I remember having a lot of questions about faith as a kid. I mean a lot. I didn’t always feel comfortable asking my parents or my pastor about them, so I wrote them down in a journal. There were endless questions from the meaning of life and the existence of God to if it was okay to listen to New Kids on the Block.
One of the biggest questions I had was, “What is faith?” The biblical answer I heard from the pulpit – “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen” (Hebrews 11:1) – felt so ethereal it was of no earthly good to me – until I really needed it.
I remember the day I found out something I had been praying for was not going to happen. My faith was crushed to the core. For the first time in my short life I thought I had really believed and prayed with faith, so when faith failed me, I questioned myself and God. I thought maybe there was something faulty with the way I prayed, or faulty with faith itself. My faith was negatively impacted because I didn’t understand its nature.
As a mom, I want my girls to grow up feeling comfortable asking questions, and sometimes that means facilitating the conversation. Here are a few points I shared with my 6 year old that perhaps you could use to talk to your kids about faith as well.
1. Faith has more than one meaning.
Faith can mean the act of believing or the belief itself. Sometimes when people say “faith” they mean it like “what you believe in” (We are Christians and believe Jesus loves us, died for our sins and wants us to live our lives in ways that help other people see His love through us), and sometimes they mean it like how we believe for something to happen because we pray (The Bible says faith is what helps us believe and pray for something although we’re not sure it will). That’s the kind of faith we’re talking about here.
2. Faith and doubt go hand-in-hand.
Faith and doubt (which means when you don’t believe in or aren’t sure about something) are related. If you had no doubts you’d have no reason to have faith. Faith is what helps you believe in God, and His goodness, even when bad things happen. Some people say you should feed your faith and not your fears. By thinking about things that help our faith grow and get stronger, we think less about things we’re scared or worried about.
3. Questions are okay, even good.
Don’t be afraid of having questions, especially about things that you don’t understand. Asking questions helps you learn and helps you feel more confident about what you believe in. But sometimes questions are hard even for adults to answer, and when you don’t get the answers you need, faith really comes in handy.
4. Faith is always there for you, like a good friend, your mom or dad, or favorite stuffed animal.
Faith is what you can use when you’re not sure things are going to turn out the way you think they should. You can pray and say, Jesus, I don’t know or understand why this is happening, but I’m going to use my faith in You and trust that everything’s going to be all right.
Follow up conversations about faith in little ways that will reinforce the concept. I like to write paraphrased scriptures on craft sticks and include them in my first-grader’s lunch box. You could also write them on napkins or sticky notes and leave them in conspicuous places for them to discover. My daughter suggests hiding them and making it a game to find them throughout the house.
Here are a few suggestions:
Faith is being sure what we hope for will happen. (Hebrews 11:1)
Listening to stories about Jesus can help our faith grow. (Romans 10:17)
Jesus says even a little bit of faith is strong enough to make big things happen. (Matthew 17:20)
When we have faith and believe in God, it pleases Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
God has given everyone a little bit of faith. (Romans 12:3)
Every child of God can use faith to overcome bad things. (1 John 5:4)
God rewards us when we use faith. (1 Samuel 26:23)
When we believe in Jesus, invite Him to erase our sins and live the way He asks us to, we are called children of God. (John 1:12)
We use faith to believe for and help good things to happen to others. (2 Corinthians 5:7)
Everyone struggles to “keep the faith.” As parents, you shouldn’t shy away from talking about faith with your kids just because you have doubts and questions of your own. Being transparent about how you felt as a child, or even now, reassures them their feelings are normal. Faith is what stabilizes our belief and anchors us to truth. Join your kids in the journey toward nurturing a childlike faith. It’s a powerful thing indeed.
Cara Davis is a content consultant and co-founder of the soon-to-launch church’d.com. The former editorial director for Relevant Media Group, her writing has appeared in The Huffington Post and CNN, and she’s been quoted in USA Today and The New York Times. She lives with her husband and two girls in East Nashville where she has co-founded a nonprofit called Community PTO to support the success of local community schools.