experience in this life. 

Sometimes there is not a perfect easy answer to what our children experience in this life. Pastor Louie Giglio has framed it this way: we are either in a storm, coming out of a storm, or heading into a storm. If we can help our children understand that life, as amazing as it can be, will not be void of storms, we can help equip them with an attitude of hope and expectation. A heart posture that is intent on seeing Jesus in all the seasons of life and choosing to trust Him even when it doesn’t make sense.

Many years ago, I came across a quote from Wallace Stegner that read, “The brook would lose its song if we removed the rocks.” I remember logging that thought into my head as without the rocks, the brook would lose its song. I had lost my mom to cancer years earlier, I was a mom of 2 young boys, and I was struggling with bouts of deep anxiety. This simple quote helped me frame difficult seasons like this one in my life with purpose. Rocks that felt sharp and jagged initially were tossed into the stream of life. They became smooth through the years, worn soft by Living Water which created a unique and beautiful life song that told a story of the good, the hard, and the faithfulness of Jesus Christ toward me. I learned to see the rocks differently. 

My hope is to help my family grasp the truth that when difficult things happen in our lives or the lives of others, there is treasure to be found—namely Jesus Christ. In all things, no matter the outcome, we fix our eyes on Jesus, stand firm in faith, and trust that our amazing God is working all things for our good and His glory. 

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Scripture References

  • Genesis 3
  • Genesis 3:15
  • Psalm 145:4
  • Genesis 37-50
Susan Robinson Susan Robinson is a DoorHolder at Passion City Church and part of The Grove Leadership Team. She guides The Grove’s Prayer Team and also trained and led the Intercessors for Passion Conferences for many years. She is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for Hope Heals and serves as the co-host of The Race and Redemption podcast, an inner healing facilitator, and mother to three teenagers. Susan and her husband Josh live with their family in Atlanta, GA.