My friend Joanna recently told me, speaking of our kids’ generation, that she believes the Lord is raising up this army to not fear death. Those powerful words had the hairs on my arm at attention immediately—and I knew exactly what she meant. We were discussing our ten-year-old boys, and how the word “die” can fly out of their mouths without a second thought.
It’s disconcerting, at best, and at its worst that seemingly cavalier attitude can offend or wound someone who has felt the sting of loss. “Die” is a cringe-worthy word for sure, and I don’t want my kids to disrespect it. After all, the Lord did not design us to die. But it’s also a word that our faith is eager to teach them: “Jesus died on the cross”....”God sent His Son to die for our sins”...”The dead in Christ will rise again”...”Whoever believes in Him will not die”— and yet my kids, raised in the truth, do not fear to use it.
As long as my kids are young, I’ll be walking the line between disrespect, fear, faith, and hope when it comes to the topic of death. I don’t want them to be desensitized to death by Mario constantly falling off a brick-paved cliff, or by too many flannel board depictions of the cross. I want them to understand that death is awful. That it's sad because it was never supposed to be. That death happened because sin came into the world, and that it breaks God’s heart. That He gave His only Son so that the grave could be conquered! And in His victory, there is joy. The concept of death needs to go hand in hand with the hope of eternal life found in Christ. We must raise them to mourn, but not like those without hope.
That’s a tall order for moms of littles. These are huge things for the human heart to wrestle with, and so hard for a young child to process. It may be tempting to ignore the topic, and steer clear of the “d-word” as long as possible. (I’m not saying that’s a wrong strategy)! But due to the aforementioned Mario games and flannel boards, in our house, we had to address it. At the end of the day, all I could do was share the hope of heaven.
Heaven, I found at first, is hard for kids too. To them, it’s a faraway place, without Mom and Dad (or a place Mom and Dad go to leave them behind). Their bedroom isn’t there, and some guy named Jesus whom they’ve never actually seen before is going to be their sole guardian. Of course that sounds scary!
But God’s word is a lamp unto our path, and it defeats the darkness of fear with the light of its truth. We turned to it and found it has amazing things to say about heaven! I began talking to my kids about the specific things the Bible says about our forever home. Eventually it seemed familiar, and someplace they might even long to go.
Did you know that the Bible says that in the new heaven and the new earth, kids will play with animals? (Isaiah 11:6) Yeah, even the kinds that are scary now, will be tame and loving pets in heaven. My kids and I love to talk about what kind of animals they’re going to play with in heaven.
The Bible also says that all things will be new (Rev 21:5). Can you imagine new toys? New terrain? New food? New adventures?
We talk about God’s nature too (since God’s presence is why heaven is going to be heaven). I told one of my sons that Jesus knows everything. That means Jesus is the best wii player that ever existed, because He knows all the secret codes to unlock and win every game. This blew. his. mind. He could not WAIT to play wii with Jesus. (Well, that is until he realized that Jesus would always beat him at it, so we got to talk about how in heaven you can’t feel sad or frustrated so you probably can’t actually lose a game…)
You see? There’s so much crazy stuff to think about when you start to unpack what the Scripture says. And it’s a really, really fun conversation to have with your kids.
Here’s another one. See if you agree with me. My four-year-old didn’t want to go to heaven, he tearfully told me, because I wouldn’t be there yet if he died first. I suggested to him that God exists outside of time, and therefore heaven does too. And that means I’d be there the second he got there with no waiting for me. (Theologians who disagree can please wait until he’s in college to share your opinions with him. I’m trying to avoid a meltdown here).
My point is, study the Word for yourself. See what you can find out about heaven, and talk about it with your kids. Dream about it. Did you know that you can’t even imagine what He has prepared for you? The Bible says it’s impossible!
To help start the conversation, you can download this free “Breakfast Table Devotional” about heaven. It has some Scriptures for you to talk and dream about. If your kids are anything like mine, they’ll be naming their heaven-pet dinosaurs in no time. And yep, I know that the world is going to call me unhinged and deluded. I don’t care. I love Jesus, and I can’t wait to see him face to face, to live with him forever, and to finally see all that he has prepared for us.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18