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Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

When Children ask Uncomfortable Questions about God

My son was firing off all kinds of questions about God a couple of days ago. Children are curious and filled with a wide-eyed wonder as they look upon the intricacies and beauty of the natural world.  They can oftentimes see its little details a lot more than us adults. This same wide-eyed wonder they can also find towards the spiritual.

Courtesy of Google Images

I don't discuss God constantly with my children. We do pray together, they go to church, but they aren't inundated with religion or spirituality throughout their day. That's why it always touches me when, at spontaneous moments unprovoked, they will bring up questions or their perceived observations about God.

Here are some of the questions my three year old son asked:

Where is God?
God is in heaven, right Mommy?
Is God in rain too?
Is God like a statue or is He in sunlight?
Is God a guy or is He a girl?

Now some of these questions I don't think have necessarily simple answers. Then again I have the tendancy to sometimes overthink things! I always try to give simple responses to my children, considering their ages, yet, I don't want to water down the truth or misrepresent it for the sake of convenience or simplicity.  With these particular questions, and since my son is just three years old, I was able to pass through his line of questioning with relative ease.

 My daughter who is seven has become more challenging with her questions particularly when it comes to some events in the Old Testament. We were reading the story of Noah the other day and she stopped me abruptly and asked:

"Mommy, if Noah only took two of every animal then that would mean the rest drowned. That's awful! Why would God do that? He was mean!"

I found myself in a bit of quandary there. I'm still considering what parts of the Bible are literal and which are figurative and since I'm still figuring things out I don't want to give my children false impressions until I am convicted with an answer. I believe it's important to be honest with our children when we aren't certain or don't know an answer. I told her I'd get back to her on that but I agree, that is awful. At the same time people during that time were doing some awful things themselves and God was looking for a way He could restore peace and end violence, suffering and evil.  This was a very uncomfortable question for me to try to answer! What would have been your answer?

This question was uncomfortable not only because I didn't have an immediate reaction that seemed like it clearly answered her but also because it was so unexpected. I've taught Sunday school for years in the past. I've also been a vacation Bible school teacher and camp counselor. Not once did a child question the morality of an Old Testament story.  All the children I have taught seemed to have just accepted what they were taught without questioning much of it.

Many adults have questioned though, myself included. My wrestle with God's morality and character in the Old Testament created a huge struggle in my faith about a year ago. I had never discussed this with my child, of course, but when my daughter came out with that question I felt my heart wince a bit. Faith might  prove to be a not so easy road for her. But then again, is a genuine spiritual journey ever easy? And I couldn't help but feel a bit impressed at her ability to not just take information and beliefs verbatim but to think for herself and question.

When my children ask me questions about God my philosophy is to be open and receptive to their thoughts and questions. To answer honestly and when I don't know the answer, not to make up one, but to simply say that I don't know and suggest that we find out together. Us "finding out together" helps them learn in their lifelong journey of faith the process of seeking and finding the answers they need to help build the foundation of their faiths.

I think it's so important not to get angry or dissapointed by some of the things our children will come out with in their questions and opinions about God and the Bible, even if they are doubts or criticisms and make us feel uncomfortable.  Much more effective is to approach these questions and doubts with an open dialogue and see them as opportunities to have both our children and ourselves learn and grow more in the process.

What are some of the questions you once asked about God when you were a child? Or some of the questions your children have asked you about God? Please leave in the comments section!



  1. You hit this one out of the park! That's a real difficult thing to deal with, because they're asking questions some of the greatest minds in the world have asked and have never found answers for.

  2. I could not miss it with five posts close together on Facebook.;);> I do sympathize.

    I remember when I was around five years old seeing a Christmas type show about Christ and wondering if Christ was God and thinking he probably was. I think the Lord built on this in my life in bringing me to orthodoxy. I think it is good to find a good relatable Bible to share with a child.

  3. Justin...so true! These questions are not easily answered. Nothing is black and white...and to think that way or to teach that line of thinking to a child limits their potential in finding deeper answers and also limits their perspective on the vastness of God's creativity and wonder. Thanks for stopping by :)

  4. kingpin...you came up with some very good conclusions at a young age! That's great. A great suggestion too...a relatable Bible. I'm thinking of perusing our local Christian store, perhaps they have one geared for children and with some commentary on some issues and questions children might come up with and some answers we can use as a starting point in coming to some resolutions and conclusions. Thanks so much for stopping by :)

  5. Great questions Jessica, because they are ever so difficult :) I’m like you in the sense that I don’t lead my daughter (the one remaining at home with me) to believe I have all the answers.

    I remember a few years ago wondering why God demanded blood sacrifices (the sacrificial rituals just seemed so ‘pagan’ to me). One night after group prayer I brought the subject up and received a few ‘looks’ as if I’d dropped in from another planet. Why would you even question God Almighty? I still don’t understand but it doesn’t really matter. The Old Testament has many stories that I may never understand. Another being when God killed the guy who touched the Ark of the Covenant (trying to protect it)- and others who simple ‘looked’ at it. 1 Samuel 6:19
    But God struck down some of the men of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they had looked into the ark of the Lord. The people mourned because of the heavy blow the Lord had dealt them.

    Above all, I will never understand why God sacrificed his only Son for our sins. That, too, is a hard question. Why did he have to die such a brutal death? Why did the disciples have to be martyred? And John exiled. Why must we suffer to enter the kingdom?

    Perhaps childlike faith is merely finding a place of acceptance with joy, without living in the cerebral realm where everything must be rationally understood.

  6. I too have been challenged recently, so much so that I shed a few tears and felt genuine pain in my 'heart'...

    What helped me was to view the Old Testament as a set of writings about a people who went through many stages with their 'religion' and concepts of God but what mattered ultimately was their integrity in their relationship with God...

