Watching someone go through pain and suffering is hard for an adult, let alone a child. And unfortunately, because of Adam and Eve’s sin, pain and suffering are an inevitable part of this world. Below are some activities and discussions to have with children who might be going through suffering or watching a loved one suffer.
God's Word Brings Healing
CREATE Gather artistic supplies and make Scripture cards to put around the child’s house, to put up in the home of the one having a hard time, or to give to the person who is suffering. Whether the suffering is a physical sickness, emotional, Christian persecution, or relational, God’s Word has healing for the soul.
Use the Scripture verses provided in the files below or type out other verses that you feel would be appropriate. The children can copy these verses onto their Scripture cards or for younger children who cannot write as well, type and format the verses with enough spaces between them so that they can just cut them apart and glue the verses on the card. (Easy places to copy verses to paste in a word document: www.blueletterbible.org or www.biblegateway.com).
(The same verses are included in both files; The "Verse List" file is just a list of the verses for the child to use to write the verses on their own card and the second is formatted specifically for younger children to just cut apart and glue the verses on a card.)
Let the child pick which verses are helpful to him. Ask why the child picked that verse and then listen to his answer. Often his answer will reveal what is going on in his heart (fear, confusion, anger, doubts, etc.), where he might not have been able to articulate his exact feelings otherwise.
Let the child be creative on how he want to decorate the verse card. When things are spiraling out of control, activities where children feel they have a sense of control or a sense of ownership are often helpful.
The child could use sticky-tack or tape to place the Scripture cards on the bathroom mirrors, kitchen cabinets, doors, bed headboards, refrigerators, car visor, etc. as a present reminder of God’s comfort and truth.
PRAY Use the verses that the child chose for the Scripture cards to pray for the person going through suffering. You might need to show the child how to do this. Below are some examples:
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 Precious Jesus, You told us that we would have tribulation in this world; but thank You for Your promise of peace. Forgive me when I worry or become troubled about _________. Help me to take to heart Your promise that You have overcome the world and that I can have peace in You. Help me to rest in You. Amen.
“But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled. … If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. … Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” 1 Peter 3:14, 4:14, 16 Dear Jesus, for those that are suffering for righteousness sake help them to remember that they are blessed. Cause their heart to be without fear. May they sense the Spirit of glory and of God that rests upon them. As they suffer as a Christian and are insulted for the name of Christ, may they not be ashamed, but glorify You that they bear the name of Christ. Amen
MEMORIZE Memorize one of the verses that was picked for the Scripture cards or another appropriate verse to their situation that the child would like learn.
For example, Hebrews 13:5b-6a is a great verse for children. After learning the verses, have the children put those promises on their fingers. (See picture below).
Learn from Others Going Through Suffering
Invite the kids to watch an age appropriate video about another Christian who has gone through great suffering and talk about what this Christian learned, what struggles he or she went through, how God redeemed or brought good out of the situation, what lessons you could learn from this person’s life, or what character qualities you could emulate; if you are watching the kids for the parents, leave another such video for the kids to watch with their parents to have a similar discussion together later. This will give the parents an activity to do with their kids to help the kids as they process the suffering they and the family may be experiencing. This can draw them together to support each other rather than each person isolating themselves. A discussion about being in the family of God may be appropriate at this time. (See the section “Other Thoughts on Suffering” at the bottom of this page for suggestions on how to share the Gospel in connection with suffering.) Suggested films:
Joni - This is the inspiring testimony of Joni Eareckson Tada. This young woman was injured in a diving accident which left her as a quadriplegic. Journey with Joni as she finds strength in the Lord in the midst of her suffering.
If the grief or suffering being experienced, verbal or otherwise, is due to a person’s Christian faith, you can also visit our persecution page to see additional resources for helping those going through Christian persecution. CLICK HERE
Are You an Egg or a Carrot?
Use the objects of an egg and a carrot to show children that they have a choice on how they will look at suffering.
FOOD Serve carrots and hard boiled eggs at your meal and then have the below discussion.
OBJECT LESSON What happens when you boil carrots on the stove? (They become soft.) What about when you boil an egg? (It becomes hard). The same hot water will cause one to become soft and the other to become hard. This is often the same with trials in our lives. Suffering can either be used to make us tender to God and what he might be doing in our lives or it can make us hard-hearted and bitter against God. (See discussion points under “Other Thoughts on Suffering” for other suggestions on what to share with children who are going through suffering.)
GAME This is a fun game that also goes along with the egg or carrot object lesson.
Divide players into teams.
Hard boil enough eggs so that each team has 5 (or so) hard boiled eggs and then place 1 raw egg along with their 5 hard boiled eggs.
