Three things to remember when kids start doubting their faith
We were in the midst of our bedtime routine the first time my son admitted to having doubts about his faith. We’d just finished our nightly reading and were preparing to pray when he peeked out from under his covers and said, “Mom, what if there really isn’t a God?”
At that moment, a hundred things went through my mind. My inner apologist started listing facts and probabilities while part of me wanted to blow past the question altogether. Then there was the guilt--the wonder if I had done something wrong. After a few moments of quieting my thoughts, I turned to my son and simply told him that the world without God would be a sad, sad place. Without God, there is no hope. There isn’t a future. There isn’t real love. I explained that his concern was just that--concerning--and that I wanted to talk to him more about it when it wasn’t bed time. I tucked him in, prayed over him, and assured him that we would revisit the conversation soon.
Afterward, I consulted my husband and a few close friends, wondering if I had reason to be worried that my third-grade son was having these doubts. I listened, and got some great advice. I also received three really big affirmations that arose from my loved ones that helped me as I went through the process of finding answers with my son and praying for peace in his heart.
Parent--take a deep breath when your kid is questioning God and remember these three things:
1) You aren’t alone. God created us to be thoughtful creatures. In Matthew 10:16 Jesus commands his followers to be wise, to use the brain that God had given them to determine the truth. Wisdom doesn’t just happen for most people--wisdom is a process of questioning, seeking, and finding God. When we doubt, that's our brain awakening to the fact that there are other ideas out there. It’s not wrong--it just means that the time has come to seek out the truth.
2) It’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” It took me awhile to get comfortable with this one. I so wanted to have the answer to each of my son’s questions, but I've found that admitting that I don’t know something brings about great revelations. When my son and I pursue answers together, not only do we find truth, but we'll also strengthen our relationship.
3) Doubts don’t mean you did something wrong. Faith is tricky. You can take your child to church every Sunday, read the Bible together, pray and serve alongside each other, and your child will still most likely develop doubts (see the first affirmation). As a mentor, I've talked with teens who've been raised in devout families who struggle with faith, and I’ve seen kids with tremendous faith who come from families that don't believe. Though it’s tempting to think that we’ve done something wrong, it isn’t helpful and it isn’t always true.
What tips and encouragement do you have for parents dealing with a doubting kid?
My kids also bring up the things that are really weighing upon them right before they go to bed. He trusts you enough to discuss this openly with you and ask for your help – a really good sign!
I am going through that with my 7-year-old daughter right now. I’ve gone through “case for Christ for kids” and “cold case Christianity for kids” with her. It helped address many of her doubts, though not all. One of the older women in my prayer group told me that she thinks the best way to overcome her doubts (and anyone’s) is to go back to the scripture and let the Word of God speak to her. I agree. Since then we’ve been doing Youversion Bible app devotionals and she has been reading parts of the scripture that are related to each devotional. I also pray fervently for her every day. I trust that in God’s good timing, she will fully embrace her faith.
My 9 y/o daughter ( a pastor’s kid) verbalized that she wonders if there’s a “God.” Hard for me to hear – yes. I explained to her, that God isn’t afraid or disappointed when we have doubts. Together, with her willing participation, we have prayed specifically asking God to reveal himself amidst her doubts. A faith-based prayer full of hope and expectancy. I believe that when she experiences this truth for herself, having already gone through doubting times in her young life, her faith in later years will be even stronger.