How Your Biggest Questions Can Save Your Faith
My oldest daughter asks her hardest questions at bedtime, when we flop open the pages of Scripture atop her quilt.
This night, the story of David and Goliath finds us. I read aloud about a heroic boy who felled a giant with one smooth stone.
In the bluish light of her bedside lamp, I can see on her face what’s coming next. She wears the hard questions in her knitted brow and tilted head.
“Mom?” she asks. “Why would God think it’s OK to kill Goliath? Isn’t all murder wrong?”
Instead of groping for a theologically sound answer to a reasonable question, I look straight into her eyes and give her my usual response: “That is a really good question, Lydia. What do you think?”
Some parents might consider this a cop-out – answering a child’s question with a question. But the way I figure, the most important part of this bedtime ritual isn’t the answer, but the freedom to ask the questions. I pray, even, that she and I might find joy in the questions.
Under the quilt most nights, my daughter and I trade theories and exchange hypotheses, which produce even more questions. I watch how our detective work lights up her hazel eyes — eyes that look like mine. People say this daughter is my “mini-me,” but here’s the big difference between us–
She has the courage to ask the questions that I never dared ask at her age.
- How do we know that Jesus is real?
- Are people just robots, and is God pushing the buttons, or do we decide how to live?
- Why did God let Adam and Eve eat that apple?
- If God loves us, why would he let bad things happen?
Even when I don’t have answers, I can give her the gift of a safe place to wonder. I pull her in closer to me, cradling her in the crook of my arm.
On this night, I tell her again how I found Jesus right in the middle of my questions, when I finally got around to admitting that I had them.
I tell her how questions didn’t ruin my faith. They rebuilt it.
I tell her about the five words highlighted in the study notes of my own Bible, right beside the story of the world’s most famous doubter, Thomas. The words are these: “Silent doubts rarely find answers.”
And I tell her how when I quit running from my questions, I found some of the answers in the most unlikely places: the tarnished stories of our faith heroes.
“That’s how we know the stories are real, Lydia,” I said, “These aren’t fairy tales. The characters in the Bible are real and weak and broken. They made mistakes, just like we do.”
I have only begun to tell our daughters how deep my doubt was — how it went so deep that it felt like an anchor, dragging me to the bottom of a murky lake. I didn’t even know if God was real, because it seemed so unlikely in a world gone mad.
Now I know that questions aren’t a curse, and that doubt can actually be a gift, because our doubt sends us on a quest that finds its answer at the foot of a cross and the mouth of a tomb — our greatest hope. I know what can happen when my own questions – which once felt like an anchor — suddenly become a life preserver. My questions were an honest groping toward a good God — this God I don’t always understand, but who promises never to leave me storm-tossed or alone in my doubts.
I also tell my daughter what can happen when doubt flips over, when faith grows from the mossy underside. That’s why she sees me cry in church some Sundays, and why I raise my hands when I sing.
She nods her head when I tell her that it really is okay to ask hard questions about God, and to wade your way into the theological deep — but that you can also find His love in the shallow end of the pool.
I lean across her side of the bed to switch off the lamp. We say our night prayers, and somewhere in the darkness of the room, the unanswered question about Goliath still hangs in the air.
But tonight, neither of us is haunted by the question mark.
Because we both know there’s one thing worse than the question that can’t be answered. It’s the question that was never asked.
“I’m joining the synchroblog for the release of A Christian Survival Guide: A Lifeline to Faith and Growth
by answering this prompt: ‘What saved your faith?'”
So, tell us: “What saved your faith? Write a blog post answering that question and then visit www.edcyzewski.com to learn how you can join the synchroblog or to read additional posts to celebrate the release of Ed’s book A Christian Survival Guide.
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- For the questions standing unanswered | avasophie - […] “we both know there’s one thing worse than the question that can’t be answered. It’s the question that was…
I love this, Jennifer. I also don’t remember having a lot of theological questions asked/answered in my home while growing up. We covered the very basics, but I also didn’t grow up reading the bible, so I didn’t have a lot of questions from a book I wasn’t reading….I love the way you shepherd your girls, and the way you remind me to always look to Jesus. My post for Ed’s synchroblog goes up tomorrow 😉 Im grateful for you!! XO
Yay! Can’t wait to read your post Kris!
You just knocked this post out of the park, Jennifer. I’m so grateful for how you put it. Yes, the more we let these questions simmer, the more we’ll be alienated from God, not even realizing the distance we’ve created.
And, why do children always ask the toughest questions right at bedtime? 🙂 It’s glorious that you are answering Lydia’s questions with another question. Like you, I’ve gone through many, many doubts in my faith walk, but have chosen to lay them at God’s feet. When there is an answer, if there is an answer, He will send it. He made us to be curious about Him and His creation, so I think He likes us to ask and ask often.
Blessings to you and your family, and thank you for this most inspiring post, Jennifer!
This is beautiful. You are teaching your daughter to “wrestle” with God. It is important to realize that God is God and we are not. Therefore, I’m not sure we can answer all of these questions this side of heaven. It is okay to say, “I’m not sure why this is, but I trust God.” Thank you for that reminder today. I love this!
I love how you encourage and make it safe for your daughters to ask questions…and that it’s okay to *not* have all the answers. Such wisdom you are passing along to your sweeties 😉
Wonderful post, Jen. Love this – cuz I love questions and believe with my whole heart that the search for answers (or at least peace with NO answers) is a huge part of this faith journey we’re on. Thank you.