Outside or on a washable floor (or cover the floor with a tarp or blanket), choose one team member to sit in a chair. The remainder of the teammates will try to figure out which egg in their container is not hard boiled by cracking the eggs on the head of the team member who is sitting in the chair.
The goal is to identify all the eggs that are hard without cracking the one that is raw. Have a race to see which team can do this first or can identify the most hard boiled eggs before discovering the raw egg.
If a child wants to sit in the chair and have the eggs cracked on his or her head make sure the child is okay with getting egged before the game starts. Also encourage the children to be gentle with one another and not to slam the eggs on each other’s head.
Pajama Prayer Group
Gather the children in their pajamas and blankets to pray together before bed.
Ask them what they want to pray about.
Let them pray silently for a few minutes and then go around and have each child pray.
Suggested areas of focus could include the verses from the verse cards mentioned in the first activity or following this PRAY acronym.
P-praise R-repent A-ask Y-yes to God (yield/submit to God)
Listen and Love
Be attentive to when the kids seem to be needing hugs and are unable to express their feelings of fear, sadness, or confusion. Hold/talk with them individually, as long as they want.
If they seem like they want to talk but can’t find the right words to share with you, consider asking them, in a compassionate way, about what you think they may be feeling. A suggested question is: “I am feeling __________, are you?”
Or maybe they just need you to sit/hold them and be quiet. If they are crying and don’t want to stop, tell them you will hold them as long as they want so they don’t have to cry to get help. This has been especially helpful to children who are feeling abandoned or ignored perhaps because a parent(s) may be sick or dealing with trials themselves and aren’t able to give what the child needs for support at the time.
As adults, we have many emotions and thoughts going through our minds as we watch this loved one suffer...how much more children would have as well and they may not know how to communicate what they are experiencing. They might react with unexplained anger, disobedience, withdrawal, etc. Be attentive to these outward expressions of their inward emotions and respond with grace.
Be a Helper If you are watching kids while their parents are gone (whether its for an extended time or just for a day), encourage them to do their part to work together as a family, help the family with their chores, and look for ways to help their parents and siblings. Offer a game or fun thing to do together when the chores are done. Emphasize they are bringing a blessing to the family by serving the family in their chores.
Be Outside Get them outside in the sunshine and do physical, cardio activities often.
Read Uplifting Books Read to them or give them things to read that will equip them and cause them to reflect and apply Godly truths to their own lives. Limit anything that will lead them to darkness including certain types of video games and music.
Other Thoughts on Suffering
Sometimes it is hard to understand why God allows suffering. But in it, I believe that God wants us to come to the point of faith and surrender.
In suffering, even though our circumstances have changed for the worse, God has not changed. He is still good, all-powerful, and loving. Therefore, faith is surrendering and trusting in God’s goodness, power, and plan especially when we can’t understand it.
We cannot know exactly why God allows suffering in our lives. But since he has allowed it, we can know God has a purpose for it. Is the purpose to draw us closer to himself? Is the purpose to bring about greater good out of the suffering than if we didn’t suffer? (Like how God brought the greatest good out of Jesus’ suffering---our salvation.) Is it to mold us into the likeness of his son (who also suffered greatly)? Is it to remind us that this world and its pain and suffering is not all that is, but that if a person has believed in Jesus as their Savior that there is hope and freedom from suffering in eternity with God? God is not absent in suffering, rather he uses what is bad in the world as something that can be redeemed for good.
If your child has not believed in Jesus as his or her Savior, this might be an appropriate time to share with them about suffering in relation to salvation. For, God did not create the world with suffering. He created it perfect. But because he loved mankind he gave them a choice to obey or disobey his loving commands. When they choose to disobey, sin and suffering was the result and consequence of the choice. Man, not God, brought suffering into the world. God could have left us in our momentary physical suffering and our destined eternal suffering away from Him because of our sin, but instead he sent Jesus to suffer and die on the cross so that our sin could be forgiven. When you believe that Jesus is the one who took your punishment for sin, your sin is forgiven and you have the promise that you will spend eternity with God in Heaven. So while you will still suffer physically on earth, you can confidently know that this is not the end of the story. Those that have believed in Jesus as their Savior, know that one day God will do away with suffering once and for all and they look forward to enjoying peace with their Father forever. This is the hope in suffering.
Remember, sometimes it’s easy to understand the arguments about a good God in relation to evil, but when you are going through suffering and feeling the realism of your pain it’s a lot harder to agree to those truths about God. Have grace for those suffering and intercede for them to God on their behalf in much prayer. Pray often over children in their ear shot.
For Kids Why is Keiko Sick? By Stacia McKeever - This is a thought-provoking book to read with children to help them know why pain and suffering happen in this world. Discussion questions for parents are included.