Most people experience doubt of some sort at some point in their faith journey. It could be doubt about the events of a Bible story. It could be doubts about God’s ability to help him or her with a particular problem. It could be doubt about whether God is even there listening to each and every person. Despite our moments of doubt, God never leaves us. Instead, God meets us where we are and helps us overcome our disbelief.
For children, who are just beginning to explore their faith, doubt can be a particularly distressing experience. To help them through this part of the journey, it is important that trusted adults let them know the following things.
- Doubt is a normal part of the faith journey.
- Most people experience doubt.
- It is OK to question.
- God will not leave you because of doubt.
Discussing Doubt with Children
Adults can help children process doubt by being open and nonjudgmental when children come to them with questions or to express doubt. Reassure them that doubt is a normal part of faith that most people go through at some time or another. Let them know that even the most faithful have experienced doubt. If you have experienced doubt in your faith journey, be open with your child about your experiences. Be open to their questions, and remember that it’s OK to say that you don’t know the answer. Most importantly, let them know that God will not leave them because of doubt.
Other Ways to Help
Like adults, children need tools to help them on their faith journeys. Adults utilize discussion with other believers, reading the Bible, and reading writings about faith from contemporary believers as ways of navigating their way through questions about faith and their moments of doubt. Children need such tools and can begin to develop a practice of using them as well. Here are some ways to help children begin to use develop these coping skills.
- Be open to allowing your children to take questions that you may not feel able to answer to a pastor or other trusted faith leader.
- Seek out appropriate children’s books.
- Help your child explore Bible stories that deal with doubt as a way to help them feel less alone.
Helpful Children’s Books
- The Carrot Seed, by Ruth Krauss
- The Trellis and the Seed: A Book of Encouragement for All Ages, by Jan Karon
- Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, by Mac Barnett
- Life on Mars, by Jon Agee
- Does God Hear My Prayer?, by August Gold
The Bible is full of stories of people who were very faithful to God, yet still experienced doubt in the course of their faith journeys. Share stories that may be helpful to them. Here are some examples.
Thomas: John 20:24-31
One of the most famous stories of doubt is about the disciple Thomas. After the Crucifixion and Jesus’ resurrection, Thomas struggles with doubt about God having raised Jesus from the dead. He doubts what the other disciples are saying about having seen Jesus alive again. Thomas says he won’t believe it unless he sees Jesus and even touches Jesus himself.
When most of us are doubted by our friends or family, we feel offended and may even get upset that they don’t believe us. However, this was not the case with Jesus. In fact, days later when Thomas and the other disciples were gathered at a house, Jesus showed up to give Thomas the proof that he needed to believe.
Some people look at Thomas as an example of a person whose faith was not very strong because he didn’t believe without seeing. Yet, Jesus did not did not become upset with Thomas for not believing. Instead, Jesus met Thomas where he was in his faith journey and gave Thomas the proof he sought. Thomas expresses the end of his doubt by responding to Jesus saying, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).
Abraham and Sarah: Genesis 12:1-9, 15:1-6, 18:1-14, and 21:1-17
Abraham and his wife Sarah are examples of people who displayed great faith by leaving their home and all things familiar to them in life to go on a journey following God. However, even Abraham and Sarah had moments of doubt and questioned God on their journey. When God told Abraham to go on this journey, God said he would make of Abraham “a great nation” (Genesis 12:2). By saying this, God meant that Abraham would have so many descendants that there would be enough of them to make a nation of people. More than anything Abraham and his wife had both wanted to have children, but they had grown old and did not think it was possible.
Later, when God made a promise to Abraham of a great reward for his faith (15:1), Abraham asked God, “what can you possibly give me, since I still have no children?” (15:2). This question suggests that even though Abraham had done as God had asked and had been following God, Abraham still had doubts about what God told him about making a great nation of his descendants. He still doubted the promise of even one child, let alone enough descendants to make a nation.
Finally, when visitors arrive and tell Abraham and Sarah that within a year’s time, Sarah will have a son, “Sarah laughed to herself, thinking, I’m no longer able to have children and my husband’s old” (18:11). The visitors question her laughter saying, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Me give birth? At my age? Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” (18:13-14a).
Sure enough, a year later, Sarah and Abraham’s son Isaac was born! Sarah laughed again, this time because of joy at seeing God’s promise come true.
The Bible is full of stories of people of faith who went through moments of doubt. Reassure your children that like the people of great faith who experienced doubt in the Bible, and perhaps even like you, they will get through it. Remind them that God does not leave them in their doubt, but instead walks through it with them and provides whatever it is they need in that moment. Whether it’s to see and touch proof to dispel doubt, like Thomas needed, or to see a promise fulfilled (even when it takes some time) like Sarah and Abraham needed, God meets God’s people where they are in their doubt.