Faith Like a Child
“What’s that, mommy?” My three-year old’s small finger was extending down the hall. I looked quickly on my way to open the door. “It’s a fire extinguisher, honey. Ok, let’s go”.
“Why?” he inquired.
“It’s for when there is a fire. It helps put it out”.
“Why?” he continued, unsatisfied with my answer.
“Because fire can harm us so we want to put it out”.
“.......I really don’t know how to answer that, sweetie,” was my final, mumbled response as I shooed him along to the car.
Anyone who has spent time with a three-year-old can relate to the waterfall of questions that spill out of them in marbled and somewhat incoherent fashion. Many “What’s that?” and “Why?” are asked about things new to them—and things not so new. Like the fire extinguisher. He points them out literally everywhere we go, along with fire hydrants and fire alarms. Maybe he has a thing for the colour red. Or fire.
Let’s hope it’s red.
With my other two children in school, I again gain the opportunity of spending a lot of one-on-one time with my youngest and currently quite inquisitive son. His questions have given me pause to my own relationship with my Heavenly Father.
In Matthew, Jesus was asked by his disciples who will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven: “[Jesus] called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 18: 2-4). For many years, I worked under the assumption that child-like faith equated to blind faith—an immediate and unquestioning submission to God’s authority. But here in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is noting not the obedience of a child but their humility and dependance on the plan and provision of their caretaker.
Faith in God is not trusting in a nameless, faceless authority. My child trusts my word not simply because I am his parent but because I have proven my trustworthiness to him in the past. When he's asked for food, I've fed him. When he’s cried my name in the middle of the night, I’ve come to soothe him. When he asks me why the cars are stopped, or why the leaves are falling, I've had answers for those questions as well. Our relationship is based upon a history of faithfulness. He trusts me because I've proven I can be trusted.
So it is with God the Father. We can trust his promises and provisions for us because he has proven himself faithful to his people time and time again. He made an unconditional covenant with Abraham and gave him offspring despite human limitations. He made a covenant with Jacob and showed his faithfulness to King David’s line and the Israelite nations despite the idolatrous hearts of the people. Personally, I could fill a whole notebook of answered prayers and ways God has worked in my life, some of which only hindsight has shown me. He has proven himself faithful.
My son may trust me, but even so, he continues to question me. He questions why things are the way they are, how they function, and why I make certain decisions. He pushes back with questions. Sometimes, he pushes back with rebellion. The questions can get frustrating for me; the rebellion, arduous. But regardless of the moments of tension between us, when he cries like a kitten in the corner because of a scolding, he continues to come back to me. He wants my comfort even after I've corrected him. He knows me to be a safe place to fall. We have a foundation built on love.
We all have a safe place to fall—in the unlimited, forgiving embrace of our Saviour. While on earth, Jesus did not shy away from questions about his validity or divinity. He didn’t scold his disciples for not immediately understanding spiritual matters. And since God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, He will not condemn our questions either.
Having child-like faith is taking the hand of our Father, allowing him to guide us, and boldly asking questions along the way. Not from a place of accusation but in wonderment, humble curiosity, and genuine ignorance. It’s more than fine to wrestle with your faith the way Jacob wrestled with God at Peniel (Genesis 32:24-30). It was after this that God gave Jacob the new name of Israel—a new identity for a new man who had overcome his pride and surrendered to the Lord’s will. God did not reject him or modify the covenant because Jacob struggled to surrender. Neither will God reject those he has called if we need to take time to wrestle with the tenets of our own faith. Our Creator, the one who molded the matter of our minds, will not be baffled by our doubts or crises of faith. He can handle it all and more.
To have the faith of a child is to ask questions, test our limits, make mistakes, and ultimately, trust the correction and guidance of our ever-good and faithful Father. And as He says in His Word: "If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me." (Jeremiah 29:13 NLT)