On April 25th, 2023, I stood in a hospital room and watched my grandmother (my last living grandparent) take her last breath. My children were at home asleep with my husband and I was shattering into a million pieces, begging God to save her, but knowing that He would not. He reassured me that her body had done all that it could and her fight was over. She was the crowning jewel of our family and losing her broke us all. She was vibrant and funny. She was such an immense part of our life that sometimes I still don’t know how we are all functioning without her, except by the grace of God.

Coming home from the hospital the next day, I had to tell my children that Gigi had died. My youngest was only 2, my middle child was 6, so she was still trying to grasp what death means. But, my 11 year old fell completely apart. In the weeks and months that followed, we walked through some very dark days. This was the first major loss for my children. My grandmother had sleepovers in their bedroom and we would hear them all giggling late into the night. She knew them and loved them so deeply and they knew and loved her deeply as well. Why am I telling you all of this? Because something so vital happened in the months following her death…

  1. I, myself, questioned why God allowed her to die. Why hadn’t she been strong enough to beat cancer and live into her 90s? Why didn’t we get another 20 years with her? I felt robbed.
  2. I watched my oldest child wrestle deeply and concerningly in her own faith.
  3. I realized that grief is always painful, but grief as a parent is debilitating. To walk through such a hard time was incredibly difficult, but to watch my children grieve is a level of grief I was not prepared for.

I’ll never forget one morning, my daughter came out of her bedroom with tears flooding out of her eyes, as she did many times since my grandmother died and she looked at me and said something that opened up one of our deepest and most fruitful conversations we’ve ever had. She asked me, “Mom… If I prayed to God and asked Him to save Gigi and she died, how do I know He’s even real?” And in this moment, I was thankful that I have spent years of my life researching the evidence for the existence of God, for the resurrection of Jesus, learning the reliability of the Bible, searching out truth, because in this moment every word that I said to my daughter mattered immensely.

In her grief, she was experiencing what many of us have…the tension between the existence of a loving God and the presence of suffering in our world. When we watch our children encounter struggles that seem too big, it is absolutely imperative that we provide them with evidence for why we have the hope that we have! These intentional conversations will carry them through some of the darkest days of their lives. When we can rest on the knowledge that Jesus was raised from the dead, we know that the hope of the Gospel does not rest on my emotions on any given day, but on the facts and the evidence. It does not take our pain away, but it reminds us that there is a God who loved us so much that He sacrificed more than we could ever imagine.

In the dark days of grief, I pointed my daughter back to some very key truths that we had previously been discussing as a family:

  1. Our suffering does not disprove the evidence that points to a Creator. We all ask this question, young and old, when we are going through suffering. And although uncomfortable, it is an important question to not avoid. One excellent resource that provides arguments for God’s existence we have used in our home is the book, On Guard by Willian Lane Craig.
  2. When my daughter asked me if God was angry at her for doubting Him in her grief, I responded with, “Do you think anyone else has ever doubted God? What does the Bible say about how other people have handled suffering? Have they handled it well at all times?” We know the answer is no. We re-examined some passages of Scripture that speak directly to suffering and grief.
  3. We discussed the resurrection…again…because if the resurrection is real, then we know that we are aligning our lives with truth and we are not alone in our suffering. Who has suffered more than Christ?
  4. If God created the universe and Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave, then what does that tell us about God? He cares more for us than we could ever possibly imagine! On the hardest days, in our lowest valleys, when we are at our angriest, He is there for all of it.

I continually point my children to these facts, because we can’t always “feel” God. It’s important for them to know that their feelings are valid, but not always true. Emotions, especially during times of grief, are big and can feel overwhelming. In our home, we have sought to validate emotions as being real, but also strive to remind our children what the Bible teaches about the corrupt nature of the heart. That is why it is important for us, as parents, to help compare those emotions to the truth of God’s Word and it is imperative that our faith is rooted in more than how we feel on any given day.

I have included some of the evidence that we share in our home with our children in my ebook, “10 Days to Transformation”

Make the most of even the hardest days, because that is where discipleship happens.

You can learn more about Jennifer and her heart equipping parents to handle the hard questions online @the_kitchen_table_apologist