Thursday, August 19, 2010
I recently read an article in a magazine about a teenage girl who committed suicide. She was a beautiful, intelligent, and loving girl who always enjoyed life. The article depicted something that I see in a lot of teenage girls; a completely unwarranted mean streak. This girl had moved here from another country and, because of what could only be construed as pure jealousy, the “popular” kids in school tore this girl down almost from day one. The horrible words that were spoken to her and the cruelty that was demonstrated to her through gossip, backbiting, and other verbal abuse drove this happy, beautiful girl to take her own life. By the time I finished reading the article I was completely in tears. What really had me so upset was the fact that I see this kind of ruthless behavior in so many teen’s lives that it’s not even close to funny. This leads me to my question, why are girls so mean? I used to ask my mom this question when I came home from school as a kid. For some reason I always felt like the odd ball. I was always picked last for teams, I was very often made fun of, and if I wasn’t being point blank made fun of then I was being tormented in some way by fellow students. Her answer was the same as any mom’s would have been; they’re just jealous, there’s nothing wrong with you, it’s probably just your imagination, I’m sure they like you. Well, regardless of the reasons behind teenage girls behaving like vipers, I for one am fed up with hearing it happen. How many more girls are out there who are being verbally and emotionally abused every single day from these girls?! You want to know the real kicker about my experience with this? Shhhhh… I went to a CHRISTIAN School! That’s right, surrounded on every side by other Christians, most of whom had parents who were very active in their church, I was still treated like the kid nobody wanted. I’ve seen girls in the various youth groups I’ve worked with exhibit these same despicable qualities and it is absolutely appalling to me! If you are a girl who is getting picked on ruthlessly, I beg you to talk to your parents, your youth leader, or another Christian leader who you respect. Find someone who will help you find your identity in Christ, because that is all that matters! God made you so special, and there can only ever be one of you! Please, please, please do not allow these horrible girls to tear down your spirit. Stay in the Word of God every day, memorize it, and draw close to God so He can guard your heart. Satan wants nothing more than to use these girls to devastate you so that all you can think about is how hurt you are instead of how you can reach others with the Gospel of Christ. Don’t let him win! Practice what the Bible teaches about returning good for evil. Put all of your energy into being kind to the very ones who are hurting you and see what God does. He loves you and has an incredible plan for your life. If you happen to be a girl that spends her time tearing other girls down just so you can feel superior, SHAME ON YOU! God didn’t create you any better than her, He has a specific plan for how He made you just like He does for her. If you were truly secure in your identity in Jesus Christ, then you would have absolutely no need to tear anyone else down. God tells us in His Word to love our neighbor as ourselves and to be kind to one another. Gossiping (either talking or listening), slander, backstabbing, malicious words, hateful talk; all of this is sin and it is time that Christian girls stand up in their faith and put all of these behaviors far away from them. If you truly believe that Jesus died for the world because He loves the whole world, then you should be looking at everyone with the same love that Jesus has. Why on earth would you treat anyone in such a hateful way, when Jesus loves them the same as He loves you? It is time for a “come-to-Jesus” moment girls! Examine your hearts and be brutally honest with yourself and with God. Are you someone who’s always tearing people down, especially those you don’t like? Or, are you an encourager, always building people up and being a good friend. Confess your sin today and go make things right with the people you’ve hurt. The bottom line: Show me a girl who constantly tears others down with her words and actions and I will show you a girl who does not know who she is or what she's here for. Learn who you are in Christ, and you will learn how to build others up instead of tearing them down. Learn who you are in Christ, and you won't be bothered by the hatefulness of others.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Lately, I have been hearing a lot of God-fearing Christians ask the question “why do bad things have to happen to good people?” I myself, have been guilty of beginning the line of thinking that certain things shouldn’t be happening to someone who is doing everything the way their supposed to. The problem is, this is faulty thinking. This one question is a ploy that Satan uses time after time after time among Christians in an attempt to thwart the work of Christ. If Satan can come in and destroy the life of a good Christian family, and in the process lead other Christians to blame God for it, then he can successfully stop our attempts at reaching a lost world with the Good News of Jesus Christ. So, what about our question? First, we have to go to scripture for a definition of a “good person” and see who we are actually referring to here. Romans 3:10-12 says “As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is non who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.” Romans 3:23 says that “ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Jesus says in Matthew 19:17 that “no one is good but One, that is, God.” The first problem with this question is that the Bible makes it clear that there is no one who is “good” except for God. We are all sinners, and those of us who have put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as our only way to God are saved by grace. So let’s re-define the question to make it more relevant now that we know there are no “good” people. Someone is a follower of Jesus Christ, they are active in their church, they witness to everyone they meet, they are the most generous people in the world, and then at a pretty young age they are diagnosed with a serious illness that will likely take their life leaving behind a young family to pick up the pieces. In a situation like this it is very human to wonder why God would let this happen. Some people would even turn away from their faith because they figure, why try if it will still end up that way. I have a big problem with that thinking! First of all, we need to realize that we live in a sinful world. When sin entered the world, so did death, pain, and suffering. No where in the Bible do I see God promising a perfect life if we obey. I do see that He promises to never leave us. I do see that He promises an abundant life. I also see that He promises that if we love Him and are called to HIS PURPOSES, then all things