Although there is some disagreement among experts as to precisely why, there is an abundance of evidence which indicates young people are experiencing a seemingly unprecedented level of stress. Psychologist Daniel Keating noted: “Depression, anxiety, and feeling overwhelmed are not all the same thing, but they do share a common feature: experiencing a level of stress that is beyond an ability to cope, with a negative impact on health and on the ability to function well in many situations” (Keating, Daniel. www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stressful-lives/201711/why-are-teen-so-stressed-and-what-can-be-done-to-break-the-cycle). One wonders how aware many church leaders and congregations are of the seriousness of the situation. Even more, one wonders what specific actions are being taken by church leaders to help minister to youth dealing with this issue. Admittedly, parents have a primary responsibility, but this does not mean that our young people should not find support, strength, and encouragement within the body of Christ.
Some of the major factors contributing to the stress of youth include (1) fear; (2) uncertainty; (3) lack of control; (4) competition, and (5) feelings of being socially “disconnected” or alone. For each of these factors, there’s help and hope to be found in Christ, His gospel and His people! It simply is a must that Christians do what we can to help improve “the spiritual immune system” of young people. And this is because if Satan gets their hearts, bodies, and minds, he will get their souls too! (Eph. 4:27; 2 Cor. 2:11).
What can be done? We could blame our culture, or claim that young people today are too fragile or weak. But this thinking does nothing to help improve matters. It does not appear that the factors contributing to stress among young people are going away anytime soon. What can we do to help? (Phil. 4:9) Here are four suggestions. Keep in mind that the more specific and concrete ways we positively implement these, the better. And they need to be done on both an individual and congregational level.
First, we must teach and model faithfulness (Matt. 22:36-40). If we’re going to raise a generation of young people like Daniel, we better help them know how to have a vibrant relationship with God while living in Babylon! (Cf. Dan. 1:8; 1 Tim. 4:16). Second, we must teach and model resilience. Resilience will help better equip them to overcome the toxic effects of stress. If parents and churches constantly display a negative “the sky is falling” type outlook, this will not help. We must truly believe in the providential care of God (Rom. 8:28). We must believe we are “more than conquerors” through Christ (Rom. 8:37). Third, we must teach and model mindfulness. By this, I mean that we must help them live properly in the moment. In Philippians 3, Paul exhibits a marvelous ability to properly think in terms of the past, present and future. Do we? Young people need to better see this quality in us. Fourth, we must teach and model care. Appropriate care is given to the body, the mind and the soul. This involves the appropriate application of exercise, nutrition and rest in all three areas.
Christians have a marvelous opportunity to show and tell young people of the joy and peace that is to be found in Jesus (Gal. 5:22-23). We cannot remove all the factors that might cause stress in their lives, but we can help them love and trust the One who can see them through them – Jesus.