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Death for a Four Year Old

I was a parent of a preschooler, and as many of you know, teaching a young one is difficult at best.  It’s no different for me.  Knowing the best approach on the myriad of topics is an uncertain venture to say the least… you don’t really know what will work and what won’t, and don’t know the appropriate timing for a particular topic.  Present something too soon, and they might become overwhelmed by it… wait too long, and you’ve missed applicability.

 I can’t think of any topic more considered for myself along these lines than the subject of death.

Generally speaking, I spoke openly about death to my preschooler.  It’s a basic part of life; it should be discussed with our youth as the time is right.  It can’t be avoided, the subject of death.  I’ve heard people tell kids outrageous things regarding death, I suppose to avoid having to talk about something we as people don’t fully understand ourselves.  The next step beyond death is what I’m primarily talking about, but also not wanting to install fear into the child about the dying process, of which the faces of death are not pretty or pleasant to behold.

As a Christian, I wondered about the right approach in telling my preschooler about the death of Jesus on the cross.  The death and resurrection of Jesus is the central part of the Christian faith, it is the foundation of what it means to be a Christian… that God set aside His throne and became a man, to accomplish extreme measures to reclaim what was His.  How, then, are we as Christians supposed to tell our young children about this central part of our faith, that Jesus was crucified on a cross… death at its worst??

I lamented over this literally for years.  Then, while praying with my preschooler one night before bed, it was revealed to me from God, the how and why this needs to be done, and that it needs to be taught at a young age.

As we prayed aloud, I thanked God for what Jesus had done for us… the perfect life He lived, His death on the cross for our sins, His resurrection into heaven and His living at the right hand of God the Father.  During this prayer, my preschooler started asking questions about it… why Jesus died, where He is now, things like that.  As I answered these questions about Jesus dying and returning to life, God answered my questions about the discussion of the same.

Imagine, for a moment, if the core principal of our faith alone stood on a type of anesthetic, where superfluous virtue and morality reigned supreme… that with the motion of the hand of God, evil was vanquished from the earth.  No death, no cross, no blood, no Jesus.  How would our children process that?  I imagine it would be no different than the passing interest of a childhood movie.  There would be limited interest that would wane after a short time.

But the death of a man on a cross for the forgiveness of sins, followed by His return to life is something that even a youngster wonders about, and prompts valuable questions that require quality answers.  This King that left his throne to live among His people, to die for them, is the most intriguing story ever told, for either young or old.  Recall the Newsboys song, Amazing Love, and the lyrics that say, “amazing love, how can it be, that you my king would die for me.”  This most amazing love story provides an outstanding basis for the faith of our youth, and at their earliest ages will set them to asking questions, questions that are not easily answered by even the most astute Christian believer.  It’s a win/win situation for further establishing the mature Christian’s faith as they slowly but surely set the foundation of the next generation’s faith.

I was able to put this concept into practice in a timely fashion.  Very unexpectedly, a loved one of mine passed away.  Once I heard the news, I told my preschooler what happened.  How could I not, in that I was visibly shaken from receiving this news?  In the days that followed, I thanked God for receiving this believer into His kingdom.  Through discussion of what happened and prayer, my preschooler asked pointed and serious questions about the status of this person.  I answered the questions to the best of my ability, letting my preschooler know that the loved one was in Heaven with Jesus.  I even went on to say that Jesus was in the process of preparing a place for this loved one (John 14:2), and when the final nail was put into place, the heavenly residence was finished and ready for occupancy, and this is when God took this person home.

My admonition is this… discuss death as it presents itself to our youth, even our preschoolers, and follow this up with prayerful thanks for what Jesus did for us on the cross.  It will not be an easy road, answering these questions about the cross, death and resurrection, but it will set a course for eventual success in raising the next generation of bible-believing Christians.