When I (Adam) was a teenager I had your basic, teenage perspective of God. Things in my life were mostly good all the time, I had a loving family, friends, food, shelter, all the necessities. So basically, God just fit into that somewhere, but I couldn’t really tell you where. I am led to believe that’s a pretty normal, natural perspective of God. Honestly, I had probably never really considered where God was exactly in the midst of all that. This seems to be the case until something happens that causes us to wonder- to step back and ask, “well, God, where were you then?”
We all end up facing this question at some point or another, whether it’s when we are a child, teenager, or adult. Something happens that disrupts the equilibrium of our understanding of God and suddenly there seem to be more questions than answers. For me this happen when I was in high school. I had two people close to me die in unexpected ways that didn’t fit into my box of how God worked. So there I was, 15 and wondering where in the world God was in the midst of this mess.
What do we do when that happens to our kid? What happens when that’s my son or daughter that is asking that question? That can be a really scary time that I don’t think any of us are really quite ready for. I don’t claim to have all the answers to that, but I can speak from my experience and offer some good questions that will help our children explore this on their own.
For me, what worked was finally having somebody tell me it was ok to be mad at God. As strange as it sounds, I found peace and rest in knowing that I could be mad at God, because the reality was that God was mad at this tragic situation too. God was on my side, not against me. God truly was Emmanuel- God with us.
My advice in these difficult situations is to help students find that truth and to help them trust God again and believe that God is good. Help them see again that God is with them- God’s heart breaks with their heart break, God’s joy exudes with their joy, and so on. From that basic framework, here are some good questions from “Sticky Faith” to help start those difficult conversations.
-What would it look like to trust God in this situation?
-If you were trusting in God, what you would say? What would you do?
-What would it look like to doubt God in this situation? Is that bad?
-What do you suppose God would say to you about this?
-How does it make you feel to recognize that God is with you in this situation?
This is not an exhaustive list, nor is every question perfect for every situation, but I think these are good conversation starters. These are good questions for starting the conversation and the healing process. One of the great things about church families is that in the times when these questions arise, we know that we do not walk alone. We walk alongside one another through the most joyous times to the darkest days of our lives and everything in between. That’s part of being family. So, whatever it is that you are facing, know that you are not alone, and you have a group to always come home to at West Hills.