After her grandfather’s funeral, one of my young daughters reflected, “I’m glad Bear is now in heaven.” Her 5-year-old sister looked up skeptically, offering an easy segue into what I expected to be an encouraging conversation about the hope Christians have for an eternity with Christ.
Instead, she threw out promises like “Heaven has the best trampoline parks!” I interrupted with the crushing news: the Bible never promises eternal trampoline parks, but it does promise eternity with Jesus. Now I had not one but two skeptical faces staring back. The younger one broke the silence: “It doesn’t sound very fun to me.”
What do we do when our children are unimpressed by the promise of God’s holy presence in heaven? How do we react when the idea of eternity downright terrifies them? First, don’t panic. Most of my children still think McDonald’s is better than a five-star steak dinner. Still, we should remember the high calling parents have to “teach them diligently” (Deut. 6:7).
Here are four ways to set aside panic and help shape your child’s view of heaven.
1. Talk about death.
Instead of shielding kids from the topic, speak openly about saints who have passed from this life—a world peppered with pain and disappointment—into an eternity of endless joy with the Lord. Speak of those saints in the present tense, because they’re in the presence of God and are now more alive than ever.
Speak of those saints in the present tense, because they’re in the presence of God and are now more alive than ever.
Do you speak of death in a way that could lead your children to fear? Or perhaps you avoid the topic altogether, causing them to fill that void of information with fear of the unknown?
Rather than only focusing on the end of earthly life, sprinkle into your talks specific promises you look forward to experiencing in heaven. It’s OK to distinguish between the temporary unpleasantness of dying with the eternal joy that awaits Christians on the other side of it.
2. Showcase the greatness of Jesus.
Let your children see you enjoy the Lord—in a corporate worship service, in private prayer, in service to your church, or even as you enjoy a beautiful day he provided. Connect the dots between the good things you love and the God who gave them to you.
I often point out a beautiful sunset or full moon and quote Psalm 19 to my children. Make note of how the Lord created the beauty they see around them as a gift and a reminder of his glory. Ask them to imagine how beautiful heaven must be with the glory of God on full display.
3. Speak directly to your children about their fears.
As a child, I was overwhelmed by the idea that heaven had no end. Even the best day of ice cream sundaes and swimming with friends seemed downright miserable when I imagined it on repeat for-ev-er. But as I grew older, I realized the magnitude, intricacy, and beauty of God meant I would need an eternity to explore the depths of his character.
Think about the complexity of the universe and how long it would take to investigate every galaxy, star, planet, and black hole in the entire creation. Genesis tells us “God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars” (Gen 1:16). “And the stars” isn’t even a sentence, yet it would take us millennia to explore this one aspect of God’s intricate creation.
The Lord made his creation for his glory, and he made us to enjoy his endless glory. We already know that God’s creation is endlessly interesting, so there’s no chance that spending eternity exploring God himself will be a snoozer.
We already know that God’s creation is endlessly interesting, so there’s no chance that spending eternity exploring God himself will be a snoozer.
Maybe your child’s fear isn’t boredom but separation from you. What a great opportunity to talk to your child about how God is a good Father. Or maybe your child fears the unfamiliarity of heaven. Discuss how God is going to make all things new, and how there will be no need for any tears in a believer’s new home. Soothe your child’s specific fears with comforting truth found in Scripture.
4. Give them biblical theology.
Teach your kids theological truth about who God is and how he has revealed himself. Bring them into the grand narrative God tells in the Bible with simple categories like his goodness in creation, our fall, redemption through Christ, and the new creation that awaits believers.
Christ has defeated and will destroy death forever. His resurrection proves it. So, we can tell our kids that the culmination of the greatest story ever told ends not with death but with all God’s people living with him happily ever after.
We can tell our kids that the culmination of the greatest story ever told ends not with death but with all God’s people living with him happily ever after.
Heaven is where humans fulfill their purpose of knowing and enjoying the One who designed us to do just that! No trampoline park on earth could be as exciting as eternity with the King who came to ransom his people from death and reward them with abundant life.
Parents, we can encourage our kids with our confidence of being in heaven with Christ. We must remember to live like we believe God will one day wipe away every tear (Rev. 7:17). That includes tears we shed out of fear for our children.
Our sons and daughters learn most from us as they observe us. So let us prayerfully and deliberately trust God with them and offer them something much more eternally satisfying than even the best trampoline park in the world: the Lord himself.
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