Editors Note: This article is written by BCC Counselor Mark Johnson as part of our series on “Helping Teens.” In this series, our counselors are unpacking how we can all care for teens who are facing different types of trouble.
There are untold numbers of events in our teens’ lives that cause a crisis: having a brush with law enforcement, tragedies such as death and suicide, betrayal, gender confusion, and so many more.
As parents or grandparents, we look around and ask, “Who can help? How am I supposed to provide my teen help, and how do I get help? Where do I turn?”
Be Strong in the Lord
In concluding the letter to the Ephesians, Paul summarizes all that has gone on before with this command to all the believers: be strong (Eph 6:10). They were to be strong in preparation for the current battle and the battles yet to come.
It is surprising that the word for “be strong” is passive, meaning that the strength comes from another. Of course, as Paul continues, we read of the source of strength – it is the Lord!
This was true of Joshua and the nation of Israel (Josh 1:6), David (1 Sam 30:6), and Zechariah (Zech 10:12); it is also true of us. We are called upon to be strong.
Paul is commanding the church to be strong together. We need each other in order to be strong. Sadly, our culture thinks of itself as a “pull-ourselves-up-by-our-bootstraps” kind of people.
How many Sunday school lessons, devotionals, and sermons have you heard that tell us that being strong in the Lord and putting on the armor of God is applied to individuals? This is only partially true because the local church is the context of this command and the whole letter.
To be sure, being strong means individually spending time in God’s Word, meditating upon the Word, and praying based on the Word.
But looking at it as an ‘us’ or a ‘we’ passage means that our public times together – preaching, Sunday schools, and small groups – must be Word-centered; that is where power comes from.
As we individually and corporately focus on the Word, the Spirit reminds us of the Word hidden in our hearts (John 14:26).
Find Hope in the Lord
Finding hope in the Lord can be a frustrating task when you are trying to do it yourself. We need individuals to come alongside and encourage, someone who cares about our teens and us, someone who isn’t afraid to get messy, someone who is humble and gentle.
Your pastors, elders, counselors, and trusted mentors are built into God’s plan for the church for such a time as this (Eph 4:11-12; Rom 15:14; Gal 6:1).
Unfortunately, we have become so performance-oriented in our churches where we put on our shiny best and say we are “fine” each week, all the while fearing discovery of our struggles with our teens or discovery of the depth of a teen’s struggles.
We fear losing our ministry, our positions, or our roles when we ought to be asking for help for our teens. We need one another. This is God’s plan and God’s will.
Wisdom from the Scripture
You are not alone. Remember your identity in Christ. As believers, not only do we have each other, but Christ sits on the throne, and the Father, through Christ, has given everything for us to bring our messes and struggles straight to the throne.
Because of Christ’s incarnation, he sympathizes with our trials (Heb 4:15; 7:25) – whether ours or our teen’s trials – and he desires us to come into that throne room.
Furthermore, when we sin (1 John 2:1), Christ not only intercedes for our teens and us but advocates for us; Christ pleads for us based on his righteousness, and the Father calls us His children.
The Father knows what it is like to have wayward children. The one event repeatedly recalled in the Old and New Testaments is the exodus of Israel from Egypt and how the people rebelled (1 Cor 10:11).
Isaiah gives us a glimpse of the ongoing sin of God’s children in Isaiah 1:2 (NASB):
“Listen, heavens, and hear, earth;
For the Lord has Spoken:
“Sons I have raised and brought up,
But they have revolted against me.”
The sovereign God has not failed as a father just because the children rebelled. God knows your child’s pain because He knows the temptations of the teen through the incarnation of the Son.
And He knows your pain because, as the heavenly Father, He knows the disappointment of rebellion of His children.
Helping your teen is less about trying to manage their behavior for a specific outcome. It is more than outward compliance or just saying the right words.
Helping your teen is about shepherding your teen’s heart to change the way it thinks, what it loves, how it responds to God, others, circumstances, and self.
Help your teen know God through worship and music. Help them understand their identity in Christ from the Scriptures and not just feelings. Help them know that God is near (Phil 4:4-7).
Above all, helping your teen is about finding sustaining hope in the God who loves them, about the Savior who intercedes and advocates, about the Spirit who seals and fills, and the compassionate church who shepherds. God is on your side!