Last week’s post, “7 Biblical Truths to Teach Children about Disease and Disasters” was aimed at helping children interpret hard realities through biblical truth so that they might have an unwavering and unshakable confidence in the sovereign goodness of God. But God’s sovereignty over all things does not warrant a “hands-off” approach by God’s people. Rather, God calls His people to display His love, compassion, and mercy to a hurting world. How can we help our children grow in this way? Here are six suggestions:
1. Help them to see that every good thing is an undeserved gift from God (1 Chronicles 29:11-12; Psalm 145:9; Acts 17:25; James 1:17). We live in an age of entitlement, and our children can easily be swept up by it. If we are not diligent, a subtle form of the “prosperity gospel” can begin to permeate our comfortable homes and churches. Everything we have is an undeserved gift from God. We are not owed comfort, health, prosperity…etc. The Lord gives generously, but He may also choose to take away. Blessed be His name! (Job 1:21).
2. Teach them that suffering and hardship comes to both believers and unbelievers (Romans 8:20, 22-23). A tornado rips through a city. Homes are destroyed and lives are lost—both believers and unbelievers experience loss, pain, and heartache. We are “all in this together.” We must teach our children to never be indifferent to the groanings of this world.
3. Expose them to suffering and people in need. As tempting as it would be to hide our children from as much unpleasantness as possible, this is neither wise, possible, nor biblical. Yet, in an age of 24/7 global information, we can also become emotionally overloaded with daily tragedies from every part of the world. As parents, we must wisely navigate this with our children. A helpful tool is to think in terms of proximity (family, friends, church, neighborhood, and world) and age-appropriateness regarding the severity of suffering. A toddler can learn to be tender toward a sick sibling. A 5-year-old can visit great-grandma in a nursing home. A teenager can learn about the extent of a pandemic…etc.
4. Impress upon them essence of biblical compassion. God indeed is the sovereign ruler over all disease, disasters, and calamities, but God is not a heartless ruler. He is also tender and compassionate. Are we teaching our children to be tender toward those who are suffering or indifferent?
Lamentations 3:32-33—but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.
Psalm 72:13—He has pity on the weak and the needy…
While Jesus is truly and fully God, He also became fully man and experienced the groanings of this world. Think of how many times we are told in the gospels of Jesus having compassion on the people because they were hungry, sick, weeping, etc. Although He had come to, first and foremost, care for our greatest and most desperate need for salvation, His also cared for other tangible needs. God’s people are to imitate His compassion for those in need.
Colossians 3:12—Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,
5. Pray often for others who are suffering. One means of putting compassion into action is to intentionally pray for those who suffer. Lead your children in praying for others who are experiencing heartache and suffering. Think of including one or two specific requests when praying before meals, bedtime, after devotions, etc.
6. Model mercy to help the hurting, for the glory of God. “…And Jesus said to him, ‘You go, and do likewise’” (Luke 10:37). Jesus spoke these words after telling the parable of the good Samaritan. The Samaritan had proved to be the loving neighbor because he was the one who had shown mercy to the injured man. He had seen a man in distress, felt compassion for him, and acted to help him. That is mercy. We must model for our children this kind of mercy. No, we cannot help everyone in distress, but we should have our “mercy radar” tuned to noticing and helping those in need. The ultimate goal of that mercy would be the hope and prayer that the hurting would find their one and only lasting joy in Christ.
Matthew 5: 14, 16—“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Toward that end, we’d like to offer a free lesson/devotional “Be Merciful” from the curriculum To Be Like Jesus. It uses the story of the good Samaritan to highlight the essence of biblical mercy and follows with discussion questions and practical suggestions for showing mercy to those in need.