When You Want to Have Faith, But You Have Questions


when Christians doubt the Bible

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Confession: Faith has never come easy for me.

I have lived most of my Christian life with a constant voice in the back of my head saying, “But what if it’s not true?” These days, the voice is mostly just a whisper (some days I don’t hear it at all); at other times, it’s been a full-on shout.

The voice started in high school, in Mr. Gus’s class, where we explored the great thinkers of the Enlightenment. Mr. Gus dared us to answer hard questions, to prove why we believed what we believed. His questions made me stop and think, “Why do I believe these things? Is this really my faith, or have I blindly adopted my parents’ faith?”

I came home asking questions—lots of them. I am forever thankful for my parents’ wisdom. They didn’t freak out: “How dare you doubt God and the Bible?!” They didn’t panic: “Oh, no! Our daughter is falling away from God!” They didn’t blow me off: “Huh. Those are hard questions. Good luck figuring things out.” They didn’t write me off: “You’re just going through a weird teenage phase—it will go away in a week or two.”

Bible holding hands

Photo credit: Sara Engel

They took me seriously, and let me dive deep. They didn’t offer quick, shallow answers. My dad, who has wrestled with a number of faith questions himself, said, “I understand why you have those questions—I’ve had them too! So let’s study them out together.” He gave me books to read, and gave me freedom to ask all my questions. We worked through them one by one, step by step. There was no pressure, no guilt, and no rush. I went back and forth on some of these questions for months—some for years—and Mom and Dad were always there to listen, to discuss, to reason, and to point me to helpful resources. And it’s not like I grew up and stopped asking questions—I still ask a ton of questions, but now I know enough about the Bible and apologetics that I know where to turn when questions crop up.

Here are a few conclusions I’ve come to over the years—maybe they will encourage you if you find faith difficult:

1.It’s okay to have questions about faith—in fact, questions are good. Doubt means you are thinking. Doubt means you don’t just blindly accept everything you hear from the pulpit or from popular Christian culture. God encourages us to love him “with all [our] minds” (Mark 12:30)—he doesn’t want us to check our brains at the door when we become Christians! Thinking and study are an integral part of our faith. Doubt only becomes a problem if we don’t take the time to address it—if we are lazy and unwilling to put the time in to read and study and seek answers.

bible (1 of 1)

Photo credit: Sara Engel

2.I’m not the first person to have this question. Whatever question I am asking, some other Christian has asked it before me. Which means: 1) I’m not weird or sinful for having this question, and 2) I can find helpful writings (and podcasts and videos) on this topic. Chances are, great Christian thinkers and apologists have already produced a wealth of material on this exact question, and somewhere in their words, I can find the help I need. (My go-to person for faith questions is my longtime friend Dr. Douglas Jacoby, whose website is a vast resource for Christians with questions.)

3.Faith is a long journey—embrace the twists and turns. There will be times in our lives when faith is harder: maybe a painful experience is bringing up doubts; maybe a disappointment or loss has rocked us; maybe God seems distant or silent. Times like these don’t need to destroy our faith—in fact, they can strengthen it if we tackle our questions and doubts honestly, and with Scripture. (Random shout-out: If God feels far away, read Philip Yancey’s book, Prayer: Does It Make a Difference? MIND-BLOWING. LIFE-CHANGING.)


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4. We don’t have to accept the easy answer. Some questions about God and the Bible do not have quick, easy answers. Warfare in the Bible? Senseless suffering? Predestination? These are hard, complex topics. Simple blanket statements like “Just have faith” or “Just trust God” won’t do it for questions like these.

I need more than pat answers to keep my faith healthy: I need Scriptures. Logic. Honest analysis of the contradictions and difficulties. And you know what? God designed me this way! He made me to think. To question. To explore. He doesn’t expect me to settle for easy answers to hard questions. If you’re like me, and you’re a thinker, a questioner, a wonder-er, that’s not a bad thing. Let’s embrace who we are, and take joy in the journey of working out our faith.

5.It’s okay to live with some questions and uncertainty. I have come to realize that some of our faith-related questions may never be completely resolved. The big questions are resolved: Do I believe in God? YES. Was Jesus really the Son of God, and did he die for sins and resurrect from the dead? YES. Can I trust God with my life? YES. (But even in those questions, doubt can occasionally resurface, and we have to go back and remind ourselves: This is what I believe, and why.)

