It’s Good Friday–one of the most humbling, powerful and difficult days Christians observe. To think about the trial, torture and execution Jesus endured for humanity’s sake is truly astounding.

If you’re like most of us, you might struggle to figure out how to talk to your children about Good Friday. I know when my kids were younger, I always wanted to skip to Easter Sunday . . .  to the happy ending. Something in us is hardwired to do that.

I can’t tell you how to talk to your kids about Good Friday. But I imagine there will be something inside you like there is in me that will want to spare our kids the tragedy of the story. Something that will make us want to pretend it’s all better, when maybe it’s not. The crosses we wear around our necks are far shinier than Jesus’ cross ever was. We always sanitize or ignore the things with which we are uncomfortable. We want to shelter our kids from a story that is gruesome.

No one wants to raise sheltered kids, but we sure try to protect them. The thought of your daughter falling off her bike and skinning an elbow makes you shudder (I’m not saying it shouldn’t). My natural impulse is to try to shield my kids from as much pain as possible. And so I will naturally try to skip over the message of today, or at least clean the cross up to make it less gruesome than it was.

But as my kids entered their teenage years, I realized that the world they are growing up in is indeed the world for which Jesus died. I can see the world they are navigating is complex, filled with tragedy, irony, joy and sadness. Life doesn’t skip us to the happy ending. It doesn’t for adults. It doesn’t for teens. And honestly, ask your third grader how things are on the playground sometimes. She’ll tell you. She sees the wrong and is trying to make sense of it.

Which is why I’m incredibly grateful for today . . . that we have a God who didn’t gloss over the pain we suffer through, but instead embraced it more deeply than I ever would dare. I’m thankful for the raw message of Good Friday.  Somehow, if we completely shelter our kids from the pain of today, we let them miss one of the most powerful realities they will ever encounter in this life.

I don’t know how to tell young kids about Good Friday in a perfect way, but I do know this: when we shelter our sons and daughters from it, we keep from them one of the most profound and powerful messages for their faith. A message that, in all honesty, they need to hear sooner than we might think.