Originally posted June 2017
Being a teenager in today’s world brings heartache and challenges that most of us never had to face. The realities of the ugliness of the world, the busyness of our schedules and the decline in our knowledge of God has created a mess for our children.
Why do teens use drugs?
Teens turn to drugs and alcohol for a variety of reasons, but the main reasons are coping with pressure, numbing their pain, boredom or rebellion. The availability of substances makes the problem even greater. For decades the government has tried to address teen drug and alcohol use with campaigns like “Just say No,” “This is Your Brain on Drugs” and other fear-driven approaches. The new trend in anti-drug messaging is trying to relate with teens and an attempt to offer “something better.”
Why aren't these approaches successful?
There are many well-intentioned people truly trying to make a difference in the world, yet positive affirmations and nice words are not enough. Words alone cannot fix the problem. The only words powerful enough to change someone are God’s Words (Hebrews 4:12). This is what makes Hope for Addiction different.
In July 2016, we began a teen support group called “Fighting for Hope” in response to a number of hurting teen girls needing help. These girls have experienced much pain and suffering in their life. The pain caused by addicted parents cuts deep and without the correct help, kids medicate their pain with destructive behavior.
The Hope for Addiction teen meeting helps girls who have deep wounds to understand God’s love for them, His ability to heal them, take away their shame and give them a new life. The meeting is real, raw and we don’t shy away from the realities of their pain. But we don’t stop there. We identify their pain, acknowledge it and connect them with scripture and practical application for their life. We teach them how to fight for hope in the darkness that is their life. We provide a safe place for them to share honestly about what they are going through and help them to understand how the Bible, God’s very Words to us, can help them, can heal them and can give them hope in the darkness of their suffering. We don’t talk about details of what has happened; rather we talk about how the things that have happened in our life affect us, how we feel and think about these things, and how we can have hope and healing through Christ.
What does this look like and is it enough?
I’d like to tell you about 14-year-old Brooke. When I met Brooke she was afraid. She had been so hurt that she had trouble having a conversation and couldn’t look me in the eye. When we began the teen meetings, most of the girls could not openly share and mostly answered shallow questions. They were afraid to trust because they have been so deeply wounded by people who should have protected them. In our very first meeting, we talked about pain, about suffering, but we also talked about hope and how to find hope in the midst of our pain and darkness. The girls didn’t talk much but they began to see a life-changing connection to God.
One of the things we do to help both adults and teens understand and apply God’s Word is through growth assignments or homework. Change doesn’t happen in the meeting, it happens when they take what they have learned and engage with God through the everyday situations in their lives. One of the growth assignments was to read Psalm 139 and write down how God’s Words spoke to them personally.
Here is what Brooke wrote:
Psalm 139:5, You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
“This stood out to me and I thought that I am all put together and He knows what is going to happen to me in my life and He knows from today to the day I die and go live with Him in eternity. Also, that He will always help me through the journey that He has set up for me. It says to me that He’s looking at us from all sides and watches and leads us to follow Him. Another thing is, He will sew up our life that was in the darkness and help us get through life even if it is a hard life and road.”
This young woman, with all the horrible things she has endured in her short 14 years is learning how to hear God, how to believe God and how to trust God. Isn’t this the very struggle we all have? Hope for Addiction helps people who have been conditioned to think that they are different than “normal people” to see that we are all the same and our greatest need is met in Christ.
Brooke has great support in her life now and Hope for Addiction is just a small piece of that. She doesn’t have to hide or pretend. She has grown so much in the past year. She smiles. A lot. She is more comfortable with herself and others. She continues to learn about God and how He loves her and helps her.
The leader of the teen group, Chris Harris, has done an amazing job in bringing deep truths to a very practical level. She purchased journals for the girls just for use in the group. They write notes during the meeting, and when we ask questions that might be too scary to answer out loud, they write the answers in their journals. Over the past year, I have seen these girls grow, become more comfortable with who they are and open up and share. The girls are learning how to go to God with their pain instead of to other things like cutting or drugs or alcohol.
How do we reach teens?
The best anti-drug message we have is God’s Word. But I’m not talking about clichés or “Bible band-aids.” I’m talking about helping people truly understand Who God is and what He has done. Their greatest need, as is true for all of us, is a Savior to rescue us, a big God, the creator of heaven and earth, who loves us, and has given us everything we need to live this life (2 Peter 1:3).
This journey takes time. A long time. This is what Hope for Addiction does. We walk with people. Sometimes we have to get in the darkness with people and walk with them there for a while so they see the light of Christ. John 1:5 says, The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. This is what Hope for Addiction is all about. This is why your prayers are so needed and appreciated. Thank you for standing with us. Lives are being changed.
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