I've never been one to shy away from difficult conversations, believing that hard truths and awkward situations should be addressed swiftly and directly by using logic and facts.
And then, I became a parent. Children ask tough questions—questions that need solid answers.
In our family, our daughters' inquiries often revolve around the subject of faith. More specifically, Christian faith. At first blush, their questions seem obtuse—surely, reading the Bible, praying everyday and attending church on Sundays answer the obvious questions, right? If so, then why do so many Christian parents secretly dread these types of discussions with their children? Answer: “Seasoned” believers have questions, doubts, and a nagging wariness about this subject, too, not to mention that most of us don’t know much about what God has actually said or done because we don’t read His Word and pray as often as we should.
My gut instinct instructs me to hide my spiritual ignorance and uncertainty. After all, if they learn that the one who reads the Bible to them and tells them to trust Jesus also wrestles with certain Scriptures, chases spiritual rabbit-holes and on occasion asks, "Is God even real," might they, too, struggle with spiritual matters? Or worse, reject Christ altogether one day?
In truth, we do our children a great disservice when we use our own deficiencies as an excuse not to engage deeply with them on this level. It’s a mistake to believe that we’re protecting them from Satan, the Father of Lies, which is exactly what he wants us to believe. So, instead, we present a cotton candy version of Christianity that looks like delicious sweetness but falls apart after a bite or two because there’s hardly any substance to it.
Honest conversations with our children, which may include our own shortcomings and struggles, will point them more clearly toward saving and abiding faith in Christ. Our voice in spiritual matters is crucial and commanded by God; however, the goal is to cultivate mature Christians under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the authority of God's Word, not robots who simply echo Mom and Dad.
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1. God can handle our doubts.
"Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29)
What first comes to mind upon hearing the name of Jesus' disciple, Thomas? Surely, the word doubt. For most, this word has a negative connotation, but doubt can be a good thing. One of the greatest skills to cultivate in our children is the ability to think critically and to discern truth (in any form) from error. When presented with information or ideas that appear to contradict Christian beliefs and convictions (even when they come from our churches and other believers), children must learn to hold it up against the one source of absolute truth, the Bible.
Life's circumstances may lead us to question the authority of God's Word, His goodness, or even doubt His existence, but these times should not drive us away from our Heavenly Father. "Ironically, knowing all about our misgivings, He actually loves us even more. He longs to illuminate our hearts and minds through His Word and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Note Jesus' response to Thomas' unbelief in John 20:24-29. Jesus invited Thomas to draw close to Him, to touch His hands and sides. He then commanded Thomas to stop doubting and start believing (John 20:27). But nowhere does Scripture say that the newly risen Savior scolded or berated Thomas for his unbelief.
Remember, we are God's creation, intimately known by our Creator, and He understands our human condition and all our weaknesses. No matter our age, He doesn't love His children any less or abandon us in our time of distress and doubt. Instead, our ever-compassionate and tender Savior blesses.
Related: Listen to Our FREE New Parenting Podcast! Christian Parent/Crazy World with Catherine Segars is now available on LifeAudio.com. You can listen to an episode right here by clicking the play button below:
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2. Evidence, not feeling, is the basis of Christian faith.
"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Before last year, I would breeze through the first eleven chapters of Hebrews, heading straight for the “Hall of Faith Chapter,” chapter 11. Confused by previous passages of Old Testament jargon like covenants and high priests, I relegated those to theologians and apologists. Then I discovered that by neglecting to search and savor the rich texts that preceded the well-known "Hall of Faith" chapter, I shortchanged any deeper understanding of Hebrews 11:1. Although saving faith, the very “gift of God,” comes to us by grace through faith in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9), we can also hope with an unshakeable assurance in the unseen because the nature of God and His mighty works are not only evident in our own, present-day lives, they have been well documented and preserved through history.
Even skeptics agree that Jesus was a real person. Although they argue that He was not the Savior of the world, His existence is generally unattested. The Sovereign God littered His Word with references to numerous people, places and events that historical accounts, apart from the Old and New Testaments, record and uphold. We also find evidence for Hebrews 11:1 among the prophecies of the Old Testament (texts that the original recipients would have known well). Moreover, because the LORD has repeatedly proven His faithfulness in the past, He is sure to keep all future promises; therefore, hope for the believer is complete trust in the Word of God.
Indeed, the Bible contains the greatest story ever told (Christ crucified, dead, and risen to life), but it isn’t a mythological storybook about people who never existed and events that never happened. No, it is the inspired and authoritative Word of God, alive and active. It can be believed as Truth, even when, especially when, our feelings belie us.
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3. Only the LORD is God.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” (Isaiah 55:8)
Do you ever wish that you could see into the future? Do you desire more control over your circumstances? Do you want to sleep less, produce more and exist in two places simultaneously? Aware that the desire to be like God was the motive behind the first sin (Genesis 3:5), I still become frustrated and sometimes agitated when wrestling with specific issues and wanting answers. To put it bluntly, I am not God but want to be. No, I am the created, not the Creator (Romans 9:20).
After naming just a few of God's attributes—omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence—we would quickly attest that only the LORD possesses these. Yet, we spend significant amounts of energy conjuring (and always failing) powers for ourselves that are exclusively God's. A correct understanding of God’s nature, ascribed only to Him, anchors our faith to the only One worthy of worship.
That said, we will never fully understand many mysteries about the LORD because He hasn't revealed them to us, at least not yet. Down through history, various and sundry theological debates have divided the Church and shaken the faith of believers, even to the point of complete abandonment. God commands us to trust and obey, even when we don't understand Him and all of His dealings. Obedience is a choice. We do right by choosing God's ways over our own and rejecting things that become stumbling blocks to holiness for ourselves and our children.
Our children will either influence the beliefs of others or be influenced by others' beliefs. We must teach them the Word of God and instruct them on how to rightly “divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), which means diving deep into the dark recesses of our own unbelief. It also means that we must dive deeply into our Bibles. Our homes should be places open to dialogue about difficult passages and different philosophies, safe harbors where we freely discuss cultural norms that run counter to biblical values. This moors their faith in Truth and reinforces a worldview according to God’s design.
Praying daily for our children, the Church, and the world, both near and far, is imperative. We must humbly seek the LORD as we strive to glorify Him and point our children to Christ as the one and only "perfecter of their faith" (Hebrews 12:2). Although Jesus commends childlike faith (Matthew 18:2-4), hope also exists for all of us who question God from time to time, for all things are possible for those who cry out to God for help in unbelief (Mark 9:23-24).
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Originally published Tuesday, 10 August 2021.