The accidentally-profound spiritual moments in my 3-year-old’s dialogue continue.
He crawled into our bed in the middle of the night, scared of the dark in his room. After a few minutes of snuggling (and being tempted to just fall back asleep and let him stay snuggled next to me), I carried him back to his bed. As I tucked him back in, I kissed his forehead and assured him that his room is safe. I told him he was safe. Then I reminded him of one of our memory verses, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in [God]” (Psalm 56:3).
In that little voice that melts my heart, he asked, “Why can I trust God?”
“Because he loves you, sweet Bear.”
My answer was true and it really is as simple as that…and yet also much more complicated. Just as my answer to him about suffering and sovereignty the other day wasn’t really sufficient, this doesn’t offer the question a full answer. I feel confident in assuring him his room is safe because I don’t foresee anything bad happening in the middle of the night. I wish I could make broader promises of him being safe; I want to be able to assure him that really bad things won’t happen because God will protect him, but I can’t make that promise because it’s not mine to make. I am not the one in control. It is His plan, not mine, and I know all to well that we all will suffer. I don’t know how or when, but it will come.
I have learned, through much wrestling with God, that love doesn’t require protecting someone from pain. In fact, real love often requires allowing someone to go through pain when it produces ultimate good. I understand that when I take my son to the doctor for a shot or give him medicine that he hates. He doesn’t necessarily understand that yet though! Sometimes he’s confused or even angry with me. I know I’ve been like my son many times when God has allowed pain in my life.
It would be a mistake to raise the Bear with the belief that God’s taking care of him means that God will shield him from suffering. As the broken reality of the human existence eventually becomes obvious, that would make him question God’s love. Whether God really loves us is a question difficult enough without having unrealistic expectations to confront.
So I suppose, while it’s not a full answer, it’s appropriate for a 3-year-old. As he matures, we will talk more about how trusting God means trusting that He loves us and that He knows best for us, even when life is painful… maybe even incomprehensible. There will be plenty of opportunities to answer hard questions about suffering and trust and whether God is really good. What a task we have been given as parents!