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EXPLAINING EVIL

HOW CAN WE HELP CHILDREN UNDERSTAND WHEN THINGS GO SERIOUSLY WRONG?

By Meg Waters     3/19/2015

Deliver us from evil” is the last line of the Lord’s Prayer, one of the first prayers we teach our children. But what do we tell children about evil? Do little ones really understand what evil is? When a child asks, how do we answer the question, “Why did God let this happen?”

We probably do not give much thought to it, unless something bad happens and then we struggle for the words to explain how this could be and reassure them that things will get better. Consider the following answers for young children based on Catholic teaching:

Why did God let my loved one die?

God knows that there are sad things that happen in this world. He promised to be with us every second of our life to help us get through the bad times. Sometimes these things are like strong medicine to teach us that life is precious, or that we should take care of our health, or never take anyone for granted. Think about how sad Mary was when Jesus died on the cross. God did not take away the Blessed Virgin Mary’s suffering, and she never complained. She saw Jesus after the resurrection and likely waved good-bye to him when he ascended to heaven. She surely missed him very much, but she joyfully lived a long life helping the apostles spread Jesus’ message.

Why does God let bad people do such terrible things?

God is more powerful than all the bad things that can happen. God created each of us to be just like him, which includes the ability to choose how we act. We can choose to do what God wants or we can ignore God and do things that disappoint God. God sent his own son Jesus to show us how to live and gave us the Bible, the Catechism and many other tools to help teach us to make good choices. Unfortunately, some people do not listen to God and make bad choices that hurt themselves or other people. But good people have more power than bad people do.

I feel so sad about what happened, what could I do to be happy again?

Good people can defeat evil – by turning it around and doing good despite all the bad things that happen. When sickness or accidents cause pain, this is your opportunity to turn that hurt into good by how you respond. If you respond by falling into despair or letting bad things distance you from God, then you let the evil get stronger, but if you fight evil with a kind and loving heart, you destroy a bit of its power. Every time you help without being asked, talk to someone who needs cheering up, say a quiet prayer or do some other kindness, you destroy a small piece of evil.

Even if you make mistakes and do something wrong, God loves you and will forgive you if you ask him. In heaven, evil will be gone and you will be surrounded only by good and God’s eternal love.

As you and your family face tragedy, loss, pain or sickness, this might be a great time to pick up C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia” series and read to your child. If you have not already read them, you will immediately see the beautiful allegories based on Catholic teaching, and if you read them as a child, you will be delighted to rediscover them, and perhaps find a bit of peace for your soul as well.

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