I have been a germaphobe since my first-grade teacher read our class the book Germs Make Me Sick. The intended goal of the book was to promote healthy hygiene. Instead, it started me down the path of incessant handwashing – incessant to the point that my hands began to bleed, and my mom made several calls to child psychologists. I have since become a (somewhat) less neurotic hand-washer. However, the recent outbreak of the coronavirus has caused me to reflect on sickness and how we discuss it with kids.
Knowing our children and what they can handle, we will all make different decisions regarding what information we share about the coronavirus. But the big question is not “How much should we share with our children?” Instead, it is “How do we approach the topic from a biblical perspective?” The following are two key questions we can explore to help our kids think biblically about the coronavirus.
1. Do We Need to Fear Sickness?
Whether we have a cold, the coronavirus, or cancer, humans intrinsically know sickness is not good. An intruder is threatening to take over our bodies and, whether or not that intruder wins, it points to the fact that we have a limited time on this earth. However, as Christians, sickness should not cause fear or panic. Scripture assures us that everything that happens to us is within God’s sovereign control (Lamentations 3:37-38), and anything that God permits in the lives of His children, He uses for their good (Romans 8:28). Our ultimate hope is not found in health. It is found in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20-26). This gospel-hope is something to which we should point our children as many around us panic.
We can open the conversation by asking our children how they feel when they are sick. After they describe their physical feelings, we can follow up by asking how sickness makes them feel emotionally or “on the inside.” We can point out how getting sick can make us feel scared because we don’t always know what’s going on inside our bodies. We can then directly ask the question, “Do we need to fear sickness?” After allowing our kids time to share their thoughts, we should directly point them to God’s sovereignty. Matthew 10:29-31, Colossians 1:16-17, and Isaiah 45:7-9 are great passages to read with our children and discuss God’s sovereign rule over all creation. We can follow up by using 1 Peter 1:3-7 and Ephesians 1:13-14 to discuss how our ultimate hope is in Jesus. As Christians, we need not fear sickness because God has promised that He will use it for our good. And we know the sickness we experience now is temporary. Our true home and true security are in the life to come on the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1-8).
2. How Should We Respond to Sickness?
Once we help our children see that we can have peace amidst our culture’s panic, we can then discuss how we should respond to the spread of sickness. As Christians, we believe that our bodies are valuable and worthy of care (Genesis 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Therefore, we should be wise with how we handle sickness. This is an excellent opportunity to discuss and practice healthy habits with our children. Examples of this are washing our hands while singing the alphabet song (to ensure we have scrubbed long enough), coughing into our elbows, not talking too close to another person’s face, etc. While practicing these habits, we can discuss how they help us take care of the bodies God has given us.
Once we have explored habits that reduce the spread of germs, we can discuss how we should respond when others are sick. As our culture spirals into a panic over the coronavirus, our natural reaction will be to avoid anyone who has a slight cough. While we want to be wise about not intentionally contracting sickness, as Christians, our response should be different than that of our culture. Instead of fleeing from sick people, God calls us to care for others intentionally. Ephesians 2:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 are passages we can read with our children to discuss how we should respond to those who are ill. We can also involve our kids in practical activities of love, like making soup for someone who is sick, or creating get-well cards to put in the mail. Habits like these equip our kids to look outside of themselves and focus on the wellbeing of others.
Only God knows whether the coronavirus will be under control shortly or if it will continue wreaking havoc across the globe. However, this situation provides the perfect opportunity to have critical conversations with our children about responding to sickness from a biblical perspective.