What to do When Your Kids Don’t Believe (Right Now)

I first met Michelle DeRusha a couple feet away from where Beth Moore was lifting Jesus high. We were two honest women who came to Deeper Still, who’ve grown into the deepness of the questions and found God present and as enveloping and as real as air.  A columnist on faith  for the Lincoln Journal Star and is a regular contributor to Prodigal Magazine and The High Calling, Michelle is a truth-teller and Christ-dweller  who writes authentic, honest, robust words with an ear always turned toward truth and grace and Him — I could not be more honoured to fling open the farmhouse’s front door and welcome Michelle …


photos and text by Michelle DeRusha

‘I think I’m in a not-believing-in-God stage,” he declares, holding his fork high in the air over his dinner plate like Lady Liberty’s torch.

It’s an ordinary dinner hour.

The four of us sit around the dining room table, plates of mashed potatoes and meatloaf set before us on the polished oak.

The kid’s trying hard to sound nonchalant, but as I peer around the vase and meet his wide, unblinking eyes across the table, I can tell my son is afraid.

I lay my own fork down next to my plate.

I’m not sure I’m breathing.

The truth is, a declaration like this can stop you dead in your tracks, fork frozen mid-air.







A declaration like this from your own sweet child of nine can open the flood-gates of doubt and invite anger and fear to swamp your very heart, mind and soul.

Especially if you have spiritual history like mine.

I feel betrayed. In the split-second after Rowan’s dinnertime declaration of doubt, I feel betrayed by God.

What about the verses I painstakingly pen onto index cards and tape onto the tile above the bathroom sink?

What about dinnertime grace?

Bedtime prayers?

Sunday worship?

Community service?

What about all the times I’ve told them how much You love them, no matter what?

Haven’t I done everything right?

I rail at God inside my head. I rail at God because I am afraid.



apple blossoms

Rowan in water




My own spiritual journey has been bumpy, pot-holed, winding. I wandered the desert of doubt and unbelief for twenty years. For a long time I didn’t consider any other option, didn’t even consider the possibility of belief.

Doubt was my default, my comfortable place.

When I did finally begin to turn tentatively back toward God, conversion was slow. No lightning strikes. No Damascus. The road I travelled (still travel, truth be told) was a wrestling, wrangling, two steps forward, one step back kind of faith.

It’s not the road I want for my child.

I want an easier path for him, a road paved with hope and trust and holy confidence. I want a plain and simple faith for him. I want for him to have the faith of a child forever.

I look at Rowan across our plates of mashed potatoes and meatloaf and meet his expectant gaze. I tell him it’s okay.

“I promise, honey, even if you can’t believe in God right now, He’s with you,” I say. “He’s there, even when you have questions and doubts. And it’s going to be okay, I promise you that.”

I nod with authority. Rowan looks down at his plate.






Storm Clouds

I realized something important the evening I sat across from my son at the dinner table.

The truth is, nothing I can do on my own is enough to save my child from doubt and despair.

No matter how many Bible verses I pen onto index cards and tape to the bathroom tile. No matter how well I teach the Lord’s Prayer, The Creed, the Ten Commandments. No matter how confidently I place the Scriptures in his hands, no matter how faithfully I take him to church and Sunday school and the local soup kitchen.

I am not enough.

But God is. God is more than enough.

I made some new promises in the days following Rowan’s declaration of doubt, promises much harder to live by than the ones I agreed to when I stood next to the baptismal font nine years ago.

I promised to stand with my child in the darkness of doubt, in the questions, in the fear.

I promised to hold onto faith for my child when he cannot hold onto it himself.

I promised to entrust my child to God and to keep believing that He works all things together for good, even when I can’t for the life of me see that good right here, right now.

I promised to accept that I alone am not enough and to trust that God is always more than enough.

I promised to believe God’s promises to me.

These kinds of promises aren’t easily checked off a spiritual to-do list.

These are the kinds of promises made and repeated over and over again every day.

And on some days?

These hard promises are made and repeated every single hour.




Michelle DeRusha is the author of Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith and 50 Women Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Heroines of the Faith.

Michelle writes daily in her corner of the internet and lives in Nebraska with her two bug-loving boys and her husband, an English professor who reads Moby Dick for fun — and my girls and I can’t get enough of her newest release: 50 Women Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Heroines of the Faith. profound, powerful and perfect read for every mama and her daughters.