Four Truths for Children in the Face of the Problem of Evil

The Problem

Children notice EVERYTHING. They remember the one time you left your shoes out of the shoe bin and now remind you of it every time you ask them to put their shoes up. They see you sneak that chocolate bar from the pantry. Eventually, and usually long before the adults in their lives want, children notice the unfairness, injustices, and cruelties of the world. This new set of data often does not seem to align with what they are being taught about our all-powerful, forever-loving God.
They learn that Jesus calmed a storm with His voice and are taught the devastation of hurricanes. They listen to the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 people, but are asked to bring in canned goods for kids who are hungry. They know that Jesus came back to life but are being told that their loved one will not. Even more disturbing for children is when they spend part of their lives in a tumultuous or unsafe environment, only to come out and learn that there is a God who supposedly never leaves or forsakes them. How can all of these facts be true at the same time? This conflict will sadly hit children differently and at different stages. In the face of this, we have wisdom from Scripture that can stand as four unwavering pillars of truth.

Truth 1: God is both all-powerful and loves perfectly

Genesis 1 and 2 deliver a literary masterpiece showcasing the power and care of our Creator. Relish this story with children. Help it to never be boring or ordinary to consider God speaking the planets into existence. This picture of a God powerful enough to not only control the forces of nature but to create them out of nothing is not meant to be at odds with the description of God gently forming Adam from the dirt and filling Adam’s delicate lungs with his first breath. Here children can rest in the assurance of God’s strength and love. The good news is God never changes from this powerful and loving description.

Truth 2: Our choices of sin affect everything.

The bad news is humans also never change. Just as Genesis 1-2 reveals the wondrous works of God, Genesis 3 showcases the failure that will mark humans forever. The seriousness of Adam and Eve choosing to disobey God’s plan should not be glossed over in an effort to “get to the good part” of God rescuing sinners. Help children to look at the curses that God spoke over Adam, Eve, and the serpent. What did sin affect?

  • Our bodies: “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children”
  • Our work:  “in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life”
  • Our relationships with each other: “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you”
  • Our relationship with God: “therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden”
  • The earth itself: “thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you”

We truly cannot imagine the world without sin. Sin is the reason evil is in the world, from the clear choice of someone to hit a friend, to the reason why the ground produces an earthquake. There is a song from an old VBS that gets right to the point, “Sin messed everything up, everything up (oh no!).”

TRUTH 3: Even though it hurts, it is good to have the choice to sin or follow God.

Sin is often described as anything that we think, say, or do that breaks God’s heart or law. Sin is a choice that we make. The Bible recounts over and over the sinful choices of humans. Abraham lied. Sarah treated Hagar with anger. Jacob manipulated many people in his life. Plus many other stories containing such atrocious acts that most children are not developmentally ready to hear.

At this point, some children struggle with why God would let humans even have the choice of sin if He knew it would cause all of this mess. Lead children to biblical stories of God graciously wooing His people to show them the depth of love that comes from a relationship built on choice. It is important for children to see that they too choose to sin, but God loves them enough to let them make the choice to follow Him or not. In Luke 11-12, Jesus blesses those who follow Him with their whole heart and curses those who just follow rules. A world without this choice to sin or to follow God would simply be a world full of these kinds of rulle-followers rather than one full of humans creating and loving and simply being with God.

Truth 4: God has already fixed the problem of evil.

When a child asks about the problem of evil in their own words, difficult questions will be faced, valid but heightened emotions may surface, and topics that adults want to avoid for just a little bit longer may need to be broached. But, in God’s mercy, discussing the evil that fills our world opens a door to reveal God’s greatest truth: the problem of evil has already been dealt with. Children need to see the hope God offers at the very beginning, when Adam and Eve began choosing sin. In the midst of all the curses that humans unleashed because of their sin, God states the first hope, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

There will be a fight, but the Victor has already been determined. “JESUS. Jesus is the All-Time, Undisputed Lord and Champion!” Jesus has already defeated sin, and one day He will bring a new heaven down. In this new world, the sin that had so enmeshed itself in our broken lives will be gone. “And then everything will change, and all of Jesus’ friends will be together, and the eternal party will start!”  Every conversation with children that considers the curses and cruelties and viciousness of the world must end with eyes on Jesus as He stands in heaven.

Resources to open the door to these conversations

Toddlers and older

  • Garden, the Curtain, and Cross by Carl Laferton
  • The Big Awesome Forever Party by Joni Eareckson Tada
  • The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
  • God’s Great Plan Storybook Bible Published by Thomas  Nelson (Not available on Amazon)

Kindergarten and older

  • The Biggest Story Ever Told by Kevin DeYoung
  • The Promises of God Storybook Bible by Jennifer Lyell

3rd grade and older

  • Where is Wisdom? A Treasure Hunt Through God’s Wondrous World: Inspired by Job 28 by Scott James
  • Meetings with Jesus: A Daily Bible Reading Plan for Kids by David Murray (WBC Kids are currently studying this book on Wednesday nights)

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