Has a kid ever asked you a spiritual question that scared you? Maybe something like, “What if Jesus isn’t really real?” or, “How can we really know that the Bible is true?” or, “Those miracles didn’t really happen, did they?”
These types of questions can cause a level of panic. All of a sudden we are afraid that all we have taught our kids has been thrown out of the window. We fear that they are headed down a worldly path toward destruction. We begin envisioning a godless future awaiting them and the pain and turmoil that would bring.
Hang on Mama, Daddy and/or faithful church volunteer. No need to panic. Nine times out of 10, doubt is not a sign that your sweet kid is headed to hell and is going to walk away from truth. Doubt is a healthy and normal part of faith. Our response to their doubts can make all of the difference.
- Don’t freak out and don’t dismiss their concerns. Appreciate that this child felt safe enough with you to ask a really hard question or express a deep concern. Don’t blow it off but don’t blow it out of proportion either. Avoid any hint of shame for asking a question that may have taken a lot of courage to voice. Of course, some questions may just be random and off-hand. Ask for clarification. Say something like, “What’s made you think about that?” or, “Tell me more about what you’re thinking.” Learn what they are truly asking before you try to answer. Remember, your reactions to their questions will greatly determine the comfort they feel in asking hard things in the future.
- Avoid communicating that doubt is bad. The Psalms are full of questions from David, a man after God’s own heart, as well as other writers. It is OK to ask God hard questions and to ask hard questions about God. We never want to squash that in a child. Encourage hard conversations with complicated answers. These are the conversations you want your kids to have!
- Doubt can lead to stronger faith. By asking the questions and seeking answers, kids have the opportunity to strengthen their faith, not weaken it. Imagine if they have these thoughts but don’t seek better answers and instead just dwell on the doubt? God often uses this process in all of us to bring us closer to Him. Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.”
- Don’t feel like you have to protect God. God is big enough for our questions. Ask Job. He also knows that we are thinking them, whether we voice them or not. It is much healthier for our kids to learn how to handle doubt and questions rather than just internalize them. This Sunday my pastor, Sam Rainer, said, “In a free market of ideas, Christianity does well. Among all the faith stories, we have the better, true story.”
- “I don’t know” is an OK answer. Sometimes we are afraid of kids’ questions because we are afraid we can’t appropriately answer. It is OK to say, “I don’t know, but let’s research that together.” And then do it! Lee Strobel has a Case for Christ for Kids series that would be a good resource as well as Brian Dembowczyk’s Cornerstones Parent Guide. Answers in Genesis has some interesting online resources for kids. Whatever resources you utilize, remind kids that Scripture is the only source that is inerrant and any other information must be filtered through what the Bible says.
- Continually point kids back to what they do know. Point them toward the reality and goodness of God in the things they have experienced and seen and learned about. From personal family experiences to things they’ve learned about His creation in science, remind them of the evidences He gives us. Continually remind them of the truths of the gospel: God made them, God loves them, our sin separates us, but Jesus died and rose again to make a way for us to be reconciled to God. This world is broken. Only God can fix it.
- Remind them that we will never know every answer to every question. God is incomprehensible—we can never fully understand who He is and what He does. I usually remind kids that I don’t want a God that I can completely figure out. I need a God who is bigger than me. As important as questioning is, at some point we must rely on faith. Jesus told the disciples, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:29). At some point in our questioning, we have to do what Jesus told Thomas, “Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27).
In The Jesus Storybook Bible, Sally Lloyd-Jones wrote, “So Abraham trusted what God said more than what His eyes could see.” Let our prayer be that as our children ask hard questions and develop a deeper faith, they will always trust God more than what their eyes see.
This article originally appeared here.