When a child doubts her genetic connection to her family, it is usually a temporary phase of childhood. It doesn’t mean she loves her family any less or that she wants to leave. She is merely questioning her place in the family. Usually some photographs, a few family stories and sometimes a birth certificate will convince the child she really is genetically connected to the rest of the family.
Sometimes our child’s doubts may be about God. They may have questions about things they don’t understand. Perhaps something they have seen or read has conflicted with what they have been taught from God’s Word. A teacher or friend may have mocked them for believing in God. Since there are no photos of God, what do we do to help our child through their doubts?
Doubts can be scary. We become terrified that if the doubts aren’t responded to well, the doubter will never believe. It is even scarier when we know someone’s salvation is at stake. So we ignore them, push them aside or make light of them. We hope that by doing those things, the doubts themselves will disappear, leaving a strong believer in their place.
Unfortunately, doubts will eventually be answered by someone. Either the doubt will fade by these answers and faith will increase or the doubt grows into disbelief. If spiritual doubts are not answered by Christians, the world is very willing to encourage the doubts and grow them into disbelief. But how do we get past our fears and help our child’s doubts and questions turn into a growing faith in the Lord?
The most important thing you can do in your house is to create an atmosphere where everyone feels free to ask any questions they have about the Lord. This is easier if the Lord is already a topic of constant conversation in your house.
If you discuss the sermon every Sunday (notice I said discuss, not criticize!), it would be natural for your child to insert a question about something she didn’t understand. If everyone shares what they are learning in Bible classes and studies and in their Bible reading, there will be a lot of opportunities to express questions and have them answered.
I was reading a book the other day about why young people leave the Lord. One of the reasons was unanswered doubts. When the author delved a little further, he realized many of them had also been unexpressed doubts. You can’t help someone through a doubt you don’t know exists. Create an atmosphere that is non-threatening for your child to share anything with you. You will be surprised how much they will share when they know someone is really listening.
When your child has questions or expresses a doubt, don’t panic. In a strange sort of way, it is actually encouraging. It is part of the process of making your parents’ faith your own personal faith. If he is so uninterested that he has no questions, the apathy he is showing is actually more of a concern than a child expressing doubts.
Once a doubt has been expressed or a question asked, determine whether it is merely a question or a doubt beginning to surface. Stories abound about parents misunderstanding children who have questions about where babies “come from”. The parent assumes “the worst” when often it was just a curiosity about the hospital in which they were born.
Spiritual questions can be the same. What may sound like a doubt may actually just be a question of a curious child. On the other hand, what seems like an innocent question could be the cover for some serious doubts. Ask your child some follow up questions. What do you mean? What came up to make you ask that? Does that answer your question? Asked in a non-threatening manner, questions can give you more information about where your child is in her thinking.
It is important that you know your stuff. This means you need to study your Bible regularly on your own. With so very many false teachers in the world today, it is essential we read and understand the Bible for ourselves. It is fine to refer to other books and people, but do they line up with what you personally read in scripture? Is the argument a logical fallacy from someone who is taking a verse out of context? Or is someone actually quoting Ben Franklin as God (it has happened!)? If you have studied your Bible, often you can answer the questions your child may have without outside assistance.
What is your child’s personality? Is your child more emotional or mental in his reasoning? If you present books and facts to a child who operates from an emotional point of view, they will not do any good. If your child is more analytical in her thought process, presenting emotional arguments for the existence of God will have little impact.
If your child is analytical, there are lots of resources available to you. Lee Strobel writes some great books (A Case for Christ and others) on several reading levels from child to adult. His books use a lot of outside evidences to confirm the Bible as the true word of God. The Creation Museum in KY has lots of resources on their website to help children who have been influenced by science to doubt God. Your preacher can suggest other resources that may answer your child’s particular question.
A more emotional child will be more interested in seeing God in nature. The scriptures tell us nature is an evidence of God. In our generation, evolutionists have tried to take that away from God. Even they are now beginning to have to admit though that macro evolution has too many holes in it scientifically. It is hard to deny God’s existence as you view the amazing sea life at the Atlanta Aquarium, see the multi colored birds in nature or walk through the Grand Canyon. Something inside of you seems to want to praise God in the presence of such beauty.
All children, but especially the more emotionally based ones, will benefit from hearing how you have seen God working in your life, the lives of others and especially the life of your child. At a young age, God’s hand is sometimes more difficult to see as you do not have the benefit of looking back over a long period of time. You can help your child learn that God is active in his life and how God is working in that life.
Follow up a few weeks or months later on their potential doubts. “Did you think any more about what we talked about regarding such and such?” “I was thinking about our talk the other day on such and such and it reminded me about another evidence.” Make sure your discussion also answered any other questions it may have generated. Don’t just assume because your child doesn’t ask the question again, that it isn’t still bothering her.
Cover your child’s spiritual walk in prayer. Pray she follows the path God has laid for her. Pray he finds a strong Christian spouse who will help him get closer to God. Pray God will help walk her through her doubts and help her emerge a stronger Christian.
Ultimately faith, is just that, faith. There are no pictures of God and he won’t pick up the telephone and call us. At some point we had to make the same choice our children will have to make. Is God real and do I have the faith to follow Him and obey His Words? Questioning may temporarily delay that decision, but if questioning becomes a way of life, then you have answered the question by your denial of letting go and having the faith in God He asks of us.
Trying to parent your child and dedicate her to the Lord can be scary. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask a strong Christian to be a mentor to your child. Make sure your child has opportunities to be influenced for the Lord by attending worship services and Bible classes. Seek out parents whose adult children are faithful Christians and ask them to mentor you as a parent. Remember, God has given Christians the Holy Spirit to help guide them. He knew we would need help in our Christian walk. Especially as parents. Hang in there and I pray the Lord will help you turn your child’s doubts into belief.