The Hardest Part of a Child’s Faith
Q: What has been the most challenging aspect of faith for you to explain to your child?
Julie Kieras: We often hear about “the faith of a child” and it’s true that they are naturally trusting of what we tell them. However, children ask a lot of questions—especially ones we never see coming, right, fellow parents!? So the toughest aspect of explaining faith to my child are those times when I have to answer the hard
questions. When I have to explain all the evil in the world to my sons: why people are sick, why they can be so unkind, why we don’t always get a “yes” answer to our prayers. I get a little of what I call “Low-Faith-Esteem”—that is, I sense my own doubts creep in… and I struggle to explain faith with confidence.
In those moments, I have to encourage myself to remember that God isn’t asking for large quantities of faith—just that mustard seed. And he isn’t asking me to “have all the answers” for my children. He just wants me to make him known to them. So I grab my mustard seed-sized faith, say a prayer for words and tell my children about God’s grace, his love, and also it’s a good chance to discuss free will and choices people make with it. When I let God guide me through these talks (which are becoming more frequent as my little ones grow!), I sense his confidence replacing my doubts. It’s always a blessing to me in the end, to discover how my kids challenge my faith and help me to grow, just through teaching them about God.
Susan Heim: I have always found it challenging to teach the Bible to children without scaring them. There are a lot of violent stories in the Bible, both in the Old and New Testament, from the Great Flood to the Crucifixion. So, it is important to find materials for them that are age-appropriate, and which introduce Biblical stories and teachings they are ready to hear. Another parenting challenge is trying to answer my children’s tough questions, especially if I still struggle with the same questions myself. It’s difficult to explain, for instance, why God—who is good and loves us all— allows planes to fall out of the sky or storms to destroy homes. Becoming a parent is an opportunity for us, as adults, to delve more deeply into those aspects of faith that make us uncomfortable. It’s okay to say to our children, “I don’t have all the answers, but let’s study God’s word together and listen to his teachers on Earth so we can become closer to our Father.”
Chere Williams: One of the most challenging aspects about explaining faith to my daughter is that our time is not God’s time. I think children, like adults, sometimes operate in instant gratification mode. When our prayers aren’t automatically answered it is easy for our faith to waver. My daughter has shown disappointment when her prayers aren’t answered especially if she is praying for someone who may be sick or if it is for something she desperately desires. I’ve had to explain to her that although it may appear that God isn’t listening, he is because he loves us.
Explaining how God works on his own timetable is hard for an eight year old to understand. So, I’ve gotten into the habit of writing my prayers in a journal with the date they are answered. I’m always amazed when I look back at how God works! When Anya is questioning God’s timing I let her look at my journal so she can see God’s faithfulness and care for us. I make mention of the dates so she understands that we just have to wait and trust in him because he’ll always do what’s best for us right on time.
Kona Brown: A concept that we discuss a lot as a family and that consistently challenges us as parents is the truth that the heart is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4: 23). Because I cannot reconcile my role as a parent to purely that of behavior modification, we have more and more started by God’s grace and with His leading, pursuing the hearts of our boys when it comes to conflicts, disobedience, lack of truthfulness and all the other sinful afflictions that we all—big and small—suffer from. Simply enforcing my authority as a parent is not only just a temporary fix, but it also does not expose the heart motives that drive one to not share with another, to use a cruel word or action, to lie to a parent or rival with a sibling. When we expose the motivations of the heart through gentle questioning there is an opportunity for greater understanding of what drives us, of how to change, of our own sinfulness and desperate need for Jesus, and a chance for us as parents to share the precious truths of the Gospel.
Melissa Newell: Parenthood is challenging, as most of us will agree. Add the aspect of raising your children up with faith in God can be an element of parenthood that can be difficult to explain. We have always tried to explain to our children that living by faith is important to God and to our family. Explaining what that means is another ball of wax all together. The element of God’s timing is the most challenging part of that. The children always want immediate gratification, and waiting can be extremely hard. They really don’t understand that it’s all in God’s time. If we specifically pray one week for something and the following week the prayer is answered, they can get that. However, if we pray for something and the prayer is not answered for weeks or months, that is something hard for them to grasp. We are reminded that faith is something we have inside our soul and can’t be taught. Living by example is the best way to teach our children about faith, reassuring them always that we have faith in them and so does God.
Dusty Shell: The most challenging aspect of faith to explain to my children so far has been answered prayer. At first glance, it seems an easy concept, but young children can’t always grasp that God always knows what is best for us, so sometimes tells us no. When a loved one passes away, when a favorite toy is lost and never found, when a best friend moves away, these are all hard situations that children may ask God to remedy without understanding the broader picture that the Lord sees in his wisdom. “Why didn’t God….?” is a tough parenting question to answer. We want to strengthen our children’s belief in God, not hinder it, so these delicate waters definitely have to be tread carefully.
Thank you, Mom Mentors! Learn more about them here and connect with their blogs. We would love to hear about your experiences, too! Do you have a question for them? Please post it below. And share your answer with us. See children’s books for growing up in God at grahamblanchard.com.