Spiritual Doubts

Since our youngest was about 2 and a half (he just turned 3), he has been asking us great theological questions.
-Where does God live?
-Where do we go when we die?
-How did God (Jesus) die?
-Where is heaven?

He is definitely thinking about these things because he has asked all these questions numerous times. Of course, he often asks these questions once he is in bed with the lights out. Even though Kristin and I are ready to be off duty, we do our best to answer the questions at a level that he can understand. We are Christians, so we give our answers based on what we believe the Bible teaches.

I expected to have a lot of great conversations about our faith as our kids grew up, but I was surprised when the first of these “deep” questions came from our two year old! At this point, my kids take our answers as authoritative and correct without much hesitation. However, this approach is going to need to change as Ryan gets a little older.

The deeper questions kids ask often are rooted in some type of doubt:
-How can I know the Bible is true?
-How do I know grandpa is in heaven?
-How do we know that God exists?
-How could God have allowed this to happen?
-Does God really care about me?

As parents, we may want to swoop in and give the “right answer”. We want to make sure our kids know there is a good answer to their question so they aren’t left with any sort of faith crisis. We may also feel guilty or frustrated with ourselves if we don’t feel like we aren’t providing them with “right answers” to their questions.

Its important for parents to acknowledge that its normal for their children to have doubts. Philip Yancey says, “God’s invisibility guarantees I will experience times of doubt.  Everyone dangles on a pendulum that swings from belief to unbelief, back to belief, and ends―where?” While you cannot decide for your child where they will end up, here are a few things to keep in mind.

First, don’t freak out when your child is asking difficult questions about their faith. In fact, I’d be excited that they are engaging with their faith on that level. When they are asking hard questions it means they are thinking hard and that struggle can lead to spiritual growth and maturity.

Second, avoid trying to give them simple answers. Instead, acknowledge that they have a great question and it is something that you would like to dig into with them. Join them in the journey of pursuing an answer, rather than trying to quickly give an answer and move on. This journey could involve discussions, studying the Bible, internet research, reading a related book, or talking to a wise person.

Third, allow your home to be a safe place to for your children to wrestle with faith related questions. Questions and doubts should not only be tolerated, but welcomed. The important thing is that faith issues, questions and doubts be discussed and dealt with in a respectful way.  Its definitely better for your child to wrestle with questions while they are still at home, rather than waiting until they go to college to ask the tough questions.

Finally, acknowledge that faith takes work and effort and that there are many mysteries. As we wrestle with our faith, we gain great insights in some areas and in other areas, we come to realize that we are going to be left with many questions. Yancey says,  “Doubt always exists with faith, for in the presence of certainty, who would need faith at all?” Allow your child to see that you have faith even when you do not have all the answers.

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