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How do I teach my son about eternity in a way that helps him look toward this with joy and not fear?
Hi. I am a Christian trying to explain eternity to my 11-year-old son who really wants to understand what it will mean to spend eternity with God. With my human, finite mind, it is hard for me to explain this apart from the fact that it is true in the Bible and good because it is with God, whom we love & trust. He has become a bit fearful trying to imagine time going on forever, so I am wondering if you can offer any insight into helping me teach my son about eternity in a way that helps him look toward this with joy and not fear. Thanks.
– K.S., Virginia
Thank you for contacting Answers in Genesis. Ironically enough, I’ve had this same problem with my son, starting at about that age (he is now 14). He was scared almost to the point of tears when thinking of eternity. What I found useful was trying to break things down in smaller time increments.
When my son and I discussed this question, about four months before his birthday, I asked him if he would like me to be there for his birthday. He replied that yes, he expected me to be there. Then I asked if he were in heaven before that day, would he want to be with Jesus on his birthday? He answered yes to that question too. I followed up with asking about the birthday after that. “Wouldn’t it be nice to spend your thirteenth birthday with Jesus?” Again he replied that he would like that. So I kind of eased into the topic of eternity by using a line like, “Wouldn’t it be nice to spend all of your birthdays after that with Jesus, and also every Fourth of July, Thanksgiving . . . (continuing to list holidays and family gatherings)?” Once it was broken down into smaller units of time and in a more intimate family setting, eternity became less fearful for him.
On his fourteenth birthday after he had unwrapped his presents, I mentioned to him that God knows everything and is everywhere. So He was with my son at this birthday party as well, just as He would be if we were in heaven. Next I turned the tables and asked him, “Do you think you would ever want to have a birthday party without me there?” My son replied that he would never want that. I then said, “I’m just your earthly father. How much better would it be to have your heavenly Father with you at every birthday party?” My son just nodded and said he would like that. Then I told him that the gifts he received for his birthday were only there because God had given us every good gift, and had allowed his mom and I to be able to provide those gifts (James 1:17).
Admittedly I’m not trying to build up my son’s expectations that he’s going to have a grand birthday party in heaven every year, but I’m trying to point out that he loves having his family around him—he expects it and enjoys it and can’t (yet) think of having a celebration without family present. This gets him thinking that spending time in heaven with God the Father and Jesus would be “family time” too. I realize this argument wouldn’t work on an 18-year-old son heading off to college or seeking independence, most likely, but it has been a good thought-provoker for an 11–14-year-old.
I also like to quote John 14:1–3, Rev. 21:3–4, and Psalm 16:11, which reinforce this close family bond that God will have with us when He dwells with us. I hope this has been helpful to you.
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