Children in Trouble

THE other day a troubled young man was asked by his parents why he had stopped praying. He answered, ''What's the sense? What's the use? We teenagers sin so much every day, we're just going straight to hell.'' Painful words to hear. There's enough in that answer to keep many parents up all night in prayer. There are two issues at the heart of this young man's anguish that prayer needs to address. The first is the feeling that God has abandoned-or will abandon-us. God never forsakes His children. In the Bible the Old Testament illustrates that the children of Israel fell from grace time and time again. They disobeyed God's Commandments; they created idols, committed adultery, robbed, and murdered. Yet God was constant. As the Psalmist wrote, ''God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble'' (Psalms 46:1). True, the people suffered for their sins, for sin inevitably brings suffering. But when they turned to God with all their heart, He helped them. Parents will want to pray to find the right time and the right words to help teenagers realize that they can never lose their divine right to turn to God and find proof of His help. The prophet Jeremiah covered this point well: ''I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord'' (29:11-14). When people are afraid of God and think of Him merely as a fierce judge, they are deprived of the divine aid that is ever at hand. Throughout his ministry, Christ Jesus brought to light God's ever-present love. He reached out in particular to those society felt were lost. That Christlike, loving care, delivering men and women from sin and pain, is still present and available to all today. The second point that needs much prayer is the claim that teenagers live in an atmosphere where sin is inevitable-that premarital sex, drinking, smoking, drugs, theft, and violence are the prime ingredients of the culture in which they live. In many cases the danger of pregnancy, disease, violence, or jail is not enough to turn them from the so-called pleasures of sin. Parents and others in the community need to come to our children's defense. We can object to the notion that sin defines the culture and atmosphere that our children live in. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, writes, ''It is the province of spiritual sense to govern man'' (p. 206). People are far too apt to forget this primary spiritual truth and so yield the ground to evil. But if we remember that man is God-governed, we will make our prayer an active protest against the notion that the influence of sin can overwhelm our children's native spiritual sense. The Bible emphasizes the fact that man is created in God's likeness. Therefore man's nature and character reflect God. Goodness, mental strength, honesty, self-control, are native to man. They are upheld by divine power. Because man is created in God's likeness, he is not wicked; he is naturally good. Good has stronger claims on man than any evil temptation. In fact, good has the only claims on man. As Jesus' own life and works illustrated, the more we understand of God, the more evil is proved to be impotent and the more evil disappears. Jesus showed that with God's help it is possible to triumph over every form of evil and sin, and he did this for our benefit. As we learn to protest against the influence of error and to pray for our children, their lives will be better. We can aid them in recognizing and using the moral strength God gives them. With this, they will have far more self-confidence. They will be happier, stronger, and healthier. The Lord . . . will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed. Deuteronomy 31:8

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