But some other questions—about tough topics like suffering, or predestination, or how God’s will works in daily life—are up for debate. God hasn’t explained every nuance of who he is and how he works—if he tried, the Bible would be a gazillion pages long (plus, our brains might explode). We can keep thinking, keep reading, keep debating and discussing, but we might have to settle for “This is the best answer I can come up with for now. And I reserve the right to change my thinking on it over time.”

6.Faith is an adventure. I used to feel guilty when a new doubt or question cropped up; now I see those moments as opportunities to study and grow. Questions are a chance to dig in to Scripture and some new books, and to have some deep conversations with trusted thinker-friends. Doubts are an opportunity to be honest with God about what we’re working through, and to ask him to point us in the right direction.

Let’s take comfort and joy from Jesus’ words to Thomas, our fellow doubter, because they are written about you and me (how cool is that?!): “Because you [Thomas] have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:28).

Okay, your turn: What faith questions do you have? Do you view doubt as a weakness, or an opportunity for growth and exploration? If your kids have questions about God, how do you plan to handle them?


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When Kids Understand God Better than We Do

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When Life Is Uncertain

13 Back-to-School Scriptures for Kids

13 Scriptures to Read with Your Daughter


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Staying Close to God When You’ve Got Young Kids


staying close to God when you have young children

How can we maintain a thriving relationship with God as busy parents?

How can we impart a lasting love for God and His word to our children?

What are the biggest challenges faced by Christian parents today?

Is it a good idea to have three kids in three years? (Short answer: NO. Heh heh.)

And how in the name of all that is good and holy can moms find ten minutes to ourselves to read and pray?!

I recently had the chance to sit down and talk about the joys and challenges of Christian parenting with Jon Sherwood, of JonSherwood.com.

You can watch the video here. (It’s only 16 minutes long, so I recommend giving the kids a bowlful of Cheerios, and locking yourself in the bathroom for some extended “me time…”) 

Hope you enjoy! And check out Jon’s website while you’re there—it’s a fantastic, faith-building resource!


For more on Christian parenting and family life, check out: 

On Pinkeye, Lice, and Love

The LizzyLife YouTube Channel 

5 Bible Stories Boys Love

13 Scriptures to Read with Your Daughter

13 Back-to-School Scriptures

How We Helped Our Son Overcome a Gaming Obsession


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5 Bible Stories Boys Love


Bible stories for boys

Whenever I read the book of Exodus, I can’t help but picture a scene like this:

God and Jesus are hanging out in heaven, watching Moses step up and challenge Pharaoh. Moses thunders, “Let my people go! Or else…”

God rubs his chin and asks Jesus, “Or else what? Hmmm. How can I save My people AND tell a story that gets the attention of nine-year-old boys from every culture and generation, forever and ever, amen?”

Jesus leans in with a grin: “Three words, Dad: PLAGUE OF FROGS.”

how to help boys love the Bible

Boy reading Bible

Images courtesy of Pixabay.

The Bible is amazingly boy-friendly, if you know where to look. Its pages are packed with stories of flawed superheroes like Samson, exciting warriors like David, noble men like Joseph, and epic tales of battle, bravery, and adventure. By book two (Exodus), we’ve got gag-worthy plagues of frogs and bugs and blood. (And yes, I realize that not all boys love sword fights and bugs and such, but…humor me. I’m writing in broad strokes here, based on the boys in my life. And while we’re at it, yes, lots of girls will love these stories too—I sure did (I still do!). So there you have my politically correct disclaimer, ha!)

(And hey, if you have daughters, check out 13 Scriptures to Read with Your Daughter.)

But first, we can’t talk about teaching boys to love the Bible without recommending The Action Bible. And by recommending, I mean BUY IT TODAY, IT’S THAT AMAZING! (No, I’m not getting paid to say that.) The Action Bible is comic-book-meets-graphic-novel-meets-Bible-superheroes-with-huge-muscles. My kids ADORE this Bible—my older kids have both devoured it cover to cover.

I could list scores of exciting stories here, but for now, let’s start with five, all from the Old Testament. (Heads up: All of these stories have some violence in them, so you’ll have to decide what is appropriate for your child.)

