4 Tips to Support a Teenager Struggling with Faith
“I’ve been praying and I just don’t think God is big enough. I asked Him to take care of this crisis and he didn’t. It’s still a mess.”
My son said this to me in the midst of a breakdown on a hard day. In the middle of the world’s crisis, he is having a crisis of faith. I can’t say that I blame him. In every crisis I have been through, I go through a season of wondering where Jesus is in the midst of it. I hate to say that my faith can be so small, but what I read in the Bible reminds me that I am in good company.
Don’t miss your kid’s Free Printable “Prayer Tracker” at the end!
The disciples were called “ye of little faith.” The man whose son had just been healed asked that Jesus would help him with his unbelief.
Of all of the things that Thomas saw and got to be a part of as a disciple, he was dubbed “doubting Thomas” because he wanted to see Jesus’s scars before he could believe.
There are many examples of doubt and unbelief in the Bible, but every time, God shows up. Jesus calms the storm and shows His scars.
Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”John 20:29
I am writing this as our nation is in ”lock-down” and my kids just found out that they aren’t finishing the school year with their friends. Instead, they will be e-learning with their mother as their teacher. We are sad, and we are weary. We feel tired of being tired. Every day my son has prayed that God would let this pass quickly, and when you are young (and old), this season doesn’t seem to be passing very quickly.
My son is frustrated and doesn’t understand why his prayers aren’t being answered and he lashed out at us. When we sat down to talk about it, he said that it doesn’t seem like God cares because if He did, then He would have answered by now.
Oh man! Those are big thoughts, big doubts, and big feelings that don’t always have answers.
How do we walk our kids through these big questions of faith during any crisis, especially when we might be struggling ourselves? I don’t have all the answers, but I would start with these four ways to help your teenager struggling with faith.
1. Meet Them Where They Are
Take some time to take a deep breath. Realize that any crisis is emotional and emotions can lead to exaggerated feelings. Misunderstood feelings can lead to rationalizing thoughts.
Kids of all ages don’t always recognize that the thing they think they are mad about isn’t always the root of the problem.
In our case, I had to sit with my son for over an hour before he could break through the anger and frustration to be able to put words to the fact that he was mad at God. He wanted to blame his bad mood on someone and he needed me to remind him that God was big enough to handle the anger and the doubt.
So we sat in that for awhile. Some of the time it was silent. Sometimes it was tense and emotional. Then I would remind him that he is loved and that he is in a safe place to share all that he was thinking. He needed to know that I wasn’t scared off by the fact that he didn’t trust God.
I think he thought that he would hurt my feelings by telling me it didn’t look like God was even real. His frustration was so real and I knew that he just needed to get through all of his disappointments in this current season.
Normal seasons of life will make kids feel out of sorts. Large pandemics can shake their very cores. We have to get on their level and remind them that it is normal to feel out of sorts, and that we will help them sort whatever they need help sorting out.
Read Also: Raising Kids with Strong Faith– Read these essential tips on activities you can do with your kids everyday to lead them to a strong faith!
2. Speak Truth
In the midst of helping our kids sort out their feelings, we have to bring them back to the truth as often as we can. It is so important not to preach at them, or “bible thump” them to the truth.
We need to be gentle with our words and remind them that there is always truth to be found in any difficult or life-altering situation.
Our goal isn’t to pound the truth into their heads, but to grow our relationship with them. Kids need to know they have a safe place to ask their questions and to be pointed in the direction of truth. John 14:6 reminds us that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (for a printable reminder of this verse, click here). We can trust Him to guide us as we talk these things through with our kids.
I’ve heard it said that God doesn’t need us to defend Him, so we don’t have to prove Him to our kids. We just show up, give love, and share (gently) the word of God. Because of kindness and love, our kids will know where to come the next time they struggle with their faith. Isn’t that exactly what we want?
3. Share Stories of Answered Prayer
As my son and I were sitting up in his room in the midst of the tension, I asked Him if I could tell him about a time when I was frustrated with God and the answer took longer than I wanted. He gave me a pretty uninterested shrug, and said, “Sure.”
When he was little, he loved when I rubbed his feet, so I decided to give that a try in that moment, wondering if he would still like it. I grabbed that man-sized foot, and rubbed it, and he let me. I was excited because I knew I was breaking through his bravado and reaching into his heart.
So, I told him the story of how I prayed for him. We adopted him at age four. When he was little, he went through some pretty hard things.
I shared with him the ways that God changed my heart as I prayed for him. We had some pretty rough days when he was little and I was doubtful that God would knit and bond our hearts together. I told him of the ways that God showed up and how it took years. I told him that I didn’t feel like I was a good enough mom for him, and that I felt like he was never going to like me, let alone love me.
Then God showed off.
It took years, but I was able to tell my man-child that God changed our relationship so much, that I have no idea what I would do without him. I was able to sit there, look him in his angry eyes and tell him how much I loved him. That is a miracle that God performed. It wasn’t an easy road, and it didn’t happen overnight, but I was able to tell Him just how God answered my prayers, with him.
Think of a way that God has answered your prayers, and share that with your young doubter. It helped me to share, and I feel confident it will help you, too.
Don’t give up!
I can’t say that my son’s doubts were all cleared up from our time together, but our relationship grew more today. He was reminded of what an answer to prayer he is, and I got to give him some space to share what was on his heart. My hope is that he’ll come back to talk any time he has doubts or struggles with his faith.
Read Also: How to Support an Adoptive Mom– Looking to support a friend who adopted? Or interested in understanding the proper way to talk about adoption? Read our article from an adoptive mom.
4. Pray Together and Keep Track of the Answers
The rest of the house was growing louder, getting restless, and our growling stomachs were letting us know that it was almost lunchtime. Our time together was coming to an end, but I didn’t want it to be over without giving us a chance to see God show up.
So, I calmly asked if I could pray with my sweet son.
He was open to it, and gave me a teenage shrug. I took that as a yes, and asked Him what we could specifically pray for that would let us see God soon. He told me his answer, and we prayed. I silently begged God to answer his prayer in a big way.
We are waiting to see how God answers, but you better believe that I will be keeping track. I am writing our requests down so that we have a record of how God shows up.
I know that it isn’t a formula and sometimes God answers our prayers in ways that don’t seem like answers, but when I read the story of Jesus calming the storm, and healing the centurion’s son, I know that he cares. I trust Him with my kids, and I ask him to help me do the best that I can as the mom He created me to be.
Your Free Printable
One way to parent intentionally is to help your child keep track of their prayers and watch how God answers them. If you’d like a simple way of doing this, download our Free Printable “Prayer Tracker.”
Here is my prayer for you, Friend, that you will know God. That you will trust Him with your unbelief. That you will have peace in doing the best that you can, and rest in the fact that God will take care of everything else. He’s bigger than our doubts and fears and will help us walk our kiddos through theirs too.