A scary thing recently happened with my seven-year-old. She told her mom and me that she was having doubts about whether or not God was real. My first thought was “what have we done wrong?” Our kids see us making our faith a priority. We attend church regularly, we pray together and read the Bible.
I knew in my heart that whatever we say – or do not say – in moments like these can have a tremendous impact. I believe God’s Word is true, and I believe there is comfort in Jesus’s words when he says in Luke 12:12 that we should not be anxious because the “the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (ESV).
After the panic subsided, God showed my wife and me two important things that we conveyed to our daughter. And, in the end, I believe this “scary” moment was actually a “God moment” to help draw her closer to a real relationship with Christ.
First, it is okay to have doubts. God created us to be critical thinkers. The Bible says that we are to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind (Luke 12:27). I believe “mind” refers to our ability to reason. Questioning leads to deeper understanding. Our daughter is intelligent; her mind is constantly processing things. At the same time, in her youth and inexperience, everything is black and white. In her mind, “real” means that when she talks to God through prayer, she expects an audible answer. This conversation has opened the doors for us to talk to her about all the ways God speaks and makes Himself known to us.
Second, God can help us when we have doubts. I was reminded of the story in Mark 9 about the boy with the unclean spirit. Jesus told his father, “‘All things are possible for one who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’” (vv. 23-24). We adults may also have periods of doubt or times when we do not understand. Fortunately, God listens, encourages us, and strengthens our faith.
When our kids have doubts and questions, it does not mean we have done something wrong as parents. It means they are thinking outside of themselves, which is great! We cannot force our faith on our children, nor should we. We can teach them the truth of the Gospel and allow God to draw them. We can show them how to have a real relationship with a real God, and then pray that they are also moved in the same direction. The rest is in God’s very capable hands.