5 Reasons for Youth's Skepticism of Faith
It’s human-nature, at any age, to question our beliefs sometimes. Here are five reasons youth question their faith and how we can help navigate them back to the heart of God.
Getting a four-year-old to believe in Jesus is no harder than getting him to believe in Santa, the tooth fairy or any other made up character. We can tell our kids just about anything, and they take our words as facts.
At a certain point, though, they mature and question the validity of our beliefs. How do we make sure Jesus is real to them? How do we make sure they don’t outgrow the Gospel and tuck it away somewhere in the back of their minds between elves and fire-breathing dragons?
To shed some light on the “how,” let’s first look at the “why.”
Here are five reasons youth question their faith and how we can help navigate them back to the heart of God.
1) Not Being Allowed to Freely Ask Questions
We may think we’re helping our kids to grow in their faith by telling them to believe in God without questioning things, but this can cause more harm than good. Maybe someone has said that to you when you were having a moment of uncertainty.
Did it really help? Probably not.
God, being the good Father that He is, wants us to seek Him. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that seeking God requires a measure of faith. So to have questions about God is to have faith that He exists. If your youth are asking questions, that’s a good thing!
When they come to us expressing curiosity, or even doubt, we have to welcome them open-mindedly. Now I know, depending on the nature of the question, it can be hard not to respond with a very blunt “because the Bible says so!” In those moments, though, they need relationship, not religion. This is where things can get scary. When default answers don’t work, we have to be honest with our kids about our own uncertainties and shortcomings.
Take a deep breath.
It’s in these vulnerable moments that they get to see a living example of a life transformed. We aren’t perfect. And when we don’t pretend to be, our kids can come to us with all of their questions.
2) Not Having a Personal Encounter with God
Think back to the moment God became real to you. Maybe it was an unexplainable moment in a church service or an ah-ha revelation during your quiet time. Perhaps it was a life-threatening experience that opened your eyes to just how real God is. Whatever it was, it shaped your faith and probably gives you the confidence to say, “I just know.”
Many young people haven’t had moments like those. Their concept of faith and the goodness of God may be based only on what someone else has said. There comes a time for everyone when the faith of others no longer motivates us to believe, because it’s just not personal enough.
Help your children develop an intimate relationship with God firstly by believing that it’s possible for them and that it’s possible now. They don’t have to reach a certain age or experience a certain amount of hardship before they can see God at work in their lives. Engage them on their level.
God is just as praiseworthy for blessing you with a new job as he is for helping your kid study well and pass her test. He’s just as ready to hear your prayers for dealing with an unpleasant coworker as He is to hear your kindergartener’s prayers for overcoming fear to make new friends. We have to let our kids know He isn’t a God for grown-ups only. He is God to everyone and wants to meet them where they are.
3) Seeing Faith without Action
If someone spends a lifetime studying to become a teacher, learning the ins and outs of teaching techniques and classroom control, but never actually teaches anyone, we would wonder how much he really cared to teach.
Likewise, if an athlete trained consistently, invested in gym equipment and hired a coach to teach her the rules of the league, it’d be very shocking if she never actually competed.
Why would it be okay for Christians, then?
If our kids see us going to church and reading the Bible year after year but never putting our faith into action, won’t they one day wonder why we do it? Youth are ambitious, energetic and often more willing to rally around a cause than older generations. We have to channel that in a positive direction!
Serve alongside them and show them what it means to be the church. Whether it’s volunteering, praying targeted prayers together, or even giving up Netflix to donate monthly to a human trafficking organization, find a way to be the good in the world and make your youth a part of it.
4) Misunderstanding the Heart of God
Some of us have an image of God getting mad at us every time we mess up. I’ve been there, but it's far from the truth. While He definitely has standards and guidelines, His heart for us is one of compassion. Psalm 103:8 says, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love” (CSB).
If we give our children the impression that God is merely an invisible rule-giver two disappointments away from striking us with lightening, they won’t see Him as a Father longing for relationship with His children.
And this longing goes both ways. Humans were created to be in communion with God. Admittedly or not, every one of us is wired to want God. Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us He put eternity in our hearts. For this reason, youth have to know they’re more than just a number in creation. Instead, God sees them as His own children.
We can remind them of His love for them without downplaying His standards or sugar-coating His response to sin. Yes, there’s a way in which God wants us to live, but when our kids know He’s lovingly guiding us instead of critically watching us, they can believe in a God who meets their innermost need to be loved unconditionally.
5) Feeling Discouraged by the Condition of the World
In every direction we look, the world can be a scary place. There is unspeakable evil, things that can make even the most mature believers question God. Surely youth in 2020 must be wondering, “What’s happening, and where is God in all of this?”
The age-old theological debate rings loudly right now: “If God exists, why is there evil in the world?” While I won’t attempt to tackle that one here, I can say the same God who helped the Israelites escape Egypt is the same God who raised Jesus from the dead and is the same God who’s going to carry out His plan to defeat the enemy once and for all.
When we see the wrong in the world, we can either believe that God doesn’t stop evil, or we can believe that He hasn’t stopped evil yet. I choose to believe the latter, and that’s what I’ll teach my children when they’re old enough to question their faith.
Yes, things may look bleak. It may seem like God doesn’t care about the state of the world, but some of us who have lived long enough know He’s a God that never fails.
This is where the wisdom of age calms the uncertainty of youth. We get to minister to those younger than us. We get to tell them our own experiences of God turning things around for our good. Most importantly, we get to show them examples in the Bible of how God consistently shows up for His people. The ending of our story will be no different.
How to Reassure Someone Having Doubts
It’s human-nature, at any age, to question our beliefs sometimes. Whether it be an unanswered prayer or a challenging season, there are moments that have a way of shaking faith.
If someone you know is having a hard time believing, welcome their questions and walk alongside them. It may not be easy, but keep being the light Jesus called you in Matthew 5:14.
Of all the ways to strengthen faith, number one is talking about Jesus and the gospel. We don’t always have to do this in a preachy way. Simply referencing Him and sharing our personal testimony can go a long way.
Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ” (CSB). We generate faith when we talk about Jesus! Anytime the lies of the enemy and voices contrary to God are louder than the truth, people will doubt their faith. So make sure the youth in your life get to hear about and see the good news of Christ at work in you.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Prostock Studio
Jasmine Williams, founder of Built To Be, is an agent of change with a passion for Jesus and a love for family. As a wife, mom of four, homeschooler and seminary student, she knows the challenges and rewards of living purposefully for God even through life’s busy seasons.
Jasmine is pursuing her M.A. in Biblical Studies and seeks to inspire parents to embrace their homes as places of ministry, where they welcome God’s presence and raise children to be disciples of Christ. Visit her website, builttobe.com, and connect with her on Facebook for more encouragement.
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