Last week, I was summoned by a 6-year-old little girl in my church. I have a good relationship with her and she wanted to talk to the pastor, so I agreed. Her mom brought her by our house one evening to talk. She had some questions about why her daddy had left her and her mommy and was no longer living with them. Much like the situation I faced last year in my discussions with the 5-year-old girl who lost her daddy in a car crash, there is no playbook or minister’s guide when a hurting 6-year-old girl wants to talk and wants some answers. Here is what I told her:
What her daddy is doing is wrong. We can be tempted to sugar coat painful issues with children, but I was in no position to spare her pain. She was already experiencing plenty. What she needed was truth. Truth understood at a 6-year-old level, but nonetheless… truth. I affirmed what she already knew. Her daddy simply deciding he does not want to be married to her mom anymore and leavin as a result is wrong. It is against what Scripture teaches. It is sinful, and God is not pleased. Realize you are speaking to a child, so keep that in mind, but do not shy away from speaking truth to her. If she comes to the pastor to ask thoughtful questions, we at least owe her brave little soul that.
God teaches us important lessons when we suffer. A very thoughtful question that came from her mouth was, “Why is God allowing my daddy to leave? If God is good to us, then why would he allow this?” Yes…only 6 years old. I cannot tell her that her daddy will come home and everything will be alright. I do not know. What I did say is she needed to know a common way God is at work in the lives of all Christians, regardless our age. God teaches us some amazing lessons when we suffer. We may not see them now, but we will see them clearer when some time has passed. I believe this smart little girl as well as other children can begin to understand this merciful quality about our sovereign God.
Jesus will always be there for you. I am uncertain if her daddy will come home, but I am certain that if this little girl trusts in Jesus Christ, Jesus will never forsake her or her mom. Whether 6 years old or 60 years old, we must always turn the eyes of others off the struggle and urge them to fix their eyes upon Christ (Hebrews 12:2). I reminded her that even though those she loves in her life will let her down, Jesus will never forsake her. I shared the gospel with her and allowed this to be a key time for her to see her need for Christ both for forgiveness of sin as well as to have a King and Father who will always be with her.
It is hard to know the fruit from this conversation. Yet, can you imagine the work God could choose to do in this little girl’s heart if she believes these truths about God and how he works his grace in our lives as her world crumbles around her?
Speak truth. Remind children of the character of God and that he is faithful even in suffering. Remind them of their need for Christ. Do not be amazed years later if you look back on this painful moment as a turning point in that child’s faith as they grasped the truth of God’s Word because of a heightened desire for answers that provide hope.
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Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the husband of Cara and adoring father of four children, son, Samuel and daughters, Abby, Isabelle, and Claire. He has served in pastoral ministry for over fifteen years and is currently in his eighth year as Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. He was educated at both Belmont University and Indiana University receiving his B.A. in Sociology. He also undertook some graduate work at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
He is also the author of Visit the sick: Ministering God’s grace in times of illness (foreword by Mark Dever) and Test, train, affirm, and send into Ministry: Recovering the local church’s responsibility to the external call (foreword by R. Albert Mohler Jr.). Both of these volumes are published by Day One in their pastoral series designed to serve pastors, church leaders, and those training for local church ministry. Brian has also published Help! He’s Struggling with Pornography and Conduct Gospel-centered Funerals (co-written with Phil Newton).
A Faith That Endures: Meditations on Hebrews 11 is Brian’s newest book, released in fall of 2011. His next book on The Pastor’s Family, co-authored with his wife, is due to be released by Zondervan in Fall 2013.
To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.