With the end of the school year and summer, it seems good to reflect on the state of kids, and our kids.
Recently a CDC report labeled teenagers’ inner lives in America as “bleak”1 - beyond the normal ups and downs of adolescence. Experts point to a handful of culprits: perfectionism - that life is not worth living if perfection cannot be achieved; performancism - that my life is only found on the other side of earning a very high level of merit in relationship to others; (let’s call it) happiness-ism - that normal life is a happy life, and that any unhappiness is therefore abnormal - something to be “solved” or recoiled from. There’s another: the refusal to believe that I am anything but good. This refusal precludes me from facing my sin nature truthfully, and experiencing absolution and freedom from grace. A generation remains locked under its own delusions.
Many culprits, and then the experts name many culprits underneath the culprits. Perhaps all the experts are right. But what about us? We can’t solve the nation’s problem. But we can start here, with our own kids. A few thoughts:
- Do you know another teenager in our church? Better yet: does another teenager know that you know her, and that you care about her? Alongside parents, we are all bound together for the flourishing of our kids.
- But, you say, I have so little in common with kids and teenagers! How will I relate? You won’t. And then you will. IF . . . we hear the logic of the “so that” and the “any” of 2 Cor. 1:4:
“[God] comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
Your ability to relate with gospel comfort to a teenager is not dependent on your age differential, but on whether you are being comforted by God in all your afflictions. If you are, that comfort was intended for more than yourself. “Any” affliction, of anyone else - even the perfectionism, performancism, happiness-ism, or “goodness-ism” that modern teenagers face.2
- What does this mean, practically? We can move out of our age boundaries in Community Group, and show loving curiosity for the kids and teens (and their parents). We can volunteer for children’s classes, the nursery, or hosting the youth group, forgetting about our differences, focusing instead God’s comfort to us through Christ. The grace of the cross is the only universal comfort in this confused, bleak age.
1 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/14/health/youth-risk-depression-suicide-opioids.html, reported on albertmohler.com
2 This is worth extended reflection: how exactly does the gospel address each one of these? Have you faced these in your own life? With the gospel?