Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.
(1 Peter 5:8-9a NLT)
Merriam-Webster defines prowl as “to move through a place or area especially while searching for something often in a quiet or secret way.” Throughout the Bible, we are warned of the sobering reality that the devil searches for ways to tempt (Luke 4:13), deceive (John 8:44), and devour (1 Peter 5:8). With deception, he quietly and secretly preys upon the most vulnerable, an adolescent teen.
How does the devil attempt to lead astray (Rev. 12:9) a teen? By compounding stressors, he drains teens to emotional exhaustion. Through ambushing sarcasm or exclusion from jealous or powerful peers, increasing academic pressure from educators and parents, and ongoing comparisons of unrealistic standards and people from social media, all serve to overwhelm a young victim, especially the quiet and the pleaser teen. Although seen, the quiet often feel unseen. Masking hurt feelings with responsive smiles and nods, the quiet teen often feels profoundly alone in the company of friends “acquaintances” (superficial relationships) while the pleaser frantically scurries about seeking peer approval.
Parents and educators can misinterpret and overlook the warning signs of a stressed out teen by dismissing his or her attitude or silence as an adolescent phase. Here lies the greatest risk, without Godly guidance and protection, this vulnerable young soul can become influenced by the lies from dark forces. In my advisory and trainer role for Christian schools, I have witnessed an increase of adolescent students silently struggling with self-loathing thoughts magnified for some by raging hormones. Without help, the external pressures shift internally where the once persecuted now becomes the persecutor resorting to self-harming addictive behavior. It is important, as parents and educators, we understand the potential causes, recognize warning signs, and teach solutions that will help stressed-out teens stand firm.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12 NIV)
Jesus calls the devil “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). In light of this truth, it is easy to see why the devil intentionally targets an easier prey, the not fully mature adolescent mind. The thoughts of teens can be negatively influenced by many factors such as peers, social media, biological causes, or poor parental relationships.
- Mean peers: Our sinful nature is based on serving self over others. At school, the fierce and bold rule the lay of the land overpowering their more docile companions. A deadly look or a sarcastic jab in seconds pierces the heart. Reckless words pierce like a sword… (Proverbs 12:18 NIV)
- Worldly standards: Bombarded by unrealistic and ungodly messages from social media, TV, movies, music, and magazines, teens are left feeling flawed and insignificant.
- Biological: Fluctuating hormones and medical/mental health history increases vulnerability.
- Poor parental relationships: Disconnected and overlooked due to excessive busyness, anger, and/or substance abuse of caregiver.
… escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:26 NIV)
An overwhelmed and stressed teen retreats and escapes into social media, gaming, drugs, alcohol, substance abuse, eating disorders, and/or cutting as a means to release the pressure. Captivity is defined when the majority of below symptoms become normative:
- Decreased time with God
- Increased isolation and time in bedroom and bathroom
- Listening to dark music with angry or abusive messages
- Increased argumentative and moody behavior
- Concealing extremities with multiple bracelets, long sleeves, wearing pants in P.E.
- Hanging out with those who make ungodly choices
- Heightened anxiety and/or depression
- Poor sleep due to intrusive thoughts, oppressive dreams, or excessive gaming
- Appetite disturbance; binging, purging, abstaining
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your way submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-7 NIV)
Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:11 NIV)
The best defense is a “Good News” offense. Teens “stay alert” by understanding that feelings alone do not reflect truth. Reading and studying His Word and fellowshipping with other believers reveals truth and provides guidance. When armored in Christ (Ephesians 6:11), He empowers teens to resist the devil (James 4:7) by decreasing the alluring temptation of the “quiet or secret” sin to cope with stress.
How does a teen “stand firm” in this world? The key is talking and learning healthy ways to cope with stress:
- Talk to God: Relax in prayer, read His Word, and put on the Ephesians 6 armor to protect your heart and mind in Christ
- Talk to a group: Bible Study and/or Youth Group for spiritual growth and support to see that you are not alone in your struggles (1 Peter 5:9b)
- Talk to wise believers:
1) Parents- Listen, praise, and encourage talking (Table Talk cards at dinner)
2) Teachers-Disciple students
3) Peers- Discipleship teen mentor
4) Counselor: Assess mental health causes and suicide risk, and provide neutral place to talk with a licensed Christian counselor
- Home: Create a sanctuary, a quiet place for your teen to read and relax
- Exercise: Increase cardio increases endorphins which then elevates mood
- Supplements: Stabilize premenstrual and hormonal mood swings
- Medical: Rule out biological causes
- Music: Listen to Christian and classical music that uplifts and calms the mind
Finally, let us help our teens to stay alert and stand firm with the comforting hope and truth Jesus gave His apostles before His departure that emboldens faith in all believers until His victorious return:
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33 NIV)
For more information about promoting His love and peace on a Christian school campus, please contact Susan@Christianpeacekeepers.com and visit LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/susan-dyer-layer-0a75aa106