When Your Teen Starts Questioning His Faith
Not the moment you’ve been dreading when your teenager announces her new tattoo or when he dyes his hair stark white to match the latest craze. Not the moment when you are wrestling with the consequences of a hidden sin or a lapse in judgment. Most of these you have thought through; perhaps you have a defense against them.
No, this is something you never quite imagined. Calmly, rationally, while sitting around the table discussing the day, your teenager just looked at you and asked, “Like, how do we really know there’s even a God, anyway? The stories are great and all, but it seems so unlikely. Oh, and please pass the potatoes.”
In a stunned silence, you pass the mashed potatoes. You had originally cooked baked potatoes, but in an effort to not explode at the question, you find that you have quickly made mashed potatoes. Foil and all. This was what you were hoping to avoid, why you were homeschooling in the first place! You read all the right books, went to what you thought were the right conferences, and even embroidered Proverbs 22:6 over the crib!
This is a critical moment for your teen, you, your relationship, and your faith.
Dealing with the Doubt
I want to give you a few thoughts to consider, starting with this: it is entirely possible that you, the God-honoring, church-going, homeschooling family leader, will have this conversation. You can naively hope it never happens, or you can think ahead. Here are some things to think through:
First, questions about faith are part of making faith your own.
There is nothing inherently sinful about asking questions or wrestling with doubts. Take a look through the Old and New Testaments and recognize the real people in those situations. A fresh read of Gideon and Thomas, for example, shows us that we have often criticized their doubts. God’s Word records no such criticism.
Questions about faith are not automatically sinful. Do not treat them as such.
Second, questions about faith indicate your teen is thinking for herself.
This is a good thing, because your faith remains central to your life, but it cannot be the center of your teen’s life. (Notice I said your faith, not faith in general.) She’ll face moments and decisions away from you, challenges that you will pray and agonize over but she will handle. She needs to grapple with this, and you want to be a part of helping her find the answers to her questions.
Help your teen learn to find answers for herself, because she will survive on her ability to find them.
Third, questions about faith are not indicative that you are a failure.
We parents can take a question about faith in the wrong way. It is not an insult, nor is it a criticism that you are a person of faith. Your teen may voice it that way. He may be rude, or even belittling, as he slides fully into a phase of doubt in life. Through it all, though, you are his parent. He is your child. Nothing changes this reality, though many things can ruffle how the relationship feels.
Be faithful to your beliefs while remembering that you will have many years of a relationship with your child. Strive, for your part, to keep the relationship from estranging now.
This last point is crucial: we must hold to our own faith in God’s ability.
If we believe that God is capable of saving lost souls and converting the greatest of sinners, then we need to have faith that God is capable of working through our teens’ doubts. You are entrusted by God with your child to embody His love and His faithfulness. Be there, answer questions, and demonstrate grace and faith. Trust God to do the rest.