Heaven Talk: A Parent’s Discussion about Death with Their Child

very sad little girl in her mother's arms

Many mothers and fathers who will do almost anything to avoid discussing death with their children. Perhaps they fear upsetting them, or worse, leaving them emotionally scarred. It can even be argued that an even more powerful deterrent is the simple truth that they themselves are uncomfortable with the topic.

Death can be much easier to discuss when “Heaven Talk” is part of our everyday conversation. What is “Heaven Talk”? It is doing what parents have been charged by God to do. We raise our children “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). More specifically, “Heaven Talk” is weaving our faith into the fabric of everyday conversation. The Apostle Paul counseled the Colossians to let their “conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6). That includes knowing how to answer our children.

Conversation that is full of grace reflects our trust in God’s plan of salvation. That is what is meant by “Heaven Talk” and the Bible is filled with examples of it. Here are a few:

Jacob of the Old Testament faced death by saying he would be “gathered to his people” (Genesis 49:29). His words revealed his trust in the Promise. Death is not the end for God’s children. It is the beginning of a wonderful life with Jesus where we will be gathered to our people, the saints who have gone before.

By grace Job was able to express his faith in spite of the horrific loss of his children and all of his possessions. Even with painful sores covering his entire body he could confess, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another.” (Job 19:25-27)

Luke’s gospel introduces us to faithful Simeon. Simeon could confidently face the end of this life because of his sure and certain hope in the promised Savior. “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people.” (Luke 2:29-31)

The Apostle Paul desired to “depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23). By faith Paul could stay focused on “the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).

Death, even the death of a loved one, is easier to deal with when “Heaven Talk” is a regular part of conversation. We always remind ourselves that heaven is our true home, and we are but “aliens and strangers in the world” (1 Peter 2:11). When someone dies in the Lord, our tears of sorrow mingle with tears of joy, because we know that God has taken them home. In spite of our grief we still express thankfulness to God who in grace made them a member of his family.

“Heaven Talk” Also Means Talking About Hell

All of us are sinners, and sin has severe consequences. Our righteous God tells is that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). The conclusion of this passage from Romans reveals our loving and merciful God who assures us that “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Teach the reality of God’s law, but don’t dwell longer than is necessary. The gospel is paramount.

Some situations make the topic of death especially challenging. Death may come without warning, it may be a young person who is taken, or it may be an unbelieving friend or family member who has died. We won’t always be able to make sense of every death, but we can always find comfort in God’s Word. By making “Heaven Talk” part of our everyday conversation, we remain equipped to deal with death, even the most tragic.

Discuss your children’s feelings about death with them. Even Christians have feelings of fear involving their mortality. After all, God never intended for the crown of His creation to die. Death is something we must face as a consequence of our sin. Even so, our fear of death is not like that of an unbeliever. With God’s help we can handle our fears. Like Simeon of old, we have “seen” God’s salvation, and we can “depart in peace.”

Here are some tips for making “Heaven Talk” part of your daily routine:

  • Bring your family together for daily devotions. Many excellent devotional books are available to get you started.
  • Make it a habit to discuss what your family learns in church and Sunday school.
  • Don’t neglect your personal Bible study.

Don’t be surprised at how the Holy Spirit can make “Heaven Talk” second nature when you take the time to grow in the Word.

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