It’s OK to Have Doubts and Questions About the Christian Faith
This past weekend I had the opportunity to have a conversation with a couple of teenagers about issues of faith. To be completely honest, I had some pretty mixed emotions about our conversation. You see these teens had some pretty tough questions, and at points during the conversation they seemed to be questioning some of the most basic and important principles of the Christian faith.
One emotion I experienced was that of surprise. These two teens had grown up in church and had been raised in a Christian home. Were they bringing into question everything that they have been taught all of their lives? Were they questioning the validity of the bible? How did they get to this point?
Then I almost talked myself out of the feelings of surprise as I reminded myself of the environment and culture that these teens and other teens are growing up in. The voices of the world are becoming louder and louder. They are surrounded on all sides and bombarded with attacks against Christian faith through culture in general, media, school systems, and even peer groups. How could they NOT have questions?
In the Bible, even the people in Berea were commended for questioning the teachings of Paul and Silas to make sure they were true. Their questioning did not surprise nor offend Paul.
“And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. As a result, many Jews believed, as did many of the prominent Greek women and men.” Acts 17:11-12 (NLT)
Fear and concern
Another emotion that arose was one of fear and concern. Questions began to flood my mind. If they are Christians and they have these questions, what must kids that weren’t raised in a Christian environment believe? If they were raised in church and in a Christian home, do all kids raised in a Christian environment have similar doubts and questions? Will my own kids have doubts and questions about their faith too? Am I equipped as a parent to raise kids who won’t have doubts? Is our future doomed if this is the common belief system of the current generation?
Then, as He always does, God started to ease my fears and concerns.“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)
God loves those two teens, my children, and even this generation more than I do. He wants to answer their questions and alleviate any doubts. He also equips me with everything I need to parent my own children well.
“May he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.” Hebrews 13:21 (NLT)
He already knows their questions, and He has all the answers.
The “old me” poked its head out
If I were to give myself a grade for how I handled the conversation, I would say I earned a “C”. Frankly, I was not completely satisfied with how I answered some of their questions and statements. Nor was I proud of how I handled myself a couple of times. I saw the “me” from 20 years ago creeping back up in some of my responses. It was the immature, know-it-all, talks-too-much, domineering, pushy, legalistic, and condemning me. I’m ashamed of that “me”. That’s not who I am anymore. Apparently, I still have some growing up to do. Gotta love being humbled!
Those sweet teens deserved better than that from me. I should’ve been a safe place for them to express their doubts and questions, concerns and beliefs. We all need to provide that type of atmosphere if we ever want to be effective in reaching people and in loving people. People shouldn’t feel condemned or looked down upon.
Besides the old me coming out, God also convicted me about a couple of other things. The morning after our conversation, I was having my quiet time. My readings had some repeated themes. Yep…God was talking to me (actually… correcting me)!
Don’t shun those with doubts and questions
One devotional reading, from “Finding Jesus”, was about Thomas and his doubts. His doubts didn’t push Jesus or the other disciples away. They were there with him helping him through his doubts. The devotion even brought up some piercing questions. “How willing are we to permit doubt into our midst? Are you the kind of person that makes room for the doubter? For the struggling sinner? Thomas makes it clear he’s doubting the testimony of his friends, but he is still welcomed with open arms. Perhaps this is why Thomas returned.” This reading challenged me to always make room for the wrestling and hurting and to never shun another individual for their doubts.
I’m not alone–There is power available for helping those with doubts and questions
Another reading reminded me that these encounters have the potential to be powerful, and this power comes from God (not of our own doing). I don’t have to have all of the answers. This reading stated, “God has supplied us with everything we need in order to fulfill His calling. The power to transform hearts and change lives comes from the Holy Spirit (John 6:63), through the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and through prayer (James 5:16-20). As we use the Scriptures to give counsel to others, there is power. As we pray passionately for their hearts to change, there is power.”
God reminded me that as I use His Word as a guide to help others, it will not be in vain or unfruitful.
“All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction, for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately–behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage]; so that the man of God may be complete and proficient, outfitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (AMP)
“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” Hebrews 4:12 (NLT)
“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11 (NKJV)
Doubts and questions can turn into a deeper faith
The last bit of repetition and conviction in my quiet time came when I stumbled across a quote:
“I’m never fearful of people who ask questions; I’m encouraged when they do, because I did as a skeptic. I was trained to ask the toughest questions I could – that was my profession – and I asked tough questions, and found out that Christianity does offer answers to questions of life and faith. I’m encouraged when people ask questions, and people I believe will walk away with a more solid and robust faith if they ask the questions and get the evidence for what they believe.” — Lee Strobel, former atheist and author of The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus
Take Some Practical Steps to Help Those (Or Even Yourself) With Doubts and Questions:
- First, don’t be surprised or fearful when you encounter people with doubts and questions about the Christian faith. Really, in this day and age, you should expect this, and you need to prepare yourself for it. Remember, none of this is news to God. He’s big enough to handle it. He just needs willing partners. He needs people who are willing to take the time to learn how to defend their faith in an educated, loving and gentle way.
- Secondly, be safe place for people to express their doubts and questions, concerns and beliefs. Don’t shun them or look down on them. Be receptive, gentle, and respectful. Definitely don’t be a pushy, domineering, know-it-all!
- Finally, prepare yourself for tough questions—learn WHAT you believe and WHY. Learn how to defend your faith. The Bible instructs us to be ready to answer questions.
“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)
Do some research on Apologetics (defense of Christian faith). Here are some resources that I’m personally starting with:
Reading Plans on the Bible App (YouVersion):
- Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith (Natasha Crain) …I just purchased this book this week and started reading it. It’s EXCELLENT so far! I HIGHLY recommend it—if nothing else than to help yourself learn how to answer some of the world’s toughest questions about God, about truth and worldviews, about Jesus, about the Bible, and about science. I like books designed to help kids because they are easy to understand and explain to others (regardless if they are kids or not).
- The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus (Lee Strobel)
- Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels (J. Warner Wallace)
- The Poached Egg (Christian Worldview, Apologetics, Discipleship, Evangelism, and More!)
- Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (Helping the thinker believe. Helping the believer think.)
- BeThinking.org (exists to help you make sense of the big questions about life)
- Christian Mom Thoughts: Christian Parenting Blog (tools to equip you for Christian parenting in a challenging secular world)
Are YOU prepared to give a defense of your faith with gentleness and respect? Are you a safe place for people to express their doubts and questions, concerns and beliefs?
Have you had some hard conversations about your Christian faith? Have you had to overcome doubts and questions of your own? Tell us about it by leaving a comment below.
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