Families and teens are under a tremendous amount of pressure. They live franticly, going from home to daycare to school to sports or various other activities, all the while trying to squeeze in a few moments of family time. If that were not enough some families add, rightfully so, spiritual training to their lifestyle. The unfortunate part in this is that children get lost in the plethora of activity. They are overwhelmed with differing values and contrasting worldviews of what they are taught and what they see lived out in front of them. When it comes to their own personal decision they either rebel and reject the value of faith or they walk away with a watered down version of it. Neither of these result in giving teens a foundation which they can sustain the storms of life.
In asking the question “What if…” I was stunned by one of the responses asking, “What if I’m out of options? What if I’ve tried everything and have no where else to turn?” I must confess that my first reaction was doubt. How could a teen who walks through the doors of our church feel like they are alone and out of options with no where to turn? We strive to be a community that cares for one another with open arms to embrace individuals. After further reflection and to my disappointment I have found that this is not just the whisper of one individual but a repeating echo of teens and individuals in our church and community.
Chap Clark in his book Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers says this about such an echo, “The surface of the adolescent landscape is where internal fears, loneliness, and insecurities must be held in check, where friendships are generally shallow, and where performance and image are the name of the game. Alongside, or more accurately, beneath the superficial and all too often cosmetic layer of high school life, there are dark, lonely corners where the neon light of sanitized conformity seldom penetrates. Just below the sheen of coerced normality are the stress and strain of personal survival in a hostile world.” (p. 19).
Psalm 55:1-8, 16-23 (background 2 Samuel 15) Psalm 13 in bullpen
You can flee with fear.
David wrote this psalm during a time when he was betrayed by his son Absalom. He felt isolated and backed into a corner of loneliness and lament. When David prays he feels like his prayers hit a ceiling and perhaps is abandoned by God. He has troubling complaints, feeling distraught, mourning, suffering and anguish. In all, David is afraid. He was tired of fighting, out of options and wanted to give up. His fear had overwhelmed him to the point that all he wants is escape from his circumstances. “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.” David thought freedom could be achieved by fantasizing escape and a life without consequences.
Fear is a powerful and gripping emotion that can control your life. Teens fear not fitting in, being accepted and even being comfortable with their own identity. They see their fears and problems as bigger than anything and anyone. Someone once said that FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. In other words, feelings and emotions are not always our friend when it comes to reality. Our perceptions of people or circumstances can be misguided by our fears and ultimately our own sin. The reality of David’s circumstances was that he was experiencing the natural consequences of previous sin in his life. Much of David’s anguish can be traced back to poor choices and wrongful previous priorities. When the forces of the wind have been set in motion we should be prepared to reap the whirlwind.
Do you feel like David? Is your fantasy to flee and escape your circumstances? Could it be that your sin has finally caught up with you? Perhaps it is now time to face the real issue – that God does not want to change your circumstances but he wants to change you! Even if your difficult circumstances are not a consequence of previous sin, God still wants to bring about a change in your faith and character.
You can fight with faith.
David continues the psalm showing his bitterness and anger at the actions of others (v.9-15). He sees wickedness, violence, strife, lies and the evil faults of others. He is obviously hurt and it appears deeply personal (v. 13-14). But, as he writes he realizes that he cannot control the actions of others. One thing he can control is his response.
“But I call to God, and the Lord saves me.” David’s faith in God kept him going. He realized that he did not need escape but elevation. You see, fear causes you to be depressed and look down. Faith calls you to joy and to look up. David saw the big picture that God is in control – “enthroned forever” and will bring about justice in His time (v.19, 23).
God’s goal for you is not removal but circumstances but strength to sustain through them. “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (v.22). The point is faith is a journey constantly teaching us we cannot do it alone. Faith is not an abstract doctrine to only believe but it is a Person to receive in your life. God promises to be with you and gives sustaining grace through all circumstances. His goal is not your happiness but your holiness which predominantly comes about through the presence of adversity. In this realization David prayed with confidence in God’s promise to save and continuity in life (v.17).
TAKING IT HOME
– Teens face a lot of “hurts”. What can the Church do to help?
– What does the phrase mean “God never wastes a hurt”?
– Does it help to know that David (and Jesus and many other godly men & women) went through very similar hurts? How does the gospel heal our little hurts (issues, challenges, emotions) and our big hurts (sin, addiction, heart idols)?
– Why is fleeing or escape not a good option when facing difficulty?
– Respond to the acronym: FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. In other words, feelings and emotions are not always our friend when it comes to reality.
– Respond to the statement: God does not want to change your circumstances as much as he wants to change you!
– What does it mean to fight life’s problems with faith? Specifically look at each verse of Psalm 55:16, 17, 18, 19, 22.
– How does adversity and challenges make you stronger?
– What questions do you have when it comes to meshing your faith with your hurts?
 A helpful and provocative window into this world is Chap Clark’s book “Hurt”.