I have a child who is struggling with her faith. She has a lot of big questions that don't have easy answers. She really wants to believe that everything she's learned about God is true, but there are moments when it all seems too fantastical. There are moments when it's simply a lot to take in. There are moments when a loving God doesn't reconcile with what she's seeing in the world.
While it makes for some tough parenting moments, my daughter is simply trying to wrap her head and her heart around God. The process is actually healthy. She's trying to make this faith her own -- not just something she believes because mom and dad believe it. It's also incredibly difficult to watch as a parent.
We want our kids to follow Jesus. As Christ-following parents, that's the primary goal of our parenting -- to move our kids from dependence on us to dependence on God. We want them to have a strong faith. We want them to choose the right path. But for some kids that faith doesn't come without struggle. It doesn't come without questions. It doesn't come without doubts.
It reminds me of the story of Jacob in Genesis 32. Jacob was a man who had gotten ahead in life through deceit and trickery, and he was on his way to face his brother whom he had tricked out of his birthright and his blessing. Jacob spent the night physically wrestling with God. At the end of the night, Jacob came away a changed man -- he even got a new name, Israel. God would use Jacob in mighty ways to create the nation of Israel, but Jacob had to wrestle with God first.
Sometimes our kids need to do their own wrestling with God. They need to put God to the test to see if He's going to do what He says. They need to struggle with the big questions until they come out on the other side with a faith that is their own. As parents, we can't choose what our children are going to believe, but we can help them as they struggle.
If your child is struggling to make their faith their own, pray for your child. Pray continually. Hit your knees and intercede for them. Pray that God would remove every stumbling block to your child knowing Him. Pray that God would show up in your child's life in a way that they can't deny that it was anything but Him. Ask your child what he or she wants you to pray for every day, then be specific in telling your child you are praying about those things for him or her. Point out when God answers those prayers.
Answer your child's questions honestly. We've has some big discussions around here in the past couple months. Sometimes my daughter asks questions that I don't know the answer to. If that's the case, I look for the answer. Sometimes she asks questions that there are no good answers for. When that happens, I simply tell her that I don't know but we can ask God when we get to heaven.
Let your child wrestle with God. Encourage your child to seek out answers on their own. Encourage them to have a daily time where they read the Bible on their own. Encourage them to talk to God about their doubts and questions. God will show up when your child is earnestly seeking Him. Jeremiah 29:13 says, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."
While it's hard to stand by and watch our kids struggle with God, struggle to find their own faith, for some kids it's the only way they will ever make this faith their own. As parents we can pray, teach and encourage, but our kids have to choose to follow God on their own.