Summary: I wrote this last summer as an intern at a church that was going through some tough times and significant loss.
Kids have a lot of questions. The “why” questions I've found is most popular. Back in Boise I work for the YMCA as an after school child care worker. Needless to say, when it's you and 2 other adults with 35+ kids a lot of “why” questions come up. “Why can't we do that?...well why? Why!?” This last week I simply googled “why!?” and came across a website dedicated to answering the “why” questions kids have. Here were some of my favorites:
Why does cutting onions make people cry?
Why do I need to eat vegetables?
Why are some people vegetarians?
Why does orange juice taste funny after I brush my teeth?
Why are peppers hot?
Why is a banana curved?
Why are lemons sour?
Why are oranges orange?
Why does fruit change color as it ripens?
Where does the water go when I flush the toilet?
Why can’t I waste water?
Why should I unplug appliances when I'm not using them?
Why do we need trees?
Why do bees make honey?
Why do fireflies glow?
Why do bug bites itch?
Why do ladybugs have spots?
Why are cockroaches so dirty?
Why do spiders spin webs?
Why don't worms have legs?
Why do moths eat clothes?
Why don't spiders get stuck to their own webs?
Why do some bugs have more than two eyes?
Why don't slugs have a shell?
Why do ants live in colonies?
Why do bees buzz?
Why do bees sting?
Why do lice exist?
Why do rolly pollies roll up into balls?
Why do centipedes have so many legs?
These are not uncommon questions. In fact many of these questions still plague us grown-ups. The truth is, though, these aren't the only questions that our children are asking now. I'm noticing this trend of our society killing the innocence of children earlier and earlier. Kids are now having to ask, “Why did mommy go? Why did daddy leave? Why couldn't I be good enough for them to stay? Why am I not loved?” As they grow up those questions grow. “Why do people say I need God? Why do those church people hate me?” Pretty soon we find ourselves asked the question that always seems to get us. “Why, if there's so much pain and suffering in this world, does God not do anything. Why do you believe in a heartless God who watches in all His glory, children being mutilated, families being torn apart, countries being torn to pieces by war? Why?”
That question seems to have plagued all of us at one point or another. Why do you believe in a God that allows so much awful stuff to happen? Why questions can be so innocent and cute. At the same time we know there's dying people in the streets asking the serious why questions. What do we say to them?
I've heard horror stories of how Christians have answered this question. For instance. Someone is going through an absolutely terrible situation. We quote Mark 4 where Jesus calms the storm and we tell them, “See, if you just had some faith and asked Jesus to calm your storm, He would. You just need to ask Him and He'll take away your storm.” And when that doesn't happen people lose faith altogether; They give up on God because they feel He's given up on them.
We have to be extremely careful when answering this question. We can't say more than what scripture says; believe me, the Bible answers these questions. We do have to keep in mind that we will meet people who will flat out reject these answers. All we can hope to do is help. If they reject it we can pray that a seed was planted.
Turn to James 1 which is page 854 in your pew Bibles. While you're turning there let me give a little bit of a background on the book of James. James was most likely written by James, the brother of Jesus. The book is kind of the Proverbs of the New Testament. It's known as Wisdom literature. There's a lot more to be said about the book of James and I would encourage you to study the background of Bible books. It really helps make the meaning behind them more clear and more real.
We're going to read verses 2-8. James knew the people he was writing to were going to be facing some pretty difficult times so he offers up this wisdom. (READ) (brothers AND sisters). Joy? JOY? How can anyone tell me to have joy in this? Let me say this, joy and happiness are not the same. Happiness is temporary. You want to be happy, go get a Happy meal. Joy is something that lasts. For instance, I've heard that raising kids is a joyful experience. Now before I lose all you parents out there, allow me to explain. You put hundreds of thousands of dollars into raising these creatures. You try and teach them right. You give them your full attention and love. However, you don't tend to get much in return. Here's a monologue that really describes the joy of parenthood. It's from a show called 8 simple rules. In the show the father, who was a writer for a newspaper, had recently died. They found his last article and this is how it read,