The lazy days of Summer are about to disappear in the rearview mirror *sigh*.
Which means your teenagers’ anxiety levels are about to experience a distinct upward blip. Virtually all transitions, whether we’re excited or challenged by them, are stress-inducing at some level.
Most teenagers aren’t particularly good at dealing with stress. Most adults aren’t either, for that matter… We often react to stress with irritability, addictive behaviors, withdrawal or chocolate.
But for many students, the start of a new school year can be particularly anxiety-producing. It involves change. And shifts in social groups. And lunch or class schedules that don’t align with their best friend’s schedule. And locker assignments that put them in closer proximity to that bully. And on it goes.
So how can you help your students not only survive the challenges that come with the launch of a new school year, but actually thrive in the midst of it? Here are three keys.
Key #1: Take your challenges to God.
It’s way too easy for us to forget that God is in the business of redeeming difficult times and using the tough stuff in life to further His kingdom and bring glory to His name. When we don’t understand and can’t see what God’s at work doing, we sometimes turn away from God in anger or confusion. Why is this happening to me? Why doesn’t God do something about it? Those are the kinds of questions we should take to God and wrestle with Him about.
Try This! ❯
Take an informal poll of your students this week and ask how many of them are feeling excited vs. stressed about heading back to school.
God uses the anxiety-producing challenges in our lives to draw us closer to Him and to transform us and our world in the process, if we’ll let Him. But it takes deliberate effort to stay close to Him in the midst of tough times. Perhaps that’s why Jesus specifically invites the weary and burdened to draw close to Him in Matthew 11:28-29:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Confessing our sin, reading His word and sitting in His presence in prayer can be great sources of strength, comfort and direction for us the midst of our anxiety.
Key #2: Remember God’s promise that He will never leave us or forsake us.
When the going gets really tough, it’s essential that we lean into God’s promise that He will always be with us. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:38-40). We serve a suffering Savior, so we can be assured that He understands challenges and difficult times. God has promised He will never leave us or forsake us, so no matter how hard things seem, He is there, walking beside us. Paul writes:
To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly (1 Corinthians 4:11-13).
Difficult, demanding circumstances in our lives can either be wedges that push us away from God or push us closer to Him. And while we may not understand the why behind whatever is happening in our world that’s causing us distress, we can lean on the promise that God will walk with us through it. We can cling to Him in the midst of whatever is swirling around us.
Key #3: Look for ways to point others toward Jesus.
God is in the business of redeeming difficult things. And one of the great ways we can join Him in His redemptive work is by pointing others toward Jesus. In the midst of our challenges, we can be open and honest with friends who don’t know Jesus about how our personal relationship with Jesus gives us strength in the midst of our struggles.
God will use the tough stuff of life to draw us closer to Him and to transform us and our world in the process, if we’ll let Him. Click To Tweet
Here are a few examples of transitional statements that might help shift a conversation from complaining to something far deeper—with eternal consequences. Start by simply, authentically saying something like “I’ve been feeling stressed about ____________________.” Then follow up with one of the following questions that can open the conversation up and take it deeper.
“How do you react to stress in your life?”
“When you’re stressed are you more apt to explode or withdraw?”
“Do you believe in God? Is He ever a source of strength for you when you’re feeling anxious?”
“Do you ever pray when your stressed or anxious?”
Coach your students to listen, before sharing how their relationship with Jesus impacts how they deal with stress and how trusting in Jesus changed their life…forever.
Challenging circumstances—whether big or small—loom large in the life of a teenager. So help your students learn to lean on God more fully and coach them on how to advance the gospel by sharing about His peace and comfort.