We chatted amiably about life – her studies, her dreams and plans for the future. Each topic easily led into the next. Eventually we found ourselves immersed in a discussion about faith. It became clear that my daughter and I don’t quite hold to the same truths about Jesus.
I think she sensed my panic. I have never had a good poker face.
Trying to reassure me, she quickly added, “I still believe in God. I’m not an atheist or anything. I’m just not sure the Christian God is the God.”
And there it was. Something I’d suspected but had managed to tiptoe around.
Have I mentioned how good I am at sweeping things under the carpet? Or how I excel at pretending there is no elephant in the room?
My faith is solid and deep, but in some ways it’s still fairly new. I became a Christian when I was 30 years old, after our first daughter was born. So I don’t have any firsthand experience of what it’s like to be a teenager wrestling with faith.
But I do know that doubting and wrestling with God is common. Even the most beloved humans featured in the Bible struggled, at times, with doubt. Thomas is probably the most well known doubter in the Biblical narrative.
However, it is the doubt experienced by John that Baptist which seems most similar to the doubt my daughter expressed. (Matthew 11:1-10, Luke 7:18-27)
Like John she grew up learning God’s Word and what it says about the Messiah. She was told of God’s great love for her, of how He has a plan and a purpose for her life.
And she had believed.
Until doubt crept in.
John’s doubt stemmed from a belief common among many ancient Jews, who had thought the Messiah would be a Warrior King. They had expected One who would save them from the Romans by driving them out and restoring the Promised Land to His people.
Only Jesus wasn’t behaving quiet as John had anticipated. So, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the One who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
John’s question and my daughter’s statement are essentially saying the same thing: I believe in God. I’m just not so sure about Jesus.
Unlike my daughter, John went to Jesus with his doubts. Whereas my daughter, like many young adults, is exploring answers beyond Christian theology.
As a mom who deeply loves Jesus, as a mom who has found Him to be my joy and strength on the most difficult roads, it is hard knowing that her search is taking her beyond God’s true word. But I am encouraged by something an adult-child once told her pastor-father:
“I had to reject your faith before I could make it my own.”
I am learning that doubt is an essential step in developing a mature faith. And with God’s help I am learning to make space in my heart for her doubt, to make room for her to wrestle and question while I hold tight to faith for her.
I pray that my steady love for my daughter, for God and for others, will be a signpost in the midst of the chaos of ideas and theologies of this world, pointing her to True North.
Friend, if your young-adult child has begun to doubt or seems to have lost faith in Jesus, remember this:
Although Paul knew the Hebrew scriptures by heart, he totally failed to recognize Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. It wasn’t until he had an encounter with Jesus that he believed. (Acts 9:1-19, 22:6-21, & 26:12-18)
May all who are wandering, doubting, questioning – may they seek Him and have a faith-affirming, life changing experience with Jesus.
Leave a comment below. How have you walked through doubt with your young-adult child?
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.