By Alicia Searl, Crosswalk.com
There are a lot of confusing messages out there plaguing our teen's hearts. Unfortunately, the war on our identity has been on the horizon for quite some time, but now it is in full swing, influencing our teens in destructive and pervasive ways. It has become more challenging than ever before to equip our teens with biblical truth and sway them away from the damaging world views that provoke lies and celebrate sinful lifestyles.
It's easy to feel helpless and discouraged as a parent in this day in age. It's also easy to feel a tinge of frustration and, dare I say, outrage that our God has been suppressed and pushed out of nearly every public function, assembly, and educational building across our country.
We can't deny these times are indeed challenging. Training up a child in the way they should go, as Proverbs 22 commands us to, is not the norm. So, how do we help our teens seek their identity in Christ when the world so loudly declares otherwise? Remain steadfast and stand firm. Then do our best to encourage our teens to do the same.
How to Remain Steadfast and Stand Firm in Christ
Pray. Then pray some more. There is nothing more powerful than a praying parent. It's easy to let the troubles of this world consume our hearts or feel like a failure when our teens bend to the deceiving noise. Thankfully, God knows our hearts, worries, concerns, and frustrations. By placing our hearts in His hands, He reminds us that He is still ultimately in control of our lives – and theirs. (Deuteronomy 31:8)
Show your teen steadfast love. Easier said than done, but we are called to love, even when it is hard. Sometimes, it's that tough love that gets you and your teen through the most challenging times, reminding you both that you are in this together and on the same team. It's the love that is unwavering, never changing, and accepting no matter what. And while we most likely won't see the reward for all the love we pour into their lives until later, or maybe not even at all, the hope we must hold on to is God's insurmountable love for us. A love that will carry us through. A love that will help us remind them that the source of unconditional love comes from our Father.
Seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. Micah 6:8 lays out such a beautiful example for us as parents. God extends us grace even when we don't deserve it and commands us to do the same. As parents, we have the opportunity to help our teens seek righteous justice and show mercy and humility, all while covering it with grace.
Seek justice. With all the misinterpretations on several hot topics infiltrating our society, we must lead our children to understand God's righteousness and sovereignty. Give them insight into God's holy perspective and find Scripture to back it up. This will help them understand that God's ways are vastly different than our ways.
Love mercy. Our teens need to understand that God commands us to be compassionate towards others, even if it proves difficult. We can assist by providing them with occasions to serve within the realms of their family, the church, or local ministries.
Walk humbly. Of all the traits we want our teens to have, humility ranks high on the list. Maybe because we know that once our teen recognizes they are truly nothing apart from God, we take heart in knowing they will walk by faith and not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)
Help Your Teen Discover Their Identity in Christ
It may have seemed easier to lead that nearly grown kid to Christ when they were younger—putting them to bed with Bible stories and prayers, answering the endless questions about Jesus, and seeing their faces light up when you explained that God is bigger than the monsters under their bed. There is nothing sweeter than that child-like faith. But, as they have entered the self-discovery years, they want to form opinions of their own and make up their own mind when it comes to building a relationship with God. They still have questions, but rather than being led by blind faith, they want to filter through the information and try to make sense of this world in their own way and time.
This stage can be difficult for any parent to navigate while they still try to etch God's Truth and promises inside their child's hearts but slowly pull away, giving freedom to discover God in a whole new way. However, there are a few ways to help foster and nurture that discovery.
Give them the right tools.
Teens need accessible resources to help them grow in their faith and understand Who God is and who He says they are. Besides a copy of a Bible, give your teen a journal to jot down notes or write down their feelings. There are also some great devotionals that speak to the heart of a young man or young woman, allowing them to answer thought-provoking questions. Just give it to them and let them take charge on that time.
Get plugged into a youth group.
It's essential to have our teens connect to other teens that share the same values and can seek Jesus together. It helps them not only grow closer together and closer to Christ, but it holds them accountable for their actions as believers. Find a church that has a dynamic youth group that allows them to find wholesome connections.
Help nurture healthy friendships.
As friends come and go in and out of their lives, we can help our teens look for qualities of a true friend and let them see that keeping those types of friends in their inner circle is invaluable. Be an example and keep your own inner circle filled with healthy relationships.
Encourage them to use their gifts and talents.
Foster those natural abilities. Get them moving and doing things they not only enjoy but are good at as it builds confidence and helps them see value in something other than themselves. It also motivates them to work hard. Also, point out their spiritual gifts and give them opportunities to share those gifts with others. This gives them the value of seeing how much God loves them and can use them for His glory.
Seek out mentors.
Mentors are needed for both you and your teen. They pour in their wisdom and offer encouragement in times of need. Not sure where to find them? Look within the walls of your church or a friend group. Pray your teen finds a mentor that will speak life into their heart and lead them to the truth and promises found in God's Word.
Suit up with the armor of God.
Ephesians 6:10-18 provides our teens (and us) with the spiritual "equipment" we need as believers to wage war. A spiritual war we don't necessarily see with our own eyes, but one that is being devised by the schemes of the devil himself. The armor includes:
The belt of truth to remind them to live an honest life.
The breastplate of righteousness to do what is right, just, and good.
The sandals to walk in peace and spread God's message.
The shield of faith which will enable them to be ready to fight lies by trusting God and His protection.
The helmet of salvation to protect their mind and understand the price paid on the cross.
The sword of the Spirit is the Word. Using God's Word to speak truth and silence the enemy.
Verse to proclaim over your teen's life: "Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2
Remember who you are and WHO you follow. These eight words have been spoken over my daughters many times, especially in times I need to trust God is covering, leading, and protecting their hearts and minds, while also reminding them they are ultimately God's daughter first!
A Prayer for Our Teens
We thank you for the gift of our children and ask you to lead and guide us as their parents. These years can often be challenging, but with the added concerns surrounding our children daily, we ask that you shatter the lies with your unshakeable truth. Touch their hearts in a way that only you can and help them seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly. We pray you equip them to put on your armor and fight bravely while honoring You, oh God. Please remind them (and us) who they are in you as your beloved sons and daughters and to walk in a way that honors you, Father. In a world that is so lost, we ask you to help our teens remember that their real, true identity isn't found in anything other than what you say and declare over their lives.
We ask these things in Your Precious and Holy Name. Amen.
Alicia Searl is a devotional author, blogger, and speaker that is passionate about pouring out her heart and pointing ladies of all ages back to Jesus. She has an education background and master’s in literacy. Her favorite people call her Mom, which is why much of her time is spent cheering them on at a softball game or dance class. She is married to her heartthrob (a tall, spiky-haired blond) who can whip up a mean latte. She sips that goodness while writing her heart on a page while her puppy licks her feet. Visit her website at aliciasearl.com and connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.