by Maiya Drennen

Throughout our lives, different struggles will take their toll on each and every one of us.  The teen years, for most of us, are filled with struggle. During them, we’re still learning; still discovering new things; and still growing physically, mentally, and spiritually.

I asked a few teens and young adults to give me a look at what they struggle with. Today, I want to share their answers with you, and give a little encouragement for each situation. Undoubtedly, you can relate to at least one of these.

1. Physical Appearance and Personality

“I’m always thinking that someone else is prettier or skinnier or has a better personality. I constantly find myself thinking ‘I’d be happy if only I could be like her.’”

“In this day and age the pressure is like never before — new fads make it impossible to measure up.”

These are quotes from some of the people I asked to share struggles they are facing or faced as a teenager. This came back as the number one struggle among teenagers – outward physical appearance and the pressure to look a certain way.

At first it made me so sad. Then I thought about it. What else would you expect in today’s society? It is still saddening, but also eye-opening. The culture around today’s teens screams in their faces to look a certain way. I can’t even begin to number the amount of teenagers I know who have struggled with this, and have put themselves through horrible things because they don’t measure up to the world’s standard. That is just it. though. It’s the world’s standard – not God’s! God doesn’t make mistakes. Every single person on the face of this earth has been intentionally crafted by a purposeful God. He is perfect; He does nothing by accident. There is purpose and design in what He does, which means there is a purpose and a specific design for each of us.

One girl wrote me this about encouraging her friends around her:

“Every chance that I got, I would encourage them in whatever way was needed, whether by complimenting their clothes or laughing at something funny they said. These little things helped build up their confidence and let them realize that they could be who they are around me without ‘worrying’…”

Not everyone struggles with this, but everyone knows someone who does. In fact, you would probably be surprised to find out just how many people you see on a daily basis struggle with insecurity. Say an encouraging word to a friend. Be that friend that builds up!

And if you need to be encouraged in this area, I desperately want you to know that you are who you are for a reason. You have a purpose that you need to seek out and fulfill with God’s direction. God doesn’t make mistakes.

Because I just think it to be so cute, I want to add here the famous words of Dr. Seuss:

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

Or, as Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

“How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.” –Psalm 139: 17-18

“But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” –Matthew 10:30-31
 
2. Giving God the Control and Trust He Deserves

“I often wonder if part of my trust issues stem from not wanted to be hurt… then I stop and think. My Heavenly Father doesn’t want to hurt me or abuse me, but rather show His love and glory through my life. It’s me who is abusing myself by not trusting God with my life.”

“I am a self-admitted control-freak. I have been for as long as I can remember. I want things just so and feel that I can plan things out and make them run smoothly in my life. It is a constant battle to give up that desire for control of my life.”

This was another huge one. It seems like teenagers are pushed to know exactly what they want to do, when they want to do it, what they want to have, and what color it should be. They are especially pressured when it comes to the all-important college decision questions. To top that off, we all naturally want to be in control of our own lives. This is not a biblical way of approaching life. We need to make our plans loosely and learn to trust our Heavenly Father. Each day. In fact, each hour…minute…second of our lives we need to be surrendering to His will. It is not easy to give up control. This has been one of my biggest struggles. God is never pushy. He will patiently wait for us. He is always with us and He loves us and wants us to trust Him. He knows what He is doing. Unless you give Him that control, He cannot work in your life. Again, He is not pushy. He has all the time in the world – we are the ones on the clock.

1 Chronicles 16:1 – “Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”

Isaiah 26:3 (TLB) – “He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in Him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord.”
 
3. Worry

“I tend to worry about everything. Usually the things I worry about are silly or things that my mind has taken and twisted into horrible “what if?” scenarios.”

This, in a way, could be categorized with the previous topic. If you are worrying about something, you aren’t leaving it in God’s hands, under His control. However, worry is a very real thing. Worrying you won’t pass the class, worrying you won’t get into the right college, wondering if you should even go to college, worrying that any given situation won’t pan out the way that you hope it will, or worrying that something could go terribly wrong. Learn to lay that all at the foot of the cross and say, “Lord, I give this over to You. I am terrified, but I want Your will and Your way. Please give me peace. Help me to feel Your protection over me during this time.” It is in not easy.  Worry is our way of holding onto our control for dear life.  We need to remember that His ways are higher and greater and more wonderful than our own. He can see the bigger picture. We cannot.

While asking some friends about this, one said, “My mother told me that when you’re having a bad day, and it’s overwhelming to look at the whole picture of fears and stress in front of you, sometimes you have to literally take days hour by hour, minute by minute.”

I love it because it is so true! I’ve heard it said before by my own mother. I think our human minds cannot look at such a broad picture without becoming completely overwhelmed and feeling like we’re going into panic-attack mode. We have got to live our lives one puzzle piece at time.

Proverbs 19:21 – “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”

Psalm 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am God.”
 
4. Contentment

“Sometimes, I have let anticipation of the next thing take away my enjoyment of the present. Being content with where God has me at this moment is something that I have been learning over the past few years.”

“Contentment… I have to remember that everything happens in God’s timing, and I simply need to trust Him and stay in the center of His will!”

Contentment is a huge struggle. All of your future ambitions, goals, and dreams right up ahead of you – you can just taste it! That’s all you want, that vision of what’s to come. However, wasting your energy and emotion on tomorrow robs today of its joy and purpose in tomorrow. There will always be a “next big thing” coming up in your life. Enjoy the season you are in. I know, I know; it’s easier said than done. Just remember, the grass is greener wherever you water it.

When I was in high school and impatient for my graduation, or would get stressed about all the work I had to do–or a big jumbled mess of both–my mom told me about this poem by one of her–and now my–favorite authors, Elisabeth Elliot.
 
Do The Next Thing

“At an old English parsonage down by the sea,
there came in the twilight a message to me.
Its quaint Saxon legend deeply engraven
that, as it seems to me, teaching from heaven.
And all through the hours the quiet words ring,
like a low inspiration, ‘Do the next thing.’

Many a questioning, many a fear,
many a doubt hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from heaven,
time, opportunity, guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrow, child of the King,
trust that with Jesus, do the next thing.

Do it immediately, do it with prayer,
do it reliantly, casting all care.
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand,
who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
leave all resultings, do the next thing.

Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
working or suffering be thy demeanor,
in His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
the light of His countenance, be thy psalm.
Do the next thing.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths,”

Psalm 64:5 – “My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him.”

If you are a teenager reading this, I want you to cling to the words of the Bible and hunger for an always-growing relationship with the Lord. There is no way around struggles. They will always be there in our lives. That won’t change. They were there before you were a teenager–though, maybe not quite as overwhelming–and they will be there well after your teen years are long behind you. If you can hold onto God’s promises and His love, your view on those struggles will change. They won’t seem so impossible because you will be safe in the arms of your Father who will never leave. Hold onto and grow in the Word of Life, and that will become a defense against the doubts that will come.

I would like to end with a Bible verse that my mind always goes back to whenever I think of teenagers:

1 Timothy 4:12 – “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”
Maiya is a homeschool graduate currently pursuing a life as a stay-at-home daughter. She enjoys her days teaching piano, volunteering at her local crisis pregnancy center, taking hold of opportunities to encourage and minister to younger girls, doing projects with her seven—soon to be eight—siblings, and writing her blog at Blessings, Bliss, and Bedlam! Follow her on Pinterest and “like” her page on Facebook.