Prevailing wisdom has pegged January as the most depressing month of the year. Dreary weather, failing New Year’s resolutions and the lingering aftereffects of family dysfunction during the holidays all contribute to January’s bad rep. And for students, the launch of a new semester with a long stretch of seemingly never-ending classes, homework and tests ahead might just be the final straw that leaves them feeling down and discouraged. Which makes January a great time for you and your students to hold out the hope of Jesus and advance the gospel.Prevailing wisdom has pegged January as the most depressing month of the year—which makes it a great time to hold out the hope of Jesus. Click To Tweet
Sharing the Reason for the Hope Within
Problems, hurts, and rough times are part of life. Many teens struggle with tough stuff and sometimes they do need an adult to step in and help them pull through—so caution your students that there’s a difference between a January funk and a serious clinical depression. Still, teens often turn to their friends first for support and advice when they’re feeling down, so coaching your students on how to respond is a good idea.
So here are a few ideas for coaching your Christian students on how to turn a bad case of “my-life-stinks-initus” into a conversation about the hope found in Jesus.
How to Respond to Peevish Whining
Whine, whine, whine. We’ve all heard it and we’ve all done it—whine about insignificant, circumstantial things that don’t matter much in the end. If a friend is complaining because a) it’s cold out, b) they’re having a bad hair day, or c) they have homework to do, they’re whining.
But there’s a solution to whining. The Apostle Paul describes it in Philippians 4:12-13 when he observes, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” What was this “secret” Paul learned that enabled him to be “content in any and every situation”? It was his relationship with Jesus—with “him who gives me strength.” And as believers, your Christian students have access to that same secret and that same strength.
So when your students have a non-believing friend who is whining and complaining about something relatively minor, after listening empathetically for a bit, it may be a great opportunity to describe what a difference it’s made in their life to walk through life with God by their side.
Try This! ❯
Coach your students on how to turn a conversation toward Jesus when their friends are feeling down.
In John 10:10, Jesus declares, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Real joy in life flows out of a relationship with God. When we put our trust in Jesus and enter into a restored relationship with God through faith, we receive forgiveness for all the wrongs we’ve done and will ever do. And through this grace from God, we’re given access to the joy and strength that comes from knowing Him.
How to Respond to Negative Consequences
Sometimes life stinks because we’re struggling with negative consequences of our choices. If a friend is upset because a) they failed a test, b) they got in a fight with their boy-/girlfriend, or c) their parents grounded them for bad behavior, he or she may be a good candidate for the “consequences” conversation.
God built consequences into the way the world works so that we humans could exercise our own “free will.” That means we are not robots, but have the freedom to make choices. But it also means we must live with the consequences of those choices. When the consequences hurt, God’s not trying to be mean—He’s generally trying to get our attention and teach us something. Every person who’s ever lived is given a choice. There are two deals on the table: 1) we can turn our backs on God and live our lives our own way, based on our own self-centered choices, or 2) if we’re willing to put our trust in Jesus, we can live life in relationship with a loving God who longs to guide us.
God hasn’t left us out there all alone, stumbling around, guessing about what are good choices and bad choices. He’s given us the Bible as a book of great, godly wisdom that points us toward His Son Jesus. And when we put our trust in Christ, He sends us His Holy Spirit to guide us and give us direction.
So if your students find themselves in a conversation with a friend who is down because they’re experiencing the negative consequences of their own choices, encourage them to move the conversation toward God-talk. This could be a great opportunity for them to invite a friend to come to youth group and learn more about God’s Word and His guidance for living life well.
How to Respond When Life Is Hard
But sometimes life stinks, and it’s just plain undeserved. This is a time to listen with empathy, express comfort and care, and at some point, circle back around and look for an opportunity to gently offer a spiritual perspective about why bad things happen to good people.
The reality is that we live in a fallen, sinful world and because of that, pain and suffering, brokenness and heartache, disease and death are a part of being human. So if your students have a friend who is distraught because a) someone they love was injured in a car accident, b) someone they know has a serious illness or is dying, or c) their parents are splitting up and getting divorced, their friend needs care and compassion as he or she struggles to survive through the tough stuff.
Coach your students to look for an opportunity to gently come alongside their friend and share God’s promise to those who put their trust in Him, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus experienced pain and suffering and rejection while He lived on this earth, so He understands and cares. Encourage your students to share their own testimony of the difference their relationship with Jesus has made in their life when bad things happen.
Strongly reinforce with your students that if they ever have a friend who is seriously depressed, mentions suicidal thoughts or exhibits suicidal behaviors, they should ALWAYS seek out adult help from a parent, youth leader or other trusted adult.
Whether it’s the depths of winter or a sunny summer day, when friends moan, “My life stinks!” coach your students to think of it as more than just whine time. Challenge them to give it some prayer, give it some thought, and then share from their heart and let God’s truth shine through THEM into a distraught or discouraged world!
Want more practical advice on mobilizing your teens to share the gospel? All of our Mobilize stories offer great ideas for training your students and building a Gospel Advancing Ministry. Sign up here to receive this free, hands-on, bi-weekly resource in your inbox!