Many people look to the generations that came before us as beacons of light in faith and spirituality. The early- to mid-1900s now act as an illustration of the “good ol’ days” of Christianity, when everyone went to church, said their prayers, and practically lived the life many of us feel like we’ve lost as a nation.
Today, we’re in the thick of gender fluidity, social and political unrest, the normalization of pornography, and more. And for many of us, these new norms are scary. We watch our kids go out into a world that praises self-trust instead of trust in God; a world that encourages exploration of faiths, beliefs, and says that the only love we really need is self-love; a world that does not regard Christianity as the one true religion, but rather one path of many to reach an unknown post-mortem destination.
Some of us wonder: Where have we gone wrong?
Doubt in today’s culture
Maybe we haven’t “gone wrong.” Maybe this is exactly where we need to be.
What if those good ol’ days weren’t as wonderful as we remember them to be? What if a large number of people did go to church, but more as a social habit than an expression of true faith and conviction in Christ? There’s never been a time our world has been free from sin, and the year 2021 is no more sin-ridden than the year 1921.
We might argue that though it seems as if more people are walking away from the faith today, in previous generations, these might have been the same ones who kept going out of a sense of mere social obligation. Now, those who stay are often those with a genuine desire to know the Lord. If your teen is no longer surrounded exclusively by Christian influences (like, for example, social media influencers preaching the power of manifestation) but still chooses to believe in God’s power instead of their own, that shows far more conviction, strength, and desire to have faith than those who never had the opportunity to choose.
If your teen is working through doubts, be there for them, but don’t try to short-circuit the process. If they have questions, encourage them to ask. Pushing aside doubt as “just a phase,” or “just a season” is a mistake many Christians make with those who are questioning. Sometimes it will be a phase, and sometimes it won’t; either way, our willingness to listen and sit in the tension when our teens express doubt may play a big part in how things end up.
Instead of wishing we were back in the prime of Christianity, what if we looked forward in hope and anticipation for the new generation of Christians we’re raising up today? Each new generation brings about a new set of questions, issues to address, and changes to make, all of which have the potential to bring new life to the Church. Our teens are the future of the Church, making it a future marked with creative thinkers and stronger believers tested in fires we never felt as teens.
If your teen is pondering some questions that you don’t know how to answer, sit down and research with them. If they wonder whether or not this whole God thing is real, ask them to tell you what’s going through their head and how they feel about that. Yes, our kids are being exposed to more online than we ever experienced, including a diverse culture that isn’t always in favor of Christianity. But the Lord is ever-present, and our kids have the chance to truly choose faith in the face of opposition now more than ever, giving way to stronger, deeper, more impactful faith. After all, do you want your teen to pursue faith because they’re supposed to, or because they’ve tested it and found that it’s true for them?
Exploring difficult questions with your teen
One of the easiest ways to break trust with your kid is to make them feel invalidated, wrong, or even silly for asking questions. But one of the best ways to build trust is by actively pursuing those questions with them as a team. Be an explorer with your kid and live in the wonder and curiosity these conversations can bring. Find answers together; and when answers don’t come, be open to admitting that we don’t know it all.
We need to dive into these sticky places so our kids know they have a safe space to discuss without getting shut down. Our teens’ questions and doubts will always be met with a voice, so let that be yours, not culture’s.
If your teen has brought their doubt to you and you don’t know how to start a conversation with them, here are some questions you can ask:
- You said you’ve had some doubts, can you tell me more about that?
- Does doubt scare you? Why or why not?
- What specific questions do you have about the Bible, God, or Christianity as a whole? Can we explore those things together?
- How can I make you feel respected in this?
- How can I help you to explore doubt?
Be on the lookout for two new resources on doubt coming soon: A Parent's Guide to Doubt, and our Doubt Conversation Kit. Get it all with Axis Membership!