Here are five Bible stories boys love, with some simple questions for discussion and application: 

1. Moses and the plagues (Exodus 7–12)  

These five chapters cover the plagues, but the chapters leading up to the plagues make for thrilling reading, too, and chapters 13 and 14 will get you to the mind-blowing Red Sea crossing. For younger kids, think through how you want to handle the plague of the firstborn—it’s heavy, and may be hard for sensitive kids to handle.

Questions for discussion: Why was Pharaoh so stubborn? What do these plagues show us about the patience of God and the power of God? Do you think it was scary for Moses to stand up to Pharaoh? Does God notice when his people go through hard times and ask him for help? (Take a quick peek at Exodus 3:7.) Do you think God notices when you go through hard times and need his help?

2. Aaron and Hur (Exodus 17:8-15)

When we were little, my parents did a fun devotional where we acted out this story. My brothers held up my hands (oldest kid perk—I got to be Moses!), while my parents pretended to battle each other (hilarious).

Questions: Why do you think God wanted the battle to be won like this, with Moses’ hands held high? (Hint: Do you think he wanted the Israelites to realize that they always needed to rely on Him to help them win their battles?) What can we learn about teamwork from Aaron and Hur? Even though Joshua was the one leading the army, would he have been able to win the battle without help from friends like Moses, Aaron, and Hur? How can you be a better team player at school, at home, or in sports?


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devotions for boys

3. Elijah and the Fire from Heaven (1 Kings 18:16–46)

If you are unfamiliar with this passage, I recommend reading 1 Kings 17–19 to give yourself the story’s context, and also James 5:13–18, which illuminates an important lesson. This will prepare you to answer any questions your child may have. This Bible story is wild, with some intense moments and bloodshed (for younger kids, you could stop the story at verse 39). But there’s lots of high-energy drama, and even some humor.

Questions: What did Elijah mean when he said “How long will you waver between two opinions?” Have you ever been tempted to do what everyone else was doing, instead of following God’s way? Why did Elijah get the sacrifice all wet? What do you see about how powerful God is in this story? How many times did Elijah have to pray before God made it rain? What do you need to keep praying about in your life? (Read James 5:13–18 if you want to talk more about the power of prayer in this story.)

4. Gideon (Judges 6–7) 

My son and I just read this story—he’s working on developing courage, and not worrying so much about what his friends think of him. He loved seeing how Gideon’s faith and courage grew over time.

Questions: Was Gideon brave when God first called him? How did God respond when Gideon had doubts and needed encouragement? Have you ever had doubts or questions about God? (If so, what are they?) Why do you think God kept making Gideon’s army smaller and smaller? How do you think Gideon felt when his army shrank from thousands down to 300? How do you think Gideon felt when God told him his battle plan? Who wins battles—people or God? Do you need God’s help to win any “battles” in your life right now?

5. David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17)

Of course, no list of Bible stories boys love would be complete without David and Goliath!

Questions: Why were all the Israelites so afraid of Goliath? What would have happened if Goliath had won this battle? Why was David so brave? How did David prepare for this battle back when he was just a shepherd boy, hanging out with sheep? How can faith in God give us courage? Are you facing any situations right now where you need God’s help to stand up for what’s right, or to be brave? (For another boy-friendly devotional that uses David’s story, see How We Helped Our Son Overcome a Gaming Obsession.)

I hope these stories help you teach your kids to love the Bible, and give them ideas for how to apply it to their daily life! If you try these discussions out with your family, let me know how it goes! I love hearing from you.


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When Life Is Uncertain


When life is uncertain

 

Some seasons, life is boring, predictable, uneventful: all the same things, all the same people. Same familiar road we’ve traveled a thousand times before, the view never changing.

We complain about monotony.

Dream of excitement and change.

no bends in the road

Photo credit: Marcelo Quinan, Unsplash.

And then…and then: A sudden bend in the road, a detour. The path unpaved, the future uncertain. We’re off-roading, exhilarated and terrified in equal measure. All in a rush, life takes us somewhere we’ve never been: New stages or roles, new places or people… Unfamiliar, intimidating territory. Situations and difficulties we’ve never faced before, in myriad forms.

curve in the road

Photo credit: Orlova Maria, Unsplash.

During times like this, I cling to Isaiah 42:16: “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”

Light to my path image

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Let us find comfort in this:

Where we are blind, God can see.

When our path is unmarked, He knows the way.

