Take a moment to reflect about your time in school. Can you remember a few individuals who went out of their way and tried to make your life miserable? Now picture these people following you home and everywhere you went. Sounds pretty awful. That’s what’s happening today with many pre-teens and teenagers. The people making their life difficult can now follow them wherever they go and continue the harassment by means of cell phones, tablets, laptops, etc. It wasn’t long ago, when I was a student, it was easier to leave those issues at school and go home. Kids today don’t seem to have an escape. Life for a teenager, or any other individual, can easily be so consumed with screens, the internet, and social media. With online bullying and harassment on the rise, I can imagine life can begin to feel hopeless at times. So where can we find hope?
When I am seeking hope, I often turn to the Scriptures. I feel as though many chapters in the book of Psalms can easily reflect a day in the life of a teenager. The Psalmists can describe the highest of highs and the lowest of lows all in one chapter. Despite the lyrical roller coaster, Psalm 121 opens with “I lift up my eyes to the mountains. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord the Maker of heaven and earth.” Reading the Psalms can help us to reflect on our own teenage years and sharing them together with our families can also help make a teenager feel like they are not alone in the highs and lows of day-to-day life.
How else can we incorporate this hope into our lives?
I’m inclined to believe that we need to unplug – take intentional time away from devices in such a fashion that strengthens our brains to begin to embrace the hope that God truly has for us. Studies have shown that there are activities that can develop our brains in a way that has a profound impact on our spirituality and how we think about God in a very short amount of time*. I would encourage parents to practice these simple steps together with their teenage (and young) children:
1. Prayer and Meditation – just 8-10 minutes a day, 6 days a week
2. Faith-based singing – singing out loud for all to hear, a song that means something to you
It blows my mind how such a small daily action could so deeply affect my own personal brain chemistry while drawing me nearer to God. It doesn’t need to be complex. Taking time out from the bombardment of our devices as a family unit to reflect on God and express our daily struggles helps to strengthen the bond between each other and with God.
Maybe Paul already knew this when he wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.
Juan Rivera is the Student Ministries Coordinator at Park Church.
How do you cope with the highs and lows of everyday life? So many of us look to our devices to numb and push away the lows instead of allowing ourselves to feel the sadness. What would it look like for you to pause in a low moment and let yourself feel it instead of reaching for your phone? What if you simply paused and offered up that sadness to God? Or what if you instead turned to the Psalms in your Bible app instead of scrolling and felt the highs and lows of King David alongside him? Don’t read just to read — read to feel the presence of God and be present in your emotions. Sometimes the Psalms have the words to say that you don’t even realize you’ve been searching for.
If you have a teen or adolescent without social media, what if you considered delaying social media and had a conversation about it with them, expressing to them that you want them to be able to be safe at home and not have them exposed to the potential for cyber bullying?
If you have a teen or adolescent who is on social media, what if you have a conversation about how it affects them? What if you talked about carving out times to unplug together? What if you spent a few moments at the dinner table each night to share your own highs and lows of the day together?
Don’t forget to register for the March 10th Tech-Wise Event with Amy Crouch and save the date for the Panel Discussion April 28th.
*Source: Podcast: Rethinking Youth Ministry: Understanding Teenage Brains With Mark Oestreicher