Despite what it may feel like for parents and other caring adults—“I’ve done something wrong!” “Clearly his faith isn’t strong enough!” “She’s just going to walk away from her faith!”—when a teen or pre-teen starts asking real questions about faith, God, Christianity, and other belief systems, it’s nothing to panic about. In fact, it’s not only normal, but a very healthy and developmentally appropriate part of spiritual growth.
How many of us have echoed the words from Mark’s gospel: “I believe; help my unbelief”? Theologian Os Guinness once wrote,
If ours is an examined faith, we should be unafraid of doubt. If doubt is eventually justified, we were believing what clearly was not worth believing. But if doubt is answered, our faith has grown stronger.
If your teen is struggling with questions or doubts, he/she is joining a great cloud of witnesses who’ve been on the same journey. From John the Baptist, “Doubting Thomas,” Martin Luther, C. S. Lewis, and Mother Teresa, Christianity is filled with individuals who intellectually and spiritually struggled to believe, but through their authentic struggle, they came to a place of deep trust and reliance upon God. As Kallistos Ware shares, “Doubt can very often coexist with faith. The fact that a person has doubts doesn’t mean they have no faith; it may mean that their faith is alive, that it is struggling, that it is growing.”
Resources for your teen to explore
The process and fruits of doubt can be truly life-changing if we give our teens the tools and resources they need to test their beliefs. If you’re not sure where to point them to, we’ve compiled a list of great resources to get them started. And remember, as they’re working through this stage in their faith, make sure to ask questions and discover truth with your teen. Doubt can feel like an isolating place to be in, especially if social circles, family, or school are all centered on Christianity. So don’t be afraid to enter into these tough conversations with your kid as they learn who they are and what they believe.Read:
- Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists, Sean McDowell.
- The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel.
- Tactics by Gregory Koukl. A game plan for helping Christians learn how to think critically about their faith and discuss big ideas.
- Holman’s Quicksource Guide to Apologetics by Doug Powell. A good primer for answering questions listed here, as well as many more.
- The Ten Most Common Objections to Christianity by Alex McFarland. An introductory book written for teenagers to answer some of the basic questions about God, Christianity, and Jesus.
- Apologetics Study Bible for Students. A study Bible by Dr. Sean McDowell with tons of great articles addressing nearly every critical issue teenagers face today, written with skeptical teens in mind.
- Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Nabeel Qureshi. Qureshi shares how he developed a passion for Islam before discovering, almost against his will, evidence that Jesus rose from the dead and claimed to be God.
- Help My Unbelief: Why doubt is not the enemy of faith, by Barnabas Piper. This book discusses how embracing doubts and questions can help us to get to know God.
Each of these podcasts tackles some of the toughest questions in Christianity. If your teen isn’t much of a reader, these are great resources to start with. Encourage your teen to listen to a few episodes while working out, hanging out in their rooms, doing their morning routines, going for walks, etc.
We hope these resources spark great conversation, purposeful curiosity, and a deeper connection between God and your teen. Do you have any other helpful suggestions? We’d love to hear them, let us know in the comments!