will work out for HIS good. Do you see the key there? He has a purpose in even the darkest, most painful situations in our lives. Secondly, who are we to take all the blessings and accept all the joy and peace that God gives us in our lives, and then turn our nose up at Him when hardships come into our lives? The other side of the coin is true for some people; they ignore God when things are good and only cry out to Him during the bad times. I think it’s time to stop blaming God every time something doesn’t go the way we think it should. We need to accept the fact that we could spend our entire lives devoted to serving God in every area of our life, and we still might die from cancer at the age of 35, or in a car crash in our 20’s, or a heart attack before we hit 50. I have seen a lot of death in my life, including a 3 year old that we were very close to (one of the most difficult funerals in my life by the way). I’ve been through a lot of other heartache in my life as well. I would be lying if I told you that I’ve never had these kinds of thoughts before, because I have. I have had to learn that God is God, and I am not. It is not fair for me to assume I know why He’s doing what He’s doing. It is not right to blame Him for the “bad” that happens in the world as a result of sin that man brought into the world. I am only 30 years old and I could give you a huge list of “bad” things that have happened in and around my world during those years. I can promise you that my list will grow exponentially as I get older. And I can promise you that my God will be there with me every step of the way. He will never leave me or forsake me. He will give me the strength I need to get through any circumstance. I don’t have to ask the question of “why do bad things happen to good people” because I know that all things happen for a reason. Nothing is random, nothing surprises God, and the sooner we understand that and start trusting Him in everything, the sooner we can experience the full, almighty power of God in our lives. It is unlike anything in this world, and if we harbor these thoughts of “why” we will miss it altogether. The real question should be, “how can I reach people for Christ through this circumstance?”
Friday, August 13, 2010
Though I have not yet reared my own teenagers (my children are 6, 7, and 9 at this point), I have been working closely with teenagers for the past 13 years. One thing that I have learned along the way is that the teen years are some of the most difficult times in a person’s life! I mean, just think about it for a minute. First of all, everything is changing at lightening speed. You are suddenly attending a larger school, having more homework with less help. You are held more accountable for your own decisions. Your hormones are raging and your body is going through changes that you really would rather not talk about. All around you people are telling you that you’re becoming an adult and have to start acting like one, but in the same breath they hold you back because you’re still just a kid. Your emotions are out of control and you haven’t learned to rein them in yet, which causes you to lash out at people you love and you end up with hurting relationships (usually one or both of your parents). In the midst of all of this that’s going on, you still have to work hard at school, get good grades, and figure out what you’re going to do with your life after high school. If you are allowed to date (that’s an entirely different discussion) then you have a whole other realm of problems. Am I saying that we should just accept all this as an excuse for a bad attitude? Should you, as a teen make people put up with you just because it’s a difficult time in your life? Absolutely not! I do, however, think that it is vitally important that parents acknowledge these issues and treat them with the care they deserve. What if we took principles from scripture such as showing grace and mercy, patience, and being slow to anger and applied those principles to our relationships between parent and teen? As a parent, I don’t believe that we can allow disrespect and disobedience from our children. It’s our job to instill the right character traits into our teens, and teach them through scriptures how to grow into God-fearing men and women. However, I do believe that if we would loosen up our parental hold just a tad as they move into their teenage years and then more and more as they go through them, then by the time they are out of high school and headed for college they will be more secure in their independence. We cannot expect them to grow into adulthood overnight, but if we treat them like children until the day they move out of our house then that is exactly what we expect. Children should be guided into adulthood through their teen years, and that means allowing them the independence to make their own choices. It means giving them a loving environment where they can make wrong choices, knowing that they will be loved and picked back up. It is so much better to let them make mistakes when they are home, then to control them for 18 years and let them make the mistakes when they’re out on their own with no one to pick them back up. The flip side of my observation is true as well. It’s not easy being a parent of a teen. I always encourage the teenagers that I work with to be understanding of their parents. I remind them that they are commanded by God to honor and obey their parents, even if they feel that they are being unfair. I try to explain to them how difficult it is to be a parent, especially of a teenager. Your parents love you and only want what’s best for you. Seemingly overnight they went from having a happy bundle of joy to having this moody, usually unpleasant, tyrant slumming around the house. Where you used to talk to your parents about everything under the sun, now they are lucky to get a few grunts from you. Again, I go back to principles in scripture. Love one another as you love yourself, honor your mother and father, be long-suffering, always forgiving, showing kindness to each other. If we applied these things to our parent/teen relationships just think of how much peace there would be in the home! If you are a teen or a parent of a teen, and things at home seem to be unbearable then stop everything you are doing and sit down with your teen to straighten things out. Talk to each other with mutual respect, as two adults, and work out your differences. Show forgiveness to one another, accept each other in understanding of where you are at, and allow some independence with clear boundaries. Guide your teen into adulthood and see how things at home change. Just don’t expect them to always make the right choice. If they fall, lay out clear disciplines, reality discipline works best, and then move on from it giving the same independence as before. I believe with all my heart that this makes a difference. I am not naive enough to think that everything will be pie in the sky, but I am positive that life at home will at least be a little more peaceful.