Helping Kids Through Times of Tragedy

I don’t normally do two posts on the same day, but I didn’t want this one to wait till tomorrow. In light of recent events there has been some talk online about how we talk to children about tragedy. I won’t claim to have all the answers, but I will offer my thoughts. I hope you find them helpful.

  1. Be Available: One of the major take aways for me from the 2013 Orange Conference was the value of being available to kids. Sometimes just being there is more valuable than anything we might say or do. When I say be available I mean COMPLETELY available. This means setting aside all the many mental distractions that come with life. This means ignoring your phone, even if it rings. You can call them back later. In times of tragedy kids need something stable. You may not know what to say, but you can be that stable thing that this child can hold onto while the rest of their world seems to fall apart.
  2. I don’t know: It’s ok not to have all the answers. As adults, especially men, we tend to want to fix things. Don’t try to have the answers to all of the child’s questions. It’s ok to be vulnerable and let them know that you are just as confused about all of this as they are.
  3. I’m scared: Kids in tragedy are often very afraid. Well, guess what, adults often are too. Don’t be afraid to let the child know that you are scared too, if you are.
  4. I’m NOT scared: While the child you are trying to help may be afraid, you may not be. Don’t fabricate fear in order to try to relate with the child. The goal is to connect with the child. Lying to them will have the opposite effect.
  5. Let them talk: There are not many instances in a child’s life where an adult shows genuine interest in what they have to say. Let this be one of those few times. Try not to speak, but only to listen. If you must speak, ask questions aimed at helping the child to express how they feel. Questions that can be easily answered yes or no will halt the conversation.
  6. Silence is golden: There are two sides to this one.
    1. Not every child WANTS to talk about it. They may simply want someone to play with. They may be looking for a diversion from the tragedy. While never dealing with the pain could cause problems later, it doesn’t mean that they have to talk about it RIGHT NOW.
    2. During a conversation, especially a difficult one, it can be uncomfortable to allow moments of silence. Resist the desire to fill up every moment with words. Silence can allow a child time to think. Silence can give the child time to build up the courage to enter into a deeper conversation. Allow silence to happen. If the silence is not yet uncomfortable to you, then it probably has not been long enough. Let the silence continue.
    3. Ok, I know I said 2, but here is another one. Sometimes people going through these times just need to know you are there for them. Sometimes the most therapeutic thing you can do is simply sit next to them and NOT TALK.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope that it helps you to deal with kids going through tragedy.

Matt Norman

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How Could God Let This Happen?

It seems whenever something bad happens the question comes up, “How can a loving God allow this to happen.” This question can be a good thing, leading to a healthy exploration of ones faith. This can lead to a deeper faith and a greater love and relationship with God. Or, this can be a bad thing that leads us down a path to bitterness, anger and hatred of God.

Recent tornadoes have killed a great many people. Let me come right out and say that I don’t know why God allowed some to be killed while sparing others. I don’t know why God allowed small children, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters to be killed. You see, I am pretty smart; but God IS SO MUCH SMARTER THAN ME!!

I remember as a child there were a great many things that my parents did that I did not understand. Sometimes these things seem mean or even cruel to my childish mind. Now, however, as a parent myself, I understand these things in a way I never could have before. I am not saying that someday, when we are gods, we will understand God’s ways. But, the Bible does say, “Now I know in part; but then I shall know fully, even as I am known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12. I don’t believe this to mean that we will become all knowing, as God is. But, I do believe it means that we will have a greater understanding of things. I believe that as we look back at many of the events in our lives, both tragic and triumphant, they will make a lot more sense.

That’s great, but we have failed to answer the original questions.


A few years ago a man in our church asked me this very question. I had known this man for a while, but did not know this about him. Turns out he had a young child that diagnosed with cancer and died at a very young age. I believe the loss of a child to be the greatest pain that a parent will ever experience. So, this man asked me this same question. At that point I was still very new to ministry. This was the first time I had been approached with this very difficult question. I can only give credit to the Holy Spirit that I was able to speak at all. What I told him was very profound. I said:


Ok maybe that wasn’t very profound, but it was the truth. What God gave me next was really good. I went on to explain to this man that, while I couldn’t explain why God would allow something like this, I knew that God could use this to help others. You see, I have never experienced the death of a child and I pray that I never will. For this reason my ability to minister to a family going through this is limited. “BUT,” I told him, “You can minister to someone going through this in a way that I never could, because I have not experienced it.” I told him that, if he was willing, someday God would give him a chance to minister to someone because of his own experience. I am not saying that God causes these things to happen so that we are better prepared to minister to people going through similar tragedy. What I am saying is that some good can come from these types of tragic events.

