Last night my son comes out of his bedroom. I could tell by the look on his face that he was anxious about something. He had been reading in his Bible and came across a difficult story in the Book of Acts that left him shaken and, in his words, “questioning everything.”
The story in question is the account of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11. Here, Ananias and Sapphira receive discipline from God for lying about a gift they gave to the Church. In fact, both were struck dead for, in Peter’s words, “lying to God and testing the Holy Spirit.” Needless to say, this is not one of our favorite Bible stories for kids.
So my son reads this last night and spirals into a confusing mess of doubt. “How could God do this? Is this really what God is like? Is everything I have been taught a lie?” Hard questions for a parent to hear, especially from an 11 year old. We will probably be working through all of this for awhile.
Unfortunately, the Church has a bad reputation when it comes to dealing with doubt.
So all of that has me thinking about doubt this morning. How do I as a father disciple my son through his doubts? How do we as the Church disciple others through their doubts? Unfortunately, the Church has a bad reputation when it comes to dealing with doubt. We have a track record of failing people in these critical moments of their spiritual lives. Rather than walking with people through their questions. We are apt to tell them to shut up and just have faith. Frankly, their questions make us nervous, and we don’t want to follow them down scary rabbit holes.
However, much like nature, people abhor vacuums. When the Church refuses to help people with their questions and doubts, they will find someone who will. This seldom works out well for the doubter or for the church. The only one who profits from this is the enemy.
So what can we do when our children or brothers or sisters or friends express their doubts about Christianity to us?
- Don’t shame people for asking questions. First of all, asking questions is not a sin. Read through the Psalms. Many times we find the Psalmist asking, “Where are you God?” through difficult circumstances. Second, shaming people only drives a wedge between you and them. If the other person does not feel safe bringing their questions to you, they will stop doing so and you won’t be able to help them.
- It is ok to say, “I don’t know.” If someone has a question that you are not prepared to answer, be honest. Affirm that the question is difficult. Don’t just spout off something trite. Better a good answer after some reflection than a bad answer given immediately.
- Affirm why you still have faith. Share stories of your own doubts and how you worked through them. Affirm why you cling to faith. There are a lot of things I do not understand about why God does what He does. However, I cling to King Jesus, the one who died and rose again.
- Bust the myth of certainty. In seminary, I read a powerful book by Daniel Taylor titled, The Myth of Certainty. Certainty is a myth of modernism. We will never know enough to have certainty (meaning no questions, no doubts, 100% faith all the time). However, we can know enough to be confident. The difference is huge.
- Pray with them and pray for them. These types of questions are part of spiritual warfare. The enemy lies and tries to twist the truth to get us to question the goodness of God. Spiritual battles require spiritual weapons, namely prayer. My favorite verse for spiritual warfare is James 4:7-8a.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.James 4:7-8a
As you reflect on this, if you could say a prayer for my wife, my son, and me as we navigate this season, it would be most appreciative. If you have questions or doubts of your own and would like to reach out to someone, feel free to leave a comment or reach out to me on Twitter.