by Rachel Bryant
If you could go back and give your teenage self some advice, what would it be? I have been asked that question many times.
My first thought is always something along the lines of don’t sweat the small stuff. That basically defines the things that felt like “my life is over” as a teenager but weren’t all that serious. Remember that questionable haircut? Then I remind myself at that time in my life, it wasn’t “small stuff.” I wonder if when I’m 20 years older than I am now, I’ll still have the same feelings if someone asks me about my advice to my middle-aged self? (Ouch, middle-aged! Ugh!) Despite how situations or disasters feel 20 years down the road, in the here and now, they are real!
Whether our own children or those we have influence over, our girls are dealing with real storms of life. Do you remember your tween/teen years?! Those storms were real to you then, and today’s girls are dealing with so much more than we ever did! We all are dealing with storms of life and crisis moments, but as “grown-ups,” we have more experience dealing with them and navigate through them a little smoother (or so we like to think!).
In recent months, all of us have experienced unprecedented “crisis-mode” situations. Yours probably looked different from mine, which looked different from hers, hers, and hers, but we can all agree that this has not been normal! We are trying to keep our heads above water while at the same time presenting to our girls and those around us how we, as Christians, deal with a crisis.
When you learn CPR, you’re taught to “look, listen, and feel” to determine if someone is breathing. Using this same mantra, we can find our source of strength and peace in crisis or storm, and we can show others how to find it as well.
Look – Look to God! Simple as that. Read His Word noticing all the times He promises peace and shelter in the time of storm. During storms, increase how much time you spend in the Scripture. Focus on Scriptures about His protection, His peace, His love, whatever it is you need at that time. Search the Scriptures, use commentaries to focus on one subject, listen to praise music or hymns, do everything you can to keep your focus on God.
Listen – Listen to God! I suppose you can listen to someone you aren’t talking to, but that seems more like eavesdropping. Talk to God and listen to His response. Tell Him everything and anything you are thinking about, worried about, wondering about, etc. He knows already, but He longs for us to talk to Him. “Praying without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) is the constant and open line of communication with our Father. As we pour out our hearts to Him, He will give us His peace and speak truth and love back to us.
Feel – Feel His peace! This is a tricky one. The Bible warns us that the “heart is deceitful” (Jeremiah 17:9), so we know our feelings are not always the best barometer of truth. However, when we lean into Him and have His peace, it is evident in those around us. This includes the girls we are trying to help as they navigate their storms. We know as believers that ultimately, this world is not our home. That takes the “scary” power from this world and the dominions at work here. We also know God promises He is with us and will watch over us (Genesis 28:15) and promises to work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28), though sometimes that looks different than what we think. If we yield to the Lord’s plans, we can have His peace, no matter the storm.
Challenge: You can also use the idea of “look, listen, and feel” to see how our girls deal with their crises.
Look at them—see how they are acting and reacting to life. Sometimes it’s the little signs we have to pick up on to realize they are in a crisis. Help them assess situations, answer questions, problem-solve, most importantly, point them to God.
Listen to them—sometimes just let them talk, ask questions (open-ended) and really listen to them. Ask follow-up questions. Ask about all various aspects of their life. Make it conversational. Be careful not to sound like an interrogation. Doing activities together provides great talk-time without it feeling like an interview.
Feel for them—have sympathy (or empathy) for the storms they are experiencing. It may not seem like a big deal to you. But if it is important to them, make it important to you. Offer advice carefully and thoughtfully. But most of all, remind them they are loved, by you and by God.