Life and Death: A Children's Guide

There are times when we are happy and there are times when we are sad. We don’t mind happiness. We don’t stop and worry what it means or whether it will end - we are simply happy. But it is different when we are sad: we want it to stop hurting; we want to feel better. But there is no magic wand. Some people drink too much and take drugs to stop themselves knowing they are sad. But they still feel sad next morning.

Sometimes things get getter. Perhaps you are sad because you miss someone and then you get to see them. There was a physical barrier and when it has been overcome you are no longer sad. Or perhaps you are sad because you are starting a new school and you are worried that it will be horrible. This is a mental barrier, which will be solved when you have started school and discovered that it is ok.

But there are things which make us sad and no one can fix them - the easiest one to spot is the death of someone you love. This is something that cannot be changed in order to make you less sad. This is permanent. For many people, who do not believe in Heaven and Hell, it is even more sad. What has happened to the person they loved? They appear to have fallen off the edge of the world. Will you meet again? And then you wonder what will happen when you die. This sadness and fear is not a physical problem because we cannot solve it by travelling somewhere. Neither is it a mental problem, because it will not be solved by a change of mind. It is a spiritual problem and it concerns the soul.

What is the soul?

Imagine a soldier lying on a battlefield. He has suffered terribly injuries and he is dying. His body has been torn apart. Is he less of a man because he doesn’t have his legs? No. Is he less of a man if he doesn’t have his arms? No. In these last bloody moments he is still a man, even though his physical body no longer functions as it once did. “Yes,” you say, “he is a man because he has a mind.” But this man is in agony. He cannot think at all - let alone speak - because the pain is too much. But he is still a man. He has become as helpless and wordless as a baby. We would not deny that a baby is a person just because he is not yet old enough to speak. The dying soldier, the newborn baby, you and I, we all have something in common: we have souls. 

The soul is not superior or inferior to the body and mind - we are supposed to be all three! Death is the separation of body and soul. The body is still there, growing cold; but the person we love is out of reach. And this makes us sad.

Many people today do not believe that we have souls. They think that people are like cars, which can be repaired a few times but eventually will wear out. But people are not like cars. Machines do not want, do not feel, do not care, do not act without us pushing buttons. People are much more complicated. We have the ability to do things - sometimes we succeed but often we fail. We choose what we do and have to live with the consequences.

For instance, if you push someone over in the playground and are put in detention, you will either learn to behave better or you will keep going back into detention. There are even more rules outside school, such as if you share other people’s secrets you will lose friends; or if you are callous to get ahead in business, you will find yourself alone one day.

Who you are - the state of your soul - depends on which rules you try to obey. For example, how many people think that all their problems would be over if they could be rich and famous? Lots of people want to exchange places with singers and actors. But does wealth make them happy? So many celebrities are depressed. They need to be admired in order to be happy. They need to be rich and cannot face life without their money. If they lost it all one day, do you think they would have the ability to cope? The money has not improved the state of their souls. They tend to make false friendships and poison themselves for thrills. Why? Why do they do this? Because they played by a rule which said that fame and fortune would make them happy and they have discovered it is not true.

The Gospel

There are other rules by which we can live. When Christians talk about “the Gospel” it means good news for the soul. When you die - and your body and soul are separated - Christians want you to go to Heaven. They don’t want it for their own benefit. They want it for you because the alternative is Hell, which is not a grand fancy dress party, as some will tell you, but far worse than anything you can imagine. When Christians speak of “saving” people, they mean that they want to help you change direction so the passport in your pocket is stamped “Heaven”.

But there is even better news in the Gospel. It does not just concern what happens to you when you die but it changes how you live. Suppose that you could see into the future - you see yourself crossing a busy road. A lorry comes round the corner and straight into your path. But a stranger sees what is happening and pushes you to safety, just in time. He dies to save you. What would you do with such knowledge? You would try to find that person, to find out what kind of person would do that for you. You would be full of gratitude towards them and sing their praises to others. You would want to please them. In other words, knowing that you will be saved would change your outlook on life.

The Son of God did this for you. He knew that one day you would die. So two thousand years ago, he was born miraculously to a young woman called Mary. He was called Jesus, which means Saviour. He lived on the Earth for over 30 years - growing from a baby, to a boy, to a lad, to a young man. He was every bit as human as we are, but at the same time he never stopped being God. So what he did was humiliating and degrading. Can you imagine a member of the royal family taking on an apprenticeship with the local carpentry firm and never demanding special treatment? Jesus did this and more. Then he began his ministry. He went round healing people - all kinds of people. He brought a little girl back from the dead. He healed a man who had been blind from birth and another who had been infirm for 38 years. He performed these miracles to show that he was not an ordinary man and to show compassion on the people around him. He also forgave their sins. 

Jesus never sinned. Not once. He lived a perfect life. When he was crucified, he really died. But he separated his own body and soul, because he was still at that moment God. He did this for us. Everyone on the planet is doomed to die and we deserve to die because of our sins. So Jesus died in our place. And because he was perfect and had not sinned, he also rose from the dead after 3 days. He visited people on the Earth and then went up into Heaven. 

To be saved by Jesus Christ you need to trust in Him. Tell Him what you have done wrong. Admit that you need to be saved. Believe that He can save you and be assured that He will.

Then you begin to live a life for Him. You will read the Bible to learn about God and about how He wants you to live (so you can avoid sin as much as possible). One day you will still have to die - but you will go to Heaven, to be with Jesus Christ who died for you.

Meanwhile, your soul will not be immune to sadness, just because you are a Christian. But you will be a different person when you are sad. You have the blessing of God’s Holy Spirit to comfort you. You can pray - as much as you like - to God for strength and help. But more than that, you will look at things so different that your own sense of happiness will not be your reason to live. You will live to glorify God.

People do not want to know this. They do not want you to know this. Once every child was taught this and much more, so that as they had problems in life they would have an understanding of life beyond their own belly button. But people today do not care about the bodies of children, let alone your souls. But they cannot stop you from believing in God, from trusting in Jesus Christ for your salvation. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how tall you are, how well you do at school or how wicked you are: you can be saved. It is your decision. Whatever choice you now make it will change your life because if you do not accept Jesus Christ, then you reject him, and who knows when you will be offered salvation again?

The Gospel means hope - even though life is difficult.

It means treasure - even on hard days when you feel poor.

It is love - even if no one else loves you.


Dear Lord,

Please open my heart.

I know that I need you.

Please forgive my sins.

I know that you can save me.

Have mercy, Lord, for Jesus’ sake.


{1} About this article

I have written this essay in response to a discussion that recently took place in my hometown. It began when a lady advertised a Christmas shoebox appeal, run by a local Christian charity. Discussion soon left topic to focus instead on whether or not this particular charity included Christian literature inside the box, with the box or not at all. The consensus of the the atheists present (who, to their disappointment, were soon were the only ones left) was that no literature was best, some literature alongside the box was tolerable but that a child should never receive Christian literature with (Christmas) presents. 

To a large extent, I am unconcerned with such people and their attitudes. They are not inclined to listen and they desire the total silence of the Church within society. Nothing less will satisfy them. But it set me thinking about the children - not the children abroad who might receive a shoebox this Christmas, but the children of our society, the children of these atheists. Such children never hear the Gospel now. More than that - their lack of religious understanding makes it very difficult to communicate with them; the atheistic influence of their parents (and society) teaches them a scepticism that prevents them ever listening.

This article is an attempt to bridge that gulf. A first attempt.