Picture this: A teen approaches you about something going on in their life that is so vast, so incomprehensible to digest, that you just go numb. You go into emotional cruise control, offering canned, clichéd responses to all you come across. For the past few years, my ministry took this form.
As ministers we have the honor of celebrating sacred and joy-filled events in our teens lives: first dates, college acceptances, graduations, retreats, and birthdays. But with the honor come the duty to walk with our teens through various obstacles and tragedies: depression, broken relationships, sickness, death, and pregnancy, even suicides. On any given day, we can be approached with a picture from a school dance to receiving a call from a parent whose teen passed away. With such a rollercoaster of emotions, is it any wonder why we feel numb?
The crisis situations we are faced with, combined with the culture we have grown to accept in the media through magazines, Internet, radio, and film lead to an increased sensation of helplessness and hopelessness. Often, we feel a heaviness surround our hearts amplified by a desire to fix and repair teens brokenness and burdens.
One of my teens whose parents recently divorced reminded me how we must be emptied of the desire to mend and instead be full of God’s grace and mercy. She wrote:
“I experienced spiritual deserts that led me to the conclusion that God is the only constant in my life. I cannot depend on the actions of others to satisfy this hole left alone in my heart. When I let God in, not only does He fill my void with powerful love to conquer the heartache, but He also transforms my soul to one of hope.”
I, like you, have been faced with situations that go beyond my comprehension. I have found comfort understanding that teens don’t need us to be spiritual cheerleaders with all the right scripture quotes or cliché responses. They just need and want your presence and attention! More importantly, they need and want Christ within you! I hope these suggestions help you the next time a crisis is placed before you:
- Pray for God’s guidance! Before you even open your mouth and offer advice, pray out loud or silently to God.
- Listen! Most of the time teens are not coming to you for advice, they just want to share and talk things through and know someone cares about them. Again, before you offer advice, just listen.
- Pray with your teen! Even when they don’t want to hear God’s name, they need to realize that they have come to their heavenly Father to hear them and not to you. If possible, take them to the Church and pray with and for them.
- If there is a scripture verse that will give them peace, write it out for them and give it to them to read and pray.
- Go on line and find a novena for the situation they are facing. Offer to pray it with them throughout the novena time.
- Remember that our job is not to be a therapist; it is to provide pastoral care. If necessary, refer them to a local and trusted psychologist or counselor. If they need the sacrament of Reconciliation, call your priest and arrange a confession time. This burden is not yours alone. Lift it up to God and share the weight.
Christ reminds us in Mathew 11:29-30 to “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Too often we become numb by placing on our shoulders a burden meant only for Christ. We need to recognize that Christ wants to relieve His children from toil and strife. We must remember it’s not our burden; it’s God’s. Therefore, “Lay down your burden, I will carry you, I will carry you, my child, my child.” (Carry You, Amy Grant)