How could God have existed forever? Why did God let them die? If God is powerful, why did He let that happen? Why didn't God help grandma get better when we prayed? How do we know God is real? How do we know the Bible is God's Word? My teacher said we are here because of evolution. Is she right? If God loves people, why would He send them to hell? Why is Jesus the only way to heaven? What about people in other countries who believe in a different god?
You don’t even have to be a parent to know that kids ask some REALLY hard questions! Even answering the popular (and persistent!) “Why?” question can be biting off more than we can chew sometimes! Though the questions may seem endless and oftentimes annoying, these questions lend themselves to great opportunities. These everyday situations in which the truth of God’s Word can be applied can help the kids in your life develop a strong foundation in faith. Let’s strive to be a safe place for our children to ask questions. Now, that’s all fine and good, but what do we do when the questions are HARD?
First things first, don’t overreact! It is so easy to be caught off guard when kids ask tough questions. Let’s face it…it never seems to be at a good time, and usually happens when you are least expecting it! If it really is a terrible time (my kids are notorious for the most amazing questions at bedtime), decide whether it might be appropriate to table the discussion for a better time. For instance, taking the time for a sensitive discussion on death at a funeral might be better saved for after the service. However, staying up a little late on a Saturday night might be worth it! Just be sure to ACTUALLY come back to the conversation! Set a time and place, and follow through! We must restrain ourselves from responding in anger, frustration, or surprise. This can leave a kid feeling like they have done something wrong, or maybe that they don’t love Jesus. A gentle, loving response can set the tone for the rest of the discussion.
Commend your child on their thoughtful question! This is the opportunity you have been waiting for…so try to see it with a good perspective! Tell the child how proud you are of him or her for asking hard questions. The fact that the child is trying to understand these deeper aspects of faith is commendable. Tell the child that asking these hard questions is exciting because it shows progress in their faith journey! Even Jesus asked hard questions (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” - Matthew 27:46). This will also ensure that your child will not fear asking you hard questions in the future!
Don’t stop there! Help the child flesh out the question and find the answers together. This is an amazing discipleship opportunity! Help your child dig into Truth and find the answers for why they believe what they believe. Sometimes a child isn’t asking what it sounds like, so be sure you really understand the question on their hearts before you get started. Show kids the helpful tools found in most Bibles! Indexes are a life saver when it comes to hard questions! Look up Scripture together, and search for the answer!
If you don’t know the answer, it’s okay to tell a child. Some questions are so deep, even ones coming from a child, that you won’t know how to respond when the child first asks. Rather than giving a quick (possibly cliché) answer, be honest. Tell them you don’t know! It only shows them what a GREAT question it was that was asked! Let the child know that it was a tough question, but you are excited to journey with them to find the answer. This will help your child see the authenticity of your faith as you walk alongside them in seeking Truth. Be willing to seek others to help you find the answers, and go along the journey together! In the end, you will both be better for the adventure!
We live in a difficult time, in which we can’t just sit around and wait for our kids to ask us the hard questions. Consider initiating discussions that cause kids to work through hard questions. Let’s boldly walk alongside our children, not shying away from the difficult questions of Christianity. We don’t want the first time they face these questions to be in a high school hallway, or worse, in a college dormitory. If they can work through these questions while they are young, it will give them a solid foundation to build their faith on. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” We must prepare our kids by helping them find the answers to the questions they will face as they grow up. If we don’t, their faith could wilt away under the pressure of a culture that does not believe in absolute truth.
Lastly, New Hope aims to equip parents to answer the hard questions. We believe that Central Gathering, LIFE Group, specific equipping classes, a table full of awesome books on our resource table, as well as these articles you are reading right now, help provide resources for all of our New Hope family to answer those hard questions. A specific resource you can find on Amazon is Answering Your Kids' Toughest Questions: Helping Them Understand Loss, Sin, Tragedies, and Other Hard Topics by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson.
If you get stumped, we would LOVE to chat with you! Staff, elders, and LIFE Group leaders would love to walk alongside you in your journey for answers!