John Piper shares how to talk to children about God, coronavirus

girl, daughter, parent, child
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Theologian John Piper has shared what he believes children should understand about God and the novel coronavirus and identified how parents can address difficult questions pertaining to the outbreak. 

In a recent episode of his “Ask Pastor John” podcast, the 74-year-old pastor and grandfather-of-14 first stressed that “God is stronger than the coronavirus,” citing Matthew 4:24: “They brought [Jesus] all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains . . . and he healed them.”

“Jesus is more powerful than diseases — every one of them,” he said. “In fact, over and over again, the Bible tells us that God commands the wind, rain, snow, lightning, plants, grass, grasshoppers, flies, frogs, gnats, worms, whales, birds, and everything else. He commands them where to go, what to do, and they do what He says. They have to; He’s God.”

Piper then addressed the question, “Why is there a coronavirus, then? Why don’t you, God, Jesus, please take it away, since you could?” 

While God could take away the coronavirus “by snapping His finger,” He doesn’t do so because “He has a wise purpose for it,” the pastor explained. 

“God is perfectly wise. That means He knows exactly what needs to be done to bring about what’s best for all time,” he said. “That’s called wisdom. When you know what is best to do all the time, you’re a wise person. And God is perfect in wisdom. He knows what needs to be done: He knows how it needs to be done, and He knows when it needs to be done.”’

Tragedies like the coronavirus happen “so that people in the world who don’t believe in Jesus would wake up. So that people would stop trusting in themselves and trust God.  [And] to show us that we might be loving things more than we love God,” Piper said.

“God is in charge of the coronavirus,” he said, adding that because Jesus came to the world and died for our sins, “we never have to be afraid of God’s punishment.”

“This is wonderful. That means we don’t ever have to be afraid to die — not from the coronavirus or anything else — because when Jesus died and rose from the dead, He changed death from punishment into a doorway to everlasting happiness with Him,” he said. 

Stressing that “God is stronger than the coronavirus,” Piper encouraged children to “be brave ... because you have a great Savior.”

“Your best friend, Jesus, your Savior and Lord, is strong — strong enough to make everything, including the coronavirus, turn out for your good,” he said, 

The bestselling author shared a two-line poem “especially for children who believe in Jesus”: “When things don’t go the way they should / God always makes them turn for good.”

[T]rust Jesus no matter what,” he concluded. “You’ll never be sorry.”

In an article for The Gospel Coalition, Sandy Galea, kids ministry director at the Multicultural Bible Ministry Rooty Hill, advised parents to remember that “silence is not the answer” when it comes to the coronavirus.

“We have a God who speaks. Our God-given privilege is to speak God’s truth into the lives of our children. To make Him known so that our children see Him, know Him, love Him and live for Him,” she said. 

She also encouraged parents to pray with children, adding that “there are things children do not need to see or hear.”

“Be careful about conversations children are listening in on. Or news broadcasts they do not need to see. We can’t protect them from everything that’s unhelpful, but within our homes, we can restrict their exposure,” Galea emphasized. 

As the coronavirus continues to spread across the U.S., disrupting society, closing churches, and shuttering schools — some until the end of the school year — a number of Christian ministries have stepped in to fill the gap. 

The Southern Baptist Convention’s publishing arm, Lifeway Christian Resources, responded to the need for the continuation of children's ministry by creating a temporary free resource called “LifeWay Kids at Home.”

The free, in-home children’s Bible study program is available to churches of all kinds that have postponed their services due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

For older children and teens, Nick Hall, the founder of the millennial-led evangelism movement PULSE, launched an Instagram TV series exploring relevant topics such as the meaning of church when people physically cannot meet together for worship and how to deal with fear in the face of the uncertain. 

Each episode, available on both Instagram and Facebook, is seven to eight minutes long and is posted every night at 9 p.m. ET. 

“We have a choice,” Hall said. “We can sit in fear or we can use this forced Sabbath as a time to slow down and come back to what matters. ... I think God’s Word is going to speak to us during this time — and I believe this can be a life-defining season if we invite God in.”

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