Answering the Tough Questions

All this week, Everyday Truth is focusing on how to talk with our kids about the events of 9/11.

As my kids have gotten older, the questions they ask have gotten harder. While I enjoy being able to converse with my kids at a higher level than when they were preschoolers, some days I'd like to go back to those days where the toughest thing they asked was "Why is the sky blue?"

It's natural to shy away from the tough questions. Sometimes it's easier just to change the subject or offer up a distraction rather than deal with questions from our kids that have no good answers. But that a disservice to our kids.

As we talk with our kids about 9/11 this week, they're going to ask some tough questions. The way we answer those questions is going to make a difference in not only how our kids view the events of 10 years ago but how they view bad things that happen in the future.

To give you a starting point, here are some of the tough questions your kids might ask and a starting point for your answers. Remember to keep it simple and straightforward. We don't want to scare our kids, but we do want to give them a framework for dealing with the bad stuff that happens in life.

Why did 9/11 happen?
I think this is the toughest question. There's simply no good answer except that we live in a fallen world. Evil exists and it was in evidence on that day. Talk with your kids about how because Adam and Eve chose to sin, the world is not a perfect place. God gives us the ability to choose what we do. Unfortunately, some people made some really horrible choices on that day that affected thousands of lives.

Romans 3:23 says "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." The sin of the hijackers on the airplanes and those who planned the attacks simply had far greater consequences than a lot of the sins we commit every day.

Why didn't God stop it?
Talk with your kids about the fact that God could have stopped those planes from hitting those buildings. He's powerful enough. But God allows us to make choices. If we were all like robots, only doing what God allowed us to do, then God wouldn't get any glory from our praise. Our ability to make choices means that when we choose to follow God, He is glorified.

The people behind 9/11 chose to disobey God. Unfortunately, that created far-reaching consequences for innocent people. However, God has used the events of that day for good. We watched our country pull together and support one another. Some people started seeking God because of the events of that day. We can't know how God is even now using the events of that day for good because we can't see the big picture. What we do know is that God promises "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

Is Islam bad?
We don't want to teach our kids to hate or judge people based on what they believe. Jesus never did that. He went into the homes of tax collectors, prostitutes and Pharisees. He never withheld his love because of who someone was or what he believed.

The people who planned 9/11 were Muslim, but we don't want our kids to think that every person who practices Islam believes that Americans are bad. That's simply not true.

However, we do want our kids to know that we believe that what Islam teaches is wrong. There is only one way to God, and that's through Jesus. Talk with your kids about the fact that people believe different things. Jesus said He was the only way to God, but He doesn't want us to dislike people based only on what they believe. The only way others can know the truth about Jesus is if we share it with them. We can't do that if we're busy hating people because of the religion that they follow.

Explain to your kids that while the people who created the chaos on 9/11 were Muslim, it's possible for anyone to twist any religion to suit their own purposes. People have done horrible things in the name of Christ, too. Just because one person does a terrible thing and blames it on his religion doesn't mean we should tar all the others with the same brush.

The questions that arise around 9/11 don't come with easy answers. But answering our kids tough questions with honesty and an age-appropriate explanation can go a long way toward helping them sort out what happened that day.

Be deliberate in answering your kids' questions because your answers matter. They will help your kids sort through the tragic events of 10 years ago, but they will also be the lens through which they view tough things in the future.