Sufficient Hope for the Teen Years
Have you ever had someone say to you in an ominous tone, “Just you wait until…?”
I remember expecting my first child and hearing a friend warn, “Just you wait until you are up all night with a fussy baby.” Not too long later, when my son was barely crawling, I heard, “Just you wait until he is two! Those tantrums are something fierce!” As my son grew older, the warnings continued, “Just you wait until the school years when every evening is filled with homework and tears.”
And then the inevitable came, “Just you wait for the teen years.”
A Bad Rap
The teen years certainly have a bad reputation. For those of us willing to travel back in time in our minds to our own teen years, we likely understand why. It can be a challenging season of life—both for parents and teens.
It’s challenging for teens as they begin to see their separation and exit from childhood looming on the horizon. Along with that comes anticipation and excitement, mixed with uncertainty and a bit of angst. There’s an equal challenge for parents as they watch their teen begin to make decisions for themselves, navigate the often difficult terrain of friendships, and explore who they are as individuals apart from their family. There’s also the inevitable clash between parents and teens as they experiment and stretch the limits of their independence. Not to mention the difficulties parents face as they walk with their teens through the consequences of sinful choices.
While the teen years certainly have its challenges and troubles, we don’t have to face those years with dread. Adolescence doesn’t have to just be a necessary obstacle to get through on the way to adulthood. God is at work doing good things during those years, both in parents and in their teens.
What this means is, the challenges we face with our teens do not have the final say. That’s because the gospel is our hope in all seasons of life, including adolescence.
Sufficient Hope in the Gospel
The gospel has a lot to say to us as parents during the teen years. The gospel—the truths of who Jesus is and what he came to do for us in his perfect life, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection—is sufficient to give us hope.
We often think of the gospel as a truth we assent to receive salvation in eternity. While faith in the gospel is the means by which we are justified, the gospel doesn’t just impact our lives in eternity; it impacts our lives in the here and now. Jesus’ perfect life lived for us is a crucial truth that impacts how we face our sin, suffering, and shame on a daily basis. His sacrifice for us at the cross shapes our repentance and how we view the sins of others. Even his resurrection reminds us by what power we live out our Christian life.
When it comes to the teen years, the gospel reminds us that we are all sinners in need of rescue and redemption. As parents, we sin in our thoughts, words, and deeds. We sin against our children in a myriad of ways. Our children are also sinners. We stand before a holy God on level ground with our children, both needing the grace of God to bring us from death to life, to give us the gift of faith, to transform our hearts through the work of the Spirit, and to bring us to the finish line in victory.
This means that while God uses us as parents to teach and instruct our children in the gospel, the ultimate trajectory of their hearts is in God’s hands. We have to trust and depend on God to be at work in our children, to bring them to faith and transform them into the likeness of his Son. We have to rest and rely on his grace, not on our parenting methods or strategies. This means we also have to understand how God works— through our trials and hardships, mistakes and failures, fears and sorrows— to show us how much we need him. We can expect that he will use such means in the lives of our children to show them their constant need of the gospel of grace.
The gospel also gives us hope when we worry and fear for our teens. The gospel reminds that Christ left the halls of heaven, entered this sin-stained world, and took on human flesh. He experienced all that we experience: temptation, loss, rejection, sorrows, and poverty—yet never sinned. This means he knows what life is like in this fallen world. He knows the hardships, challenges, and temptations our teens face. The book of Hebrews tells us, “because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). And because of what Christ has done, we can with “confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
When we don’t know what to do or how to respond to our teens, the gospel also reminds us that Christ is wisdom for us. Colossians tells us it is in Christ “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:3). He is all for us that we can’t be. Through the gospel, his righteousness is given to us. We can turn to him and his word to find the wisdom we need to navigate the teen years. And we can rest in his righteousness for us and for our teens.
The gospel is sufficient hope in all transitions of life, including the teen years. The question for parents with teens is, will we look to those years with dread? Will we be those parents who tell other moms and dads with young children, “Just you wait for the teen years?” May we be parents who look at the teen years with a gospel lens and see Christ at work in us and in our teens.
Click here for our review of Christina’s most recent book, Sufficient Hope: Gospel Meditations and Prayers for Moms.