    Isn't that why Jesus came, to show us what God was LIKE and however we view what happened on the cross, I know that night I committed my life by beleiving Jesus died for my sins,repented and accepted Him as my Lord and Saviour that whatever happend within God, belief in His sacrifice brought me back into right relationship with God...

  7. So often in the New Testament, Jesus gathers a child in his arms to teach a lesson to his disciples or allows the little children to come unto him for to them belongs the Kingdom of God. When we are confused as adults by what we read in the Bible, maybe we simply have to reclaim that child still within us: innocent, trusting, curious, wondering, and never afraid to ask questions.
    We don't have to understand everything or know the right answer, even for our own children. Our faith is based, as Debra put forth, on a God willing to sacrifice his own son for we who are so unworthy, yet he deems us valued beyond measure.
    We cannot see through the glass clearly, but one day, when in Heaven, we will. We journey in hope and in faith, asking our questions and knowing God will answer them in the end.

  8. Many families only have one or two children nowadays and because of that and the fact they live in North America,their children can be very indulged and entitled in everything in their lives, including their opinions. I whole heartedly agree that children should be able to ask questions, but this should be done without thinking the Universe revolves around them!

  9. Debra...I always find your comments refreshing. It's encouraging to hear some of the other questions and areas that have left other Christians perplexed and know that I'm not the only one, nor my child. I love what you said:

    Perhaps childlike faith is merely finding a place of acceptance with joy, without living in the cerebral realm where everything must be rationally understood.

    That resonates so much truth with what I've found from experience. I think it's ok to question, to probe, to explore Scripture for answers. At the same time it shouldn't come between us and experiencing and being devoted to God. There are some things which we will never fully understand and when we can accept them as such and be content in not "knowing" everything we'd like to and just be content in the presence of God, that surely brings great Joy. That personally has brought me joy and a feeling of peace...trusting God with things I don't fully understand and focusing on loving Him, loving others through Him, and glorifying Him through my life.

    Thank you for stopping by :)

  10. Marcus...thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I've come to also believe that it's important to read Scripture keeping in mind the culture and context in which it is written. It does help things become more clearer. Questions and concerns may still arise from time to time but I love what you mentioned about Jesus' sacrifice. That is truly the time when man became reconciled to God. The power of His blood, the pain and suffering he went through for us, and the glorious fact that the veil has been torn and we can have a living relationship with our maker, far outweighs any intellectual qualms we can have with the Bible, in my opinion.
    I love the heart you have for God. I pray peace and blessings fill your heart and your life as you encounter God in deeper ways. ~Blessings

  11. Martha , thank you so much for stopping by. You offer a beautiful perspective...may we always remember that someday our questions will be answered in the end as everything will be revealed to us in divine clarity before our Maker. That notion provides a lot of peace and also encourages me, and I'm sure others, to concentrate on experiencing the fullness of joy God offers us now. ~many blessings

  12. Elizabeth, thanks for your comment and for stopping by :) For sure, kids should be aware that the world does not revolve around them, however, ultimately they will grow up to learn to think for themselves and will be reigns in which to steer themselves down their spiritual paths. I think it's essential in being open to their questions and helping to guide them to find answers, that way, when they go solo someday, they will have the tools in which to stay a steady and secure course. I don't think that's making them think the world revolves around themselves, I think that helps them navigate in the world.

  13. I guess I would have to wonder why anyone would consider death a punishment. Granted,we were not originally meant to die, but live in paradise, through our transgression we brought death into the world, but G-d made the provision for our physical deaths so we transended not into oblivion, but into our rightful home. Hence the sting of death is gone. For all living things. Life as we know it stops, and because we don't know what is on the other side we look at it as if it is a tragedy. Animal, human alike...oh look what a tragedy, they have died and can no longer partake in the world. So whether or not the ark story is literal or metaphore it doesn't matter. G-d ordained that some would live, and some would go home and both ordances are merciful. At least that is my opinion. Cheers!

  14. Hi Jessica, the one thing that struck me as I was reading this was the innocence of their questions. They must have thought about this for a long time before they actually asked the questions. As the grow older they will see God in the rainbow, the plants and the birds. How wonderful to be able to grow spiritually with your children. Have a blessed week!

  15. Jessica, the other day I was talking with a friend of mine who was going through some anxiety because his oldest son was about to leave for college on the other side of the United States and he was commenting how his son has got to the point of independence and how his son no longer has to depend on him for everything. It is a parent's job to teach their children independence and to conversly feel saddened when our job is complete. That conversation has made me think about the scripture that says that, "unless you become like little children you cannot see the kingdom of God." Really, little children? Yes, innocent, question-asking little children. What amazes me the most about children is their child-like faith in the provision and protection that their parents provides for them; the same type of faith we should have in our Father (Abba God). Since God was, and is, and shall be, He has the benefit of seeing everything all at once from an eternal perspective, which makes sense from His perspective but not from ours all the time; hence the trust and faith that we have to put in Him.

  16. I was reflecting on this since last night and somehow, I related to your post. My nieces would ask me often about the things that I observe and yes, I do agree, it isn't so easy simplifying things for them...

    One particular question struck me while we were in the Church and my niece saw a couple (both men) taking communion. I knew by just looking at her that she was asking me if that was okay...

    So how do I answer that? I told her that God does not judge by appearance but what is in one's heart. Certain preparations are taken before taking in Christ's body then we become what we eat...

    I think their questions are very reasonable... but we have to train them to ask the 'right' questions.

    hmmm...I guess I need to reflect more on this...