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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Kids And The Devil

I was putting my girls to bed the other night when Abby (age 5) asked, “Is the Devil real?”

I gave my lawyer answer and tried to punt.  After all, what parent wants to be up with her kids before bed (they're already afraid of the dark) talking about the Devil. 

“We don’t need to worry about the Devil, sweetie.”

She wasn’t satisfied.

If you’re reading this, chances are you may not have resolved the question in your own mind.  Most Americans don’t believe in the Devil.  And this includes many Christians.

In a 2009 Study of the Barna Group, four out of ten Christians (40%) strongly agreed that Satan “is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.” An additional two out of ten Christians (19%) said they “agree somewhat” with that perspective. A minority of Christians indicated that they believe Satan is real by disagreeing with the statement: one-quarter (26%) disagreed strongly and about one-tenth (9%) disagreed somewhat. The remaining 8% were not sure what they believe about the existence of Satan.

Let’s face it, believing in the Devil in our culture is kind of like believing in the Easter Bunny.  (My kids are scared of him, too!)  After all, what parent wants to tell her child that an evil, powerful being seeks to destroy her faith and ultimately her soul?  Not me. 

It would have been much easier to say, “No honey, he’s not real.  Just go to sleep.” 

But being a parent isn’t about taking the easy way out. 

Given that I personally believe the Devil is real (no, I don’t believe in the Easter Bunny), I couldn’t continue to dodge the bullet.  So I answered Abby very matter of fact, the best way I knew how.

“Yes, the Devil is real.  He hates God and wants you to hate God too.  But God is stronger.”

You know the next set of questions.

“Where does he live?  Can he get me?  Where is he right now?”

Great, I thought to myself.  This is going to be a fun night of sleep.

“I really don’t know where he lives.  I do know that God is stronger.  God can beat him up.  So, if I follow God I don’t have to worry about the Devil hurting me.  He can never ever take my soul.  God protects us.”

Abby seemed satisfied as she blurted out in her favorite condescending tone:

“The Devil is dumb and stupid.  And I hate him!  If I saw him, I’d punch him in the face!”

She slept all night without disturbing mom.


Graceful said...

Ok first of all, I'm totally laughing at this, both at your daughter's answer and at your attempt to brush over the question -- a Devil question at bedtime, jeepers!!

But in all seriousness, I admire your honesty in answering your daughter's difficult question. I am wondering how I would have answered, and honestly, I'm not sure. I believe in evil, I believe bad things happen, but do I truly believe in Satan as an existing being or force? I don't know.

I was raised on the Devil. My husband once said to me, "I never met anyone who who believed in the Devil but not God." That was truly me. I learned so much about the Devil growing up, it seems like they entirely forgot to mention Jesus. I heard a ton about Hell, but hardly anything about Heaven, a ton about Satan, but hardly anything about love and grace.

So now I've done a 180 and don't really think much about Satan at all. I don't know...ask me again in 5 years...I'll probably have changed my tune.

Susan DiMickele said...

Thanks Michelle for your thoughts here. I agree, we can go overboard on the Devil and forget what's really important - GOD! I am still wrestling with my answer. So far so good....

tcsoko said...

I love that you answered with truth - it is amazing sometimes what is rattling around in those little minds for a while before they speak it out loud. What a gift to give a child truth and perspective so that fear has no place.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

I'm with Abby and I often feel like doing the same thing. I like how you kept telling her the truth about God being stronger.

God did beat him up in the most unexpected way...on the cross.

I sometimes laugh b/c all too often I'm mulling over questions like these when most people my age are worried about matching fabrics and signing up their kids for enough activities.

~ Wendy

Laura@OutnumberedMom said...

Oh, Susan -- I love this! Your response and Abby's too.

As I was reading, I'm thinking, "How can you not believe in the devil? He was a fallen angel God cast out. God didn't just make that up." Probably my upbringing coming out (or too much time over Paradise Lost). But yes, I do.

But the most important thing I believe is what you told your daughter -- God is bigger and stronger and we stay close to Him. Love that! said...

I am with @Graceful (Michelle) on this one. I got way too much devil growing up, and now tend to think it was ridiculous, so don't spend much time thinking about it.

No question, the evil force is at work in the world in some fashion, but I feel like the charicature of "The devil" gets way to much credit by some Christians for every little thing that goes wrong. I'll spend my energy focusing on the Good Guy instead.

Me said...

I am another one who heard all about Satan, evil, Hell, and God's judgement growing up while hearing very little about the flip side of those things. I did go to bed fearful at night...afraid that Satan and my own heart was going to eternally separate me from God.

I hope I am more balanced today. If anything, I err on the side of grace and goodness.

Your answer to your little one was great! Honesty that is not bathed in fear is the best way, I think. I also like how you emphasized the power of God. Yes, there is a devil, but God is so much bigger.

Jennifer @ said...

Your Abby reminds me of my Anna. She calls him the "Dumb Devil."

We've talked to our children about the devil, and we've done our best to answer their questions. But it's not easy. I have some of the same questions that they have, honestly.

I do know that we can claim victory through Jesus Christ. And that's no fairy tale! I rejoice in that truth. Woohoo!

I think you did a great job handling this one, Susan.

Cheryl Smith said...

Susan, this is great! Of our four children, only one really seems to struggle with fear of the devil. (Maybe a greater sensitivity to things of the Spirit in general?) I taught him early on to speak the name of Jesus, and shared the verse that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, in heaven and earth and under the earth...

And that song, "In the name of Jesus, we have the victory..."

Jenny Sulpizio said...

You make me LOL!!! Love this...

Anonymous said...

That is great! My 5yr old son said something to that same effect one day. He said "I wish God would let me at him" I said " WHO?" He said then devil and then went on to tell me how he would punch him or something or another... It was hilarious.