Sometimes we get really nervous when students express their doubts or question their faith.
Yet, for many, when they doubted and asked those tough questions, in retrospect, that was actually a time when they were ‘chewing on their faith.’
Adults often respond to those types of questions with comments like – “just have faith” or “pray more” … which can be a point of frustration when those are the exact questions that students are asking in the first place!
If instead, we can engage in discussion and take the time to talk with them through their questions, it can have a huge impact on their spiritual growth.
It is an honor when students come to us with their questions and doubts because it’s an evidence of faith: a faith that has a desire to engage and think and wrestle.
Doubts are often the beginning of the search for truth. When students are encouraged to grapple with their questions, it can lead to a deeper faith.
In fact, God WANTS to hear what youth are thinking about and struggling with. He wants to walk with them through those doubts.
Use the below lesson, based on Psalm 10, to help students realize that doubt is often the evidence of faith.
On a personal note, my family has recently entered a new phase of life that is filled with doubt and uncertainty.
First of all, my daughter Emma just turned 13 a couple of months ago. She’s the youngest of three kids, which means all of them are now officially teenagers. The other two are 17 and 14.
Here’s a pic of Emma at a recent Cross Country meet:
Having teenagers requires a completely new approach to parenting.
Second, my wife Jena is going back to school and training hard in triathlons. She was 25 and still in college when she gave birth to our second child, Joey. It was just too much to juggle. So, she decided to focus 100% on being a mom and wife, which meant putting off school until the kids were older. Well, that time has come. On top of that, she is now a world-class triathlon athlete. She just competed in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships and did extremely well. In fact, she’s now ranked 11th in the United States and 35th in the world (female in her age group).
Now that Jena is in school and continues to train, my role in the house has changed. I am currently doing most of the cooking, household chores, driving kids around, grocery shopping, etc. This is a new role for me.
There is a lot of doubt, insecurity, and uncertainty that comes with this new phase of life. My new role as a husband. Our new role as parents of teenagers.
How do I help my kids navigate through the teenage years? When do I give them space? When do I come close? Am I giving them too many rules to follow or not enough rules? How can I maintain a healthy relationship with Jena and the kids when we’re all so busy?
Those are just some of the questions I ask myself.
I think the doubt I experience is ultimately good. It deepens my dependence on God. It humbles me. It pushes me to grow and learn. And so much more.
We often run from doubt, especially when it concerns God. Faith. Christianity. Jesus.
Instead, we can lean into it. Embrace it. Allow it to become our teacher.
I hope you enjoy this lesson.
– Nick Diliberto, Ministry to Youth
Bible: Psalm 10 (preferably from the Message)
Bottom Line: Doubt is often the evidence of faith.
OPENING GAME – I DOUBT IT
Bible trivia (from your brain or find some online!)
Pens for each youth
Say: (in an overly dramatic voice)
Today, we are going to play a game that will test even the best Bible scholars among us.
You will scratch your heads in agony as you doubt if you truly do know the right answer.
Only the bravest should step forward.
Ask for 6 brave volunteers who feel confident in their Biblical knowledge.
Have the volunteers go in the other room to spend time with their Bibles (make this a funny challenge), making sure that they cannot hear what is going on in the room.
Tell the group once the volunteers are in the other room: Today we are going to try to make our Biblical scholars doubt their answer to these questions.
I want to see your best arguments and confusion tactics, ok?
I will bring the contestants in one at a time and ask them one question each, and once they answer, try to make them second-guess their answer. Then we will call the next scholar in and on and on.
Once the volunteer has answered the question (or attempted to answer) have them join the group. It will be funny to see their reactions as they realize they have been tricked into doubting their answers.
After the game, ask the contestants:
What was the most difficult thing about answering the trivia questions with others trying to make you doubt your answer?
Did you doubt whether you had the right answer? Why or why not?
How is this game like trying to figure out what you believe?
Is it ok to doubt? Why or why not?
TEACH – YOUTH GROUP LESSON ON DOUBT
Today, we are talking about doubt.
Doubt can be a tough topic, and today you might be surprised by what you will discover.
I want everyone to take some index cards and a pen.
As we talk about doubt, if you think of a question or a doubt that you have, please write it down on those cards.
Don’t put your name on it because if it were me and my name were on it, I might not write out my honest doubts.
It’s hard to admit that you have doubts.
I know because I have had doubts.
Share, if it isn’t too fresh, some of the doubts that you had when you were younger in the faith.
For example, maybe you doubted about prayer or the problem of evil and why bad things happen.
Share honestly, but don’t ‘rip the bandaid’ off too much with this short sharing.
Would it surprise you to hear that many of the greatest Christians throughout time have had serious doubts and questions about the faith?
Feel free to choose one of the prominent Christians mentioned in this article:
King David in the Bible was said to be a man after God’s heart, and even he had questions.
Read Psalm 10 (NCV):
“Lord, why are you so far away?
Why do you hide when there is trouble?
Proudly the wicked chase down those who suffer.
Let them be caught in their own traps.
They brag about the things they want.
They bless the greedy but hate the Lord.
The wicked people are too proud.
They do not look for God;
there is no room for God in their thoughts.
They always succeed.
They are far from keeping your laws;
they make fun of their enemies.
