Monday, May 2, 2016

When my 6 year old asked, "Why does God make sickness?"

It was an ordinary trip home from school with my two kids in the back seat of my very stylish van. I mentioned to Elijah that in two weeks he will have to spend the night at someone's house while I take Jaycee to what we call "the far away hospital" for appointments.

This brought on our normal conversation about hospital appointments.

Elijah asks, "Is it just one night?"

"Yes," I tell him.

"Because sometimes I stay at grandma's for several days when Jaycee's at the Children's hospital," Elijah says and continues to reminisce about previous stays with grandma.

Then out of the blue our familiar conversation took an abrupt turn when he asked, "Why does God make sickness anyway?"


I was caught off guard by my 6 year old already pondering one of life's great mysteries. I don't believe I thought about anything that deep until I was in high school but sickness never impacted my family like Elijah. My biggest question as a 6 year old probably centered on how I could convince my mom to let my Barbie dolls have a pool party in the bathtub.

Here I was at the end of long day with a question hanging in the air. I answered Elijah's question like this:
Well, I don't really think God makes sickness. God's plan is always good health for us and bodies that work right. This is what Heaven is-a place where everything is perfect. The Earth is not Heaven. The Earth has a lot of stuff in it that God neither wanted to happen to people or intended for people. But, there's sin and other things in the world that all lead to things going wrong like sickness. I don't think God wants your sister to be sick and take medicine. But, she was born into that body on Earth and it's what we are dealing with.

The answer satisfied him and the topic was then changed to some mundane topic of who has better food at their house -Aunt Steph or Grandma- and where he should stay while I am away for that one night.

Since that question was asked by my son, I have been asking myself a question, "Where did I go wrong?"

How did my son come to the conclusion that God makes sickness? This is something I never wanted Elijah to think about God. People often struggle with this type of question when they are faced in some sort of crisis of belief. I myself struggled with this idea of sickness and bad things happening to people of faith. I fought my way through difficult thoughts and doubt that nearly crippled me. I didn't want that struggle for Elijah, especially when he's 6 years old.

I have never said the clichés to him about if it's God will, Jaycee will get better. To me, these clichés can cause doubt. So if I have never talked about assigning Jaycee's medical issues to God, how did he come to that conclusion?

After some thought and prayer, I have decided I have made two errors. First, I have told Elijah that God makes everything. Maybe, I wasn't specific enough. I don't think God makes terminal illnesses or sickness in an effort to teach us something. Yet, I commonly tell Elijah that God makes Everything.

Secondly, I have spent very little time talking about our enemy as described in John 10:10 (The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.) I rarely talk about Satan and his plans to try to destroy relationships with God and to steal, kill, and destroy in general. I don't want to scare him, and I don't want to confuse him. Yet, my avoiding this topic has only told one side of the spiritual story that impacts all our lives. If Satan's agenda isn't discussed, then God can gets credit for every bad and good thing in life.

I hate that my son has confusing thoughts about our faith this young. But, I'm glad he is able to voice them to me, so we can reflect on them together. I'm thankful too that God is teaching me better ways to help him understand.

For more on my thoughts on a similar question with more scripture references, please read Does God make Down syndrome?

Elijah hanging out with his sister during a hospital admission

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