By Teresa Sayles, Children’s Curriculum Specialist
Woodland Hills Church
There’s a distinction between doubt and unbelief. Unbelief is a choice. It’s when someone does not believe something is possible at all. However, having doubts doesn’t mean you don’t believe something is possible – It just means you have questions you’d like answers to in order to form a decision or opinion. That requires being able to ask questions, see evidence, do some research, and have conversations. Some times, we get our questions answered and can move from doubt to certainty without a problem. Other times, those doubts and questions may not be fully answered, but God can help us to believe and move forward in faith despite our not being 100% sure about something.
That’s what our toddlers through fourth graders learned this past Sunday with the story of Thomas’s doubts following Jesus’ resurrection. They heard that God is okay with our questions and doubts and that He works with us in the midst of our questions. After all, faith is coming to the conclusion that you believe something is true and acting on that belief despite the fact that you cannot see or prove it without a doubt. I have faith the sun will rise tomorrow. Am I absolutely certain that will happen? No. Perhaps a giant meteor the size of Mars will come out of nowhere and obliterate the sun tonight. But, all catastrophic events aside, I’m 99% sure the sun will rise tomorrow. I have faith despite not knowing something with absolute certainty.
Similarly, having questions about God or the Bible doesn’t mean a person lacks faith or is choosing unbelief. In fact, questions and doubts are often a sign of someone who is trying hard to believe. When we’re learning something new, we ask questions: “How do you pronounce this word?” “Can I turn right on a red light?” “How should I throw the ball?” Some of the greatest teachers and philosophers throughout history – including Jesus – based their teaching methods around questions and welcomed them as signs that their students were really internalizing the material. In fact, Jesus would often answer a question with a question in order to redirect someone to what He really wanted him or her to learn in that moment. Questions get our brains going and cause us to fully consider what it is we believe. To help us in our faith and belief, God offers evidence of His love, faithfulness, and provision throughout the Bible, history, and creation. When the Israelites complained that God had abandoned them in the desert, He proved His presence by giving them manna to eat. When Gideon questioned whether or not he was the right guy to lead his people in battle, God met the young man in the midst of his doubts. And when Thomas’s logical mind could not get around the seeming impossibility of Jesus coming back to life, Jesus showed up in the flesh and held out his hands, encouraging Thomas to touch the nail holes and then believe.
God isn’t afraid of our questions or doubts. He welcomes them because He wants us to own our faith and know what we believe and why. We may answer one question only to then discover another question, and that’s okay, too. God’s big. There’s no way we’re going to fully understand Him in this life. Questions will always remain, but by asking those questions and striving for truth, we can draw closer to Him.
So the next time your child asks a faith question that may be a bit difficult to answer, don’t worry – It’s okay to say you don’t know. God doesn’t expect any of us to have all the answers. Perhaps you and your child can do a bit of research and see if you can find an answer. And even if an answer doesn’t surface in the end, remind your child that questions are good. Doubts and questions bring us to a deeper, more real faith and understanding of God and His amazing love.