They say to themselves, “Nothing bad will ever happen to me;
I will never be ruined.”
Their mouths are full of curses, lies, and threats;
they use their tongues for sin and evil.
They hide near the villages.
They look for innocent people to kill;
they watch in secret for the helpless.
They wait in hiding like a lion.
They wait to catch poor people;
they catch the poor in nets.
The poor are thrown down and crushed;
they are defeated because the others are stronger.
The wicked think, “God has forgotten us.
He doesn’t see what is happening.”
Lord, rise up and punish the wicked.
Don’t forget those who need help.
Why do wicked people hate God?
They say to themselves, “God won’t punish us.”
Lord, surely you see these cruel and evil things;
look at them and do something.
People in trouble look to you for help.
You are the one who helps the orphans.
Break the power of wicked people.
Punish them for the evil they have done.
The Lord is King forever and ever.
Destroy from your land those nations that do not worship you.
Lord, you have heard what the poor people want.
Do what they ask, and listen to them.
Protect the orphans and put an end to suffering
so they will no longer be afraid of evil people.”
After reading Psalm 10, ask the following questions:
What were some of the questions that David asked of God?
What did you think after reading this Psalm, especially knowing that it was written by a man who truly loved God?
So, let me ask you: Do you have doubts?
Do you secretly worry that your questions or doubts are wrong?
Maybe some of you have already written questions down on your cards….and most of you have questions but are afraid to write them down.
Let me share a few things that doubt says about us:
#1 – Doubt sometimes shows that we have faith.
Expressing the fact that you have questions about God or faith or the Bible is a really scary and brave thing to admit.
And unfortunately, some adults and even pastors can feel uncomfortable with questions, but God does not have a problem with the questions.
In fact, God says that we should come to him with our requests and our needs
Many Christians have found that when they come to God honestly with their questions, that something amazing happens, which leads to..
#2 – Asking questions of God requires that we have faith that He is there and loves us.
Think of any relationship in your life: when you get to the point that you can ask honest questions, that is when you know that your relationship is close.
You aren’t putting on a show or acting like everything is fine, but being honest and vulnerable.
That takes faith.
#3 – Doubt can lead us closer to God and help us grow in our faith.
Many Christians who are very strong in their walk with God will point to the times that they had a crisis of faith or asked serious questions.
Why do you think it works that way?
How can doubt bring you closer to God?
Imagine that you go to God with those doubts and questions that make you worry that you aren’t strong enough and that you actually have him answer?
God wants us to ask him questions.
God wants us to come to him with those questions.
And through that searching, amazing growth can happen in your life.
#4 – Doubt can lead to answers that strengthen you and prepare you for real life, which can be tough.
One of the main questions that people ask about is “why do bad things happen?”
Maybe share your own struggle with this question.
And though there are no easy answers, when you go to God with these questions, you learn things about him.
That he is loving and fair always.
That he knows our hearts and motives, and we don’t have to ever worry that He doesn’t understand us or ‘get’ us.
# 5 – Doubt can lead you closer to God if you just simply go to Him.
Does it mean that He will immediately answer you?
No, probably not.
And God has shown a habit of answering His children in strange ways, such as whispering to them, speaking in burning bushes, and even in the life of a tiny baby born in a manger.
But this is something you can be sure of: God wants to talk to you.
He wants to hear what you are thinking, and if you listen or watch….you might just be surprised in how God talks with you about your questions.
Maybe someone will come up to you with just the thing you were asking or you hear a song with words that really speak to you.
It might take years or seconds, but keep on going to God and waiting on those answers.
And know that God loves you.
You are safe asking him…questioning him.
I want you to take a minute and just write down the questions and doubt that you might have.
Don’t put your name, but know that I will be here afterwards to talk if you want to come up and say “hey, that was my question…can we talk more about this? “
And I will take these questions and try to answer these questions in lessons the next few weeks.
I was going to read them out loud in a minute, but only to show you all something really important, so write on the card “Don’t read out loud” if you don’t want me to read it.
Give the students a few minutes (some will finish quickly, some will take longer) and pass them in to you.
Read the questions/doubts slowly and making sure to not let this become a time to laugh at others or try to guess who wrote what as this might be very vulnerable for some.
As you read, you will likely find very similar questions, which is a great insight into the group of where to go with future lessons.
After you have read the questions, ask:
Were you surprised by any of the questions?
Raise your hand if you have asked any of these questions at some time in your life?
(Hopefully, most of the students will raise their hands).
I hope you see through this simple exercise that you are not alone in your doubt or your questions.
Share some of the questions that you yourself have asked.
If there are questions that you feel a need to immediately answer address those with the group at this point as you feel is age and situationally appropriate.
What questions or doubts did you hear a couple of times as I read?
I hope this lesson gives you some peace in realizing that no one has all the answers.
No one has it all together in this faith thing, and that is actually a good thing because it is in asking questions sometimes that we learn.
It is the questions that can drive us to really depend on God and one another in ways we wouldn’t if we had all the answers.
God loves us just as much, if not more, after hearing these questions and doubt than he ever has.
Close in prayer.
SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
What questions did you hear that were asked the most by the group?
How does it make you feel to know that everyone has questions or doubts at some point?
What is the one question that you would ask God if he were sitting next to you right now?
What are some of the ways that God might answer your questions or doubts?
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