When the road is uneven, He can carve a smooth path.

When ankles turn, legs burn, and lungs cry out, He can grant strength.

Where shadows gather, our God—world-spinner, star-maker, light-giver—can shine sun.

And no matter how long the journey, no matter how winding or perilous the path, He never forsakes the ones He loves.

“Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God” (Isaiah 50:10).

Wishing you safe travels, friends, wherever He leads you, now and always. 

(Want more from the Bible on this? Read Psalm 121, Psalm 23, Psalm 18:36, Isaiah 40:28–31, Psalm 119:105, Psalm 18:28, Psalm 33.)

A lamp to our feet

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

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13 Scriptures to Read with Your Daughter


scriptures for preteen girls

I love the Bible.

Every day it gives me hope and keeps me sane. Every day it saves me from my own angst, my sinful thoughts, my despair over this dark and dangerous world.

I’m working on diving deeper into the Bible with my daughters, especially my preteen (age 10). I want my girls to understand that the Bible is not just a holy book, formal and distant and vaguely frightening. I want them to know the Bible as God’s living word: A comfort we can rely on in daily life. A tool that teaches us who to be and how to think. A guide that helps us understand God. An insight into how deeply God loves us, even when we make mistakes.

Here are 13 scriptures to read with your daughter, divided into categories (these scriptures will speak best to girls ages 9 and up):

God’s love for you

What’s important to God?

When you go through hard times

Living a pure life in a dark world

Dealing with peer pressure

True beauty

Where to find wisdom, and why it’s important

(If you’re looking for scriptures for boys, try 5 Bible Stories Boys Love!)


bible (1 of 1)

God’s love for you

1. “Though the mountains be shaken

and the hills be removed,

yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken

nor my covenant of peace be removed,”

says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:10)

2.This scripture helped me survive high school—I read it a million times, and drew so much comfort and confidence from it, knowing that God loved me even when I felt all alone at school.

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.

O Israel, the one who formed you says,

“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.

I have called you by name; you are mine.

When you go through deep waters,

I will be with you.

When you go through rivers of difficulty,

you will not drown.

When you walk through the fire of oppression,

you will not be burned up;

the flames will not consume you.

For I am the Lord, your God,

the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. . . .

you are precious to me.

  You are honored, and I love you.

Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” (Isaiah 43:1–3, 4–5 NLT, emphasis added)

 

What’s important to God?

3. Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34–40)

4. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22–23)

 

When you go through hard times

5. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:2–5)

 

Living a pure life in a dark world

6. How can a young person stay on the path of purity?

By living according to your word.

I seek you with all my heart;

do not let me stray from your commands.

I have hidden your word in my heart

that I might not sin against you.

Praise be to you, Lord;

teach me your decrees.

With my lips I recount

all the laws that come from your mouth.

I rejoice in following your statutes

as one rejoices in great riches. (Psalm 119:9–14)

7. For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11–14)


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Dealing with peer pressure

8. Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. (1 Peter 2:11–13 NLT)

9. Don’t worry about the wicked

or envy those who do wrong.

For like grass, they soon fade away.

Like spring flowers, they soon wither.

Trust in the Lord and do good.

Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.

Take delight in the Lord,

and he will give you your heart’s desires.

Commit everything you do to the Lord.

Trust him, and he will help you. (Psalm 37:1–5 NLT)

 

True beauty

10. But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

11. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (1 Peter 3:3–4)

 

Where to find wisdom, and why it’s important

 12. I have kept my feet from every evil path

so that I might obey your word.

I have not departed from your laws,

for you yourself have taught me.

How sweet are your words to my taste,

sweeter than honey to my mouth!

I gain understanding from your precepts;

therefore I hate every wrong path.

Your word is a lamp for my feet,

a light on my path. (Psalm 119:101–105)

 

13. My [daughter], if you accept my words

and store up my commands within you,

turning your ear to wisdom

and applying your heart to understanding—

indeed, if you call out for insight

and cry aloud for understanding,

and if you look for it as for silver

and search for it as for hidden treasure,

then you will understand the fear of the Lord

and find the knowledge of God.

For the Lord gives wisdom;

from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

He holds success in store for the upright,

he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,

for he guards the course of the just

and protects the way of his faithful ones. (Proverbs 2:1–8)


If you enjoyed these scriptures, you might also like:

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