Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them. Psalm 8 verses 1-4
Last week we heard the news that an elderly friend of ours is terminally ill. When we told the children, their first response was to ask whether she would see their sister when she got to heaven. We asked them what they thought happened in heaven, and the immediate response was that you worship God, and sing. ‘God of glory, we exalt your name!’ It encouraged me greatly to hear their genuine and unemotional response to the sad situation. People die, and if they know and love the Lord Jesus, then they go to heaven which is a wonderful place where there is no more sadness, pain or death, but only perfect and eternal rejoicing. To them, it sounds like an exciting adventure; we need to recapture some of that innocence and faith. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” What does that mean, but that we should continue to have that childlike faith which does not look for complications, does not get bogged down by the trials and pressures of life, but looks upward to a God for whom nothing is impossible.
Several years ago, a seven year old girl was probably the person who helped me most following the death of my daughter. She wanted to talk about her. She wanted to look at her photos, time after time after time. She asked the important questions about illness and death, and talked in a refreshingly simple way about heaven and what that meant. Adults often shy away from such conversations, feeling that certain topics are in some way taboo. And yet children retain that honesty and simplicity and can often see things in a way far beyond what we would imagine.
And yet it is easy to dumb things down for our children. To consider a certain topic or issue too complex or too ‘adult’ to discuss with them. To present simplified and sanitized versions of some of the Bible stories. For example, looking at the story of Noah – we talk about the ark, and the flood, and the rainbow which accompanied God’s promise. But what happened to everybody else who lived at that time? Why was the flood sent? Has God changed? Do we miss the more important message of a holy God who abhors sin? That might just be one example. Time after time I have been astonished by the clarity of perception that children have. But should we be surprised? I don’t think so. It does not, for example, surprise us when children quickly learn that they can pit parents off against one another. Or that birthday and Christmas celebrations are often accompanied by gifts and special food. Or even be able to memorise lengthy songs and nursery rhymes. They can both memorise and perceive unspoken nuances of situations and conversations. But we can expect so little of them, and in doing so, lose some of the opportunity to tap into this hunger and understanding that seems to be a God given gift. Psalm 8 is often quoted, but do we really think about what that means? Even a child who cannot yet speak, an infant, can rejoice in God and there is real power in those praises. I thank God for this truth, and pray that as our children grow, they do not lose their childlike faith and trust in Him.