Why doesn't God just stop bad things from happening?

Many children, from different faith backgrounds and even from homes where there is no faith practice, still hold an innate sense of ‘God’.

God is often presented to children as an all-controlling power – seeing and determining every part of life. When children encounter the terrible sadness and pain of death, the obvious question arises: ‘Why doesn’t God stop bad things from happening?’ They may even hear adults voice this question.

When children ask this question – and when adults ask this question – it is a serious issue to be addressed, but also something more.

When we (rightly) question God in the face of death and ask ‘Why?’, we are often not looking for a logical answer – a technical explanation of fact.

In fact this can be the least confronting and helpful response in these circumstances. There are times when our children are asking for practical factual information – but the ‘Why?’ questions usually aren't looking for that kind of conversation.

‘Why did God allow this?’ or ‘Why didn't God stop Mrs Q from dying?’ are questions that are searching not for pat answers, or even brilliant clear answers. They are often expressing a need – an emotional need – rather than an intellectual query.

They may be looking for solidarity.

They may just need to hear that their feelings of sadness, confusion or turmoil are normal and not wrong.

They may need the security of knowing that other people feel what they are feeling.

They may need some reassurance that they are not to blame, as children often assume blame for things.

They may need to be comforted that they are not in danger, as the death has shaken their sense of safety.

When your child asks a ‘Why?’ question, take a moment to consider what emotional need they might be expressing. Only when the emotional need is met and they are feeling safe and secure and free from blame can a conversation that explains or explores death be possible and positive.

Beth Barnett

Beth is currently undertaking doctoral studies in the area of New Testament examining the constructs of maturity in the letters of Paul. She has held pastoral roles in Baptist and Anglican churches and been a long-term volunteer in the missions of Scripture Union, for whom she is a freelance resource writer and trainer. She teaches units in Children and Families Ministry and Biblical Studies at Stirling College, as well as guest lectures in other Melbourne, Australia, colleges. Internationally, she is a writer and facilitator in the Child Theology Movement.