How to talk to children about death

Lauren Chandler on saying "Goodbye to Goodbyes"

April 3, 2019

Many readers are familiar with the event that turned your family upside down—your husband's brain tumor. How did the uncertainty and fear of that season lead to the writing of your new book, "Goodbye to Goodbyes"?

Lauren: I have always wanted to write a children's book. (I didn't imagine writing one about death!) So when The Good Book Publishing company approached me with a potential partnership, I thought about the stories in Scripture that had been especially dear to me as we walked through Matt's health crisis. The first one that came to mind was the story of Jesus' interaction with Mary and Martha when their brother Lazarus died found in John 11.

In the midst of the uncertainty of Matt's health and our family's future, it was comforting to see Jesus tender with Mary and Martha. He wept with them even when he knew that he was about to heal the source of their heartache—he was going to raise their brother from the grave! Although we desired to see the outcome of health and wholeness, our hope was bolstered by the promise that Jesus would be with us intimately (as he was with Mary and Martha) no matter what and that one day, if we had to say goodbye for now, it wouldn't be forever.

Was it hard for you to write this book, i.e., did it bring up any anxiety as it regards how unpredictable life can be?

Lauren: It was good for me to write the book—to remember God's faithfulness in Mary’s and Martha's distress and in ours. It was good to be reminded that he will continue to be faithful to his promise to not abandon his own and that, one day, death will be no more.

Why do you think many parents are hesitant to talk to their children about sickness and death?

Lauren: Sickness and death are hard subjects for adults. I find that we often don't think much about these subjects until they come crashing into our world. That's why it's important to develop a theology of suffering sooner rather than later. My hope is that this book would encourage parents to think hard and wrestle with Scripture and the Lord through the reality of suffering. It happens on this side of heaven. Why? What will eventually happen to sickness and death? What does Jesus—his life, death, and resurrection—have to do with it all?

What advice would you give parents who want to start addressing these hard topics?

Lauren: Don't avoid them, but don't dwell on them. This is why reading the Bible with our children is helpful. Scripture doesn't gloss over the hard parts of life. God speaks directly to them. You know your children. You know what they can handle and when. Be sensitive, discerning, and wise as you ask them questions or as you answer theirs. Every child is different. One of our kids asked deep, theological questions at an early age, so we were able to answer this particular child a little bit differently than our child who just wanted the quick, sound bite answer. We gave them truth in appropriate doses.

How have you seen your own children helped by the message of this book?

Lauren: They're a little outside the book's target age range (at 16, 13, and 10), but I've found they will never outgrow its message. I want to always put before them that Jesus enters into our suffering with us—he weeps with those who weep and rejoices with those who rejoice. He also conquered death and sin for us. There is pain in our goodbyes now, but there will be a day, for those in Christ, that goodbyes will be no more. I'm not sure they understand the depths of this yet. I'm not sure I do. But I know it is a message I want to wash over us time and time again.

At the end of the day, what are your greatest hopes for how the Lord uses this book?

Lauren: I hope that parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends read it to the children in their lives and are themselves moved to love, adore, and worship Jesus for his tenderness, faithfulness, and power. I want to plant a seed of hope in children to remember that goodbyes won't be forever in Jesus. I pray it is a resource for those who have found sickness and death crashing into their lives, to help them navigate the goodbyes with their children.

I'm sure readers will want to know: how is your family doing?

Lauren: We are well! Matt is healthy, and his scans continue to come back clear—no sign of disease. We thank God for his kindness in that! However, we are still working through the residue of that season and would appreciate your prayers. Although there has been physical healing, there is still healing to be had for us all. We believe the Lord has a purpose in the layers of healing and thank him that he has brought us this far and will bring us all the way to him.

You can grab a copy of Lauren’s new book here.

Lauren Chandler

Lauren Chandler is an author, speaker, and singer/songwriter. She is the wife of Matt Chandler, who serves as lead teaching pastor of The Village Church, and the mother of three children.  Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24