Naturally if you are in the midst of going through such tragedy then it is not the time to share this truth. Most people, even Christians, will find little comfort in this at the time of their deepest pain. But, there will come a time when they are ready for this conversation.

If you are the person going through such unspeakable tragedy let me first say that I am sorry. I am unable to understand your pain. I don’t and can’t understand what you are going through, but somewhere there is someone who has been through something similar and does understand. Seek that person out.

If you are someone who has gone through a similar tragedy in the past, then seek out those who are hurting now. What better tribute to the person YOU lost than to use your experience to help someone else with their pain.

For me I offer what I can, my prayers. While I have never lost a child, God has. He sent His Son here knowing that it would lead to his death. I can’ t understand, but God does. Today I pray for those involved in this terrible tragedy.

Matt Norman

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Setting Goals For Jesus – Jesus

All week I have been looking at Luke 5:17-26. Each day I have looked at a differs people involved in this story. You can use the links at the bottom of this post to access all of the posts in this series. Today I want to look at Jesus himself.

In this passage we find Jesus teaching in a house. Imagine how this must have gone down from his perspective. Right in the middle of his message debris starts falling from the ceiling. As the falling debris grows heavier the suddenly develops a hole in the roof. Shortly after a man is lowered down right in front of Jesus, WHILE HE IS STILL SPEAKING. So, how did Jesus respond and how does that compare to how we might respond?

He was not bothered by the interruption 

This had to have been quite an interruption in the middle of Jesus message. But, he was not annoyed, he did not scold the men for interrupting his message. He simple stopped what he was doing and ministered to the paralytic.

In many churches we spend time and energy planning out every detail of our services. We plan out when we will sing song and when we will pray. We plan out how long the preaching will be and when we will take up the offering. This is a good thing. I think it is important to do what we can to make our services as good as possible. But, after we do all this work to get ready for the service, how would we respond if we had a interruption similar to this one? I fear that many of us would not handle it as well as Jesus did. Our planning might cause us to lose site of what really matters, ministering to people.

When He saw their faith He healed the paralytic

The four men showed great faith by going to whatever lengths necessary to get this man to Jesus. Jesus was so moved by this that he decided to heal the man. There were a number of people that Jesus encountered that He did not heal, but He chose to heal this one. WHY? Because of THEIR  faith. Not just the faith of the paralytic, but also because of the faith of the four men.

In the church we have little problem believing that Jesus CAN save people, but we often stop just short of believing that he WILL. Will the faith we show be such that Jesus will be WANT to save the people we bring to Him?  Will Jesus see OUR faith and be moved by it? We have to have faith that Jesus CAN and WILL save people if we can just get them to Him. We then have to operate in such a way that shows this faith.

If people are not coming to Christ in your church, maybe it is because you don’t have faith that Jesus will save them. If lives are not being changed in your church maybe it is because you don’t have faith that Jesus will change people’s lives. If you want to see people come to salvation and lives changed, then start behaving as if you believe that Jesus WILL do this.


Setting Goals for Jesus

Setting Goals for Jesus – The Paralytic

Setting Goals for Jesus – The Four Men

Setting Goals for Jesus – The Other People

Matt Norman

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Setting Goals For Jesus – The Other People

This week we have been looking at Luke 5:17-26. Monday we looked at an overview of the passage. Tuesday we looked at the paralytic. Yesterday we looked at the four men that helped him. Today I want to look at some of the other people that were present when this was going on.

The Scribes and Pharisees.

These were the “church people” of the day. Not just that, but they were the leaders of the Jewish church. Yet when they witnessed the miraculous healing of this man they did not celebrate. They had no joy for the new life that this man had been given. Instead the complained about HOW Jesus healed the man. They were more interested in what Jesus said, the methods he used, than they were with the fact that this man had been healed.

