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So Simple a Child Can Understand

How do you explain to a child what is happening in our world today?

When we stopped for coffee on a long road trip recently, one of my grandchildren softly asked me, “What do you think about what all of you were talking about?”

Reeling from one tragedy to another

I thought she had been asleep. But no, she had been quietly listening to us adults bemoaning how our world is hurting, reeling from one crisis and tragedy to another—brutal, senseless, unpredictable mayhem that has everyone on edge. And, of course, we were also opining about the complex, underlying reasons.

Our focus was on events of only the previous month—shootings (some involving police) of unarmed civilians in cities around the United States, armed civilians assassinating police officers, terrorists armed with bombs attacking an airport in Turkey, another armed with nothing more than a big truck mowing down scores of people (including many children) in France, and the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter in U.S. history in an Orlando nightclub.

I was immediately sorry she had heard all that—it’s too much for little ears to hear and young minds to comprehend. I’m even more sorry about the world we are handing to the next generation. And how do we explain to children what is happening when we adults grapple with understanding it ourselves?

Clear, simple answers are the most difficult to develop, and a 10-second stroll into the restaurant hardly allows for substantive dialogue. So when drink and food choices quickly distracted her from the topic at hand, I was grateful for the reprieve. I needed a little more time to think this through, to recover from the lousy job I did in stumbling around for a simple and honest, yet reassuring, answer that a child could understand.

The simplest principles

She hasn’t brought the question up again, but it has hardly left my mind. Children don’t need complicated analyses and answers to life’s big questions. But frankly, neither do adults. It’s time we adults stop acting so childishly, lift our eyes higher than the issues that are dividing and destroying us, and reduce life to its simplest, most important principles.

So, trying to answer a child’s question, here’s my attempt. I think:

  • We need to admit that we humans are utterly incapable of solving our own problems.
  • We—every single one of us—need to take a long, honest look inside ourselves and humbly admit that we are wrong in so many ways we think and live.
  • We need to quit ignoring and instead turn to a higher authority than ourselves—God!
  • We need to really listen to Him, repent and start doing what He says. Jesus’ message was clear and simple: “Repent and believe in the gospel!”
  • Knowing history and human nature, most people aren’t ready to listen to God just yet, but some are. You can choose to.
  • The Bible is right—the only viable solution for our world’s problems is for Jesus Christ to return as soon as possible.
  • Ultimately, everything’s going to be okay because—and only because—He is coming back.
  • This isn’t just what a human thinks; it’s what God tells us. I choose to believe Him.

This is actually the theme of this edition of Discern. We believe these are the core issues and solutions for humanity, and we hope it gives you something to believe in!

In the right time and place, I’ll revisit this question and try to better explain to my granddaughter what I think and why, in simple terms that even a child can understand.

I think it’s what God has been trying to tell all of us, as His children, for a long time.

Clyde Kilough


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Discern Article Series

Christ Versus Christianity
Walk as He Walked
Christianity in Progress
Wonders of God's Creation