It’s been almost a year since I began helping with my church’s youth group, almost a year since I said I would help lead a group of middle school girls. When I started, I was nervous and a little awkward around them because I’ve never been in a leadership position like this and it’s a little daunting when you help lead a group of 6 to 10 middle school girls, all with their unique personalities. I knew some of them already, having watched many of them grow up through the years, but a few were new to me. They all accepted me though, and our little group has grown quite close. They make me laugh, they keep me on my toes, and they challenge me to be a good example for them. I’ve become more convicted about what I watch, what I say, and what I do since I started leading them. I want to live out a good example for them, and I want to make sure I’m practicing what we as leaders are teaching and encouraging them to do in their own lives. There are few things worse than a leader who doesn’t do what they teach.
One thing I’ve had to learn is how to encourage them through the ups and downs of being a middle school girl. I’ve had to catch myself from saying, ‘get used to it’ because sadly the dramas and problems we experienced as little girls are just amplified on a new level as we grow into adults. I don’t want to discourage them by saying it’s not going to get any better, but I also don’t want them to feel like their set of circumstances has never been faced and conquered before now.
In college, I experienced the same problems with friends as I did in elementary, but with the added responsibilities of being older. The little dramas we experienced as kids just get put on a bigger stage, but at the same time what hopefully changes with them is our relationship with Jesus. If my relationship with Jesus were on the same level as when I was younger, I’d be in big trouble because I’ve experienced a lot bigger problems and dramas that need a deeply rooted relationship with my Savior to help me make it to the other side. Just as we aren’t meant to stay in middle school and high school forever, we weren’t meant to stay baby Christians.
“Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God.”
Once you’ve accepted Christ as savior, your sins are forgiven, and you can begin living the life God always planned for you to live. Living righteously isn’t easy, but He gives us help along the way, even if that help doesn’t always feel the best.
If you work out at all, you know that after a while your body can begin doing harder workouts than when you started. For example, I couldn’t begin to do a push up last year, but as I’ve worked on building muscle and strengthening my body, I can now execute a decent push-up, though I still could a lot better. It doesn’t always feel good as we progress and build strength, it will hurt for a while but then it gets easier, and we can progress to something else, something we never thought we’d be able to handle.
That’s how it is growing in spiritual maturity, with each problem we face it should cause a growth reaction in our spiritual maturity. I remember being told once that if we’re not experiencing a challenge or testing of our faith, then something is probably off. We’re not a threat to the devil, and therefore there’s no need to throw anything our way, or God doesn’t feel like He can give us great responsibility because we’re not mature enough. Which is probably why James says,
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Here’s what I’ve seen my problems lead me to do that has grown my faith throughout the years:
- Digging deeper into the Word
Many know the verses John 3:16 and Jeremiah 29:11, but did you know there’s a John 3:17 and a Jeremiah 29:12? It’s not bad to know certain key verses, but we shouldn’t stop there, because when you dig deeper into the Word, you’ll always find buried treasure.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17
“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 29:12
- Learning about Who God is
I’ve learned that God is good, no matter what, and to every one of us. “You are good and do only good; teach me your decrees.” (Psalm 119:68). I’ve also learned His goodness doesn’t mean I won’t have problems. However, my problems have spurred me on to learn more about the God I serve and why I continue to serve Him, because honestly, during the hard times, it’s difficult to remember why I should continue to live a life that pleases Him. Therefore, I have learned more about Him, about His character, and it’s caused me to settle in and keep living for Him.
“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9]
- Learning more about who I am in Christ
I am not defined by past mistakes and who I was before Christ. For those of us who have put our trust in Christ, we are new creations, adopted into a new family with a new lease on life, and it’s important we know and claim our adopted family. Our Heavenly Father, who adopted us into His family by the blood of His Son Jesus Christ. He offers everyone the freedom to become a part of this wonderful family; one only has to acknowledge their need for a savior, and believe that by Jesus’s blood and righteousness we are forever set free from the penalty of sin and death. I am a new creation in Christ. I am a princess of the King of Kings
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.”
2 Corinthians 5:17-18
- Learning more about who God wants me to be
When one belongs to Christ, the way you think will hopefully begin to change. It’s meaningless really to choose faith and not choose a change of heart, mind, and attitude. Living for Christ means we surrender our will to His and we know His will is so much better because He’s been here since before the beginning and He’ll be here after the end.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Revelation 22:13
When I dig into His Word, learn more about God, learn more about who I am in Him, I will learn what He wants me to become. Then the fun begins…
I don’t ever want to let a problem be something that defines me in a bad way, but if, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I can turn that problem into a defining spiritual growth moment, then it’s totally worth it. So while I hate to tell my girls that things aren’t necessarily going to get better, I do want them to realize that their faith – their God – is bigger than anything that will happen to them. And if they cultivate a relationship with Him, the problems won’t seem so bad.