As the church we are often this way. We will look at a church that is reaching lost people and we complain about HOW they do it. We will complain about the way they dress or the music they play or the way their building is designed or decorated. We will complain about the way that the pastor preaches or what he wears or his lack of education. Rather than celebrating the many people that are being healed through salvation we complain about HOW this church is bringing people to Jesus.

Unlike the scribes and pharisees we should be more interested in the results than the methods. You see the Gospel has never changed. It has been the same for nearly 2000 years. But, during that time the methods used to share that gospel have been continually changing. I have often heard that the message never changes, but the methods MUST change. Paul went so far as to say that he became all things to all people so that some might be saved.

The Crowd

When the four men first approached the house with their friend, they were unable to enter the building because of the crowd. This crowd unknowingly served to prevent this man from getting to Jesus. They were there listening to Jesus’ teaching. This was good, BUT they were so focused on getting themselves fed that they failed to recognize the needs of this man. They were so focused on themselves that they didn’t even realize that they were actually PREVENTING this man from coming to Jesus.

As the church we sometimes do the same thing. In our efforts to ensure that WE get what WE need, we actually stand in the way of people coming to Jesus. Sometimes this comes in the form of worship services that cater to the believer to the point that the non-believer doesn’t feel comfortable even entering. Sometimes this is when we spend time criticizing other churches instead of loving on them or on our lost neighbors. Regardless of  HOW we are preventing people from coming to Christ, as the church we need to constantly look to see if there are things that we are doing that are actually keeping people from Jesus.

How can we know? Well, it is unlikely that someone is going to cut a hole in the roof of our church and drop someone down in front of Jesus. BUT, it is possible that there will be people around us that are going around us to reach the lost people in our area. If there is a church or organization that does things differently from you and seems to be reaching the lost people in your area, then maybe you need to reconsider some of the things that you are doing.

At the end of the day reaching lost people is the number one reason that the church exists. Even the things that we do to serve and grow other believers we do so that they will be better equipped to reach the lost. If this is  our primary purpose and we are not seeing people getting saved in our churches, then we need reevaluate what we are doing.

Matt Norman

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Setting Goals for Jesus – The Four Men

This week I have been sharing thoughts I had while studying Luke 5:17-26. In this passage four men help a paralyzed man get to Jesus so he could be healed.  You can read the first post HERE. Yesterday I looked at the paralyzed man. Today I want to look at the four man that helped him. In my mind the paralytic represents the lost people around us and the four men represent The Church. With that in mind let’s look at these men and what they can teach us about BEING the church.

They recognized the man’s need.

These men looked at this man and saw that he needed to be healed.

Do we recognize the needs of the people around us? In a past post (HERE) I wrote about us SEEING the crowd. This is the concept I am talking about. If we are going to do what Jesus commanded us to do, we must recognize the needs of the people around us.

They knew that they could not give them what he needed.

These men had no illusions about their ability to heal this man. They knew what he needed, but they also knew that they could not give it to him.

The church can not give lost people what they need. Lost people need salvation.

They knew that only Jesus could help him.

They recognized that the help he needed was beyond what they could offer.

Sometimes we, the church, seem to think that WE can give lost people what they need. WE CAN’T. Only Jesus can give salvation. There are a lot of things that we can do to help people, but we CAN NOT save them. Only Jesus can.

They believed that Jesus would heal him.

They believed that if they could just get this man to Jesus, that not only COULD he heal him, but that he WOULD.

We have little problem believing that Jesus CAN save people but we often do not behave as if we believe he WILL. Not every person that we bring to Jesus will be saves, but many will.

They were willing to do whatever it took to get him to Jesus.

These men brought the paralytic to the house, saw the great crowd standing between them and formulated a plan to get him to Jesus. They went out of their way. They worked hard, got sweaty, got dirty. They did what they had to do to get this man to Jesus.

Sometimes we, the church, will get all the rest of these right and then fail in this one. We must be willing to go out of our way. We must work hard, get sweaty, get dirty. We must do what we have to do to get people to Jesus.

It was because of their faith that he was healed.

The passage says that when Jesus saw THEIR faith He healed the man.

Will the faith we show inspire Jesus to heal the lost people that we bring to Him?

Tomorrow we will look, briefly, at the crowd in the house and how they represent the church.

Matt Norman

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