Jump Start # 2024
Philippians 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
It’s a sad story that is repeated too many times in American homes today. A teenager has been cutting himself. It’s not cutting the wrists, as in a suicide attempt, but arms and legs and the reason is because the kid is anxious.
I was told about this, and my first reaction was, why are kids anxious? They don’t have mortgages to pay, bosses to please, keeping up the house, figuring how to pay for braces and afford a vacation. But then I thought about my youth. There were times when I’d be nervous. Having to face Potter in little league. Everyone feared batting against Potter. He was fast. I did get a double off him once, but most times I struck out. Tests days brought a lot of uneasiness. You hoped that you had studied enough. Calling a girl and asking her out on a date was scary. What if her dad answered the phone? What if she said “no?”
But, kids today, face so many more things. Kids can be cruel towards one another. The pressures of being taunted, bullied and made fun of are huge. The pressure to fit in, especially with other kids who have no morals, limitations or accountability is hard. Sexting, threats, and being made fun of because you go to church are a culture that most of us adults do not understand.
There’s more. Today’s climate is social media. Things are shared that shouldn’t be. A person can be destroyed by the gossip on social media. Then, at home, it’s TV and everyone is on their phone. Conversations are few and mostly parents barking out orders and getting on the kids for something they didn’t do right. Except for one or two friends, most kids feel alone. Alone at school. Alone at home. Alone at church. They have all kinds of thoughts swirling around in their heads and those anxious feelings leads some to harm themselves.
Our verse today is not about teenagers dealing with life at the local high school. It’s written to Christians. Be anxious for nothing, shows that some may have been. The culture of the first century wasn’t kind to Christians. There were the Romans. There were the Jews. Pressures. Persecutions. They didn’t live with discrimination laws. You could lose your job because you were a Christian. You could be charged double at the market place because you were a Christian. Then those lovely internal battles we all have. Guilt and shame because the world still tugs on us and feelings that we are not a very good Christian. Much to be anxious about.
Paul’s words, similar to what Jesus said in the sermon on the mount, when He often said, “Do not be anxious,” places trust and faith as the core foundation blocks to prevent being worried. He didn’t just say, “Don’t worry.” That’s an easy thing we say to others. We don’t walk in their shoes. We don’t understand what they go through. Dump the worry, but replace it with prayer. Pray, supplications, thanksgiving—all words linked to trusting God and talking to God, is how we deal with being anxious. No one listens. God will. No one understands. God does. No one cares. God does. No one can do anything about my situation. God can.
Notice the contrast in our passage. Be anxious for NOTHING, but in EVERYTHING by prayer…” Nothing and everything. That’s the key. Don’t let anything get to you. How? You give it to the Lord in prayer. Casting all your anxiety upon Him, is what Peter said. People bugging you. Pray about that. Work killing you. Pray about that. Traffic stressful, give that to the Lord in prayer. Worried about aging parents, pray.
This is hard. We tend to only give God the big stuff, the things we can’t handle. The other things we keep close to our vest and we let it keep us up at night. We fret about things because we don’t want to bother God with them. God has North Korea to deal with. God has to deal with natural disasters and people in life and death situations. My worries aren’t on that scale, so we keep them. We keep them and they bother us. We keep them and we violate this passage. We are anxious for things. Will we get a tax return this year? Will we be audited? Will we get to go on vacation this year? NOTHING. If it bothers you, then bother Heaven! If it’s too little to bother Heaven with, then do not let it bother you. That’s the key.
With these words, Paul adds too thoughts, supplications and thanksgivings. Supplications are requests. We are bothered, anxious and worried. Talk to God about that. He may not remove the problem. He may want you to develop patience and character through all of this. He may not do things on your time table or in the way you think He should. He’s God. He’s good and He sees things that we cannot. But the thanksgiving part reminds us of past victories. God got us through yesterday’s worries. God has given us new hope and new opportunities. It’s time to be thankful for that. In counting your blessings, there is hope. We look back and see that God got us through those dark valleys a while back, so, we trust He will help us now.
Running all through these words of Paul is faith. Faith is the key.
Now, teenagers and cutting themselves. What can be done?
First, this is serious. Do not ignore it. Hollering at them to stop that won’t help. Parents ought to get some professional help. You don’t want pills, you want to tackle the anxiety.
Second, your child needs faith. It’s more than just taking them to church. Build faith at home. Talk to them about things. Help them see and hear in you a faith that you use. Bring God into your home and in your conversations.
Third, talk to your child. It’s gotta be more than, “How’s school?” and the answer, “Fine.” Have meals with no phones, tablets or TV. Everyone talks. Everyone shares. Let them hear that you have bad days but let them see that you don’t go overboard with things. How you handle stress and bad days will be guidelines for them. Talk. Not just at the table, but in the car. No phones. No videos. Just talking. We can text a thousand people, but we can’t sit across the table and hold a conversation. We are afraid to reveal how we feel and what’s really going on. Be on your child’s side and remove those barriers.
Fourth, create a culture of healthy and productive feelings. Make a big deal about good grades. Don’t destroy them when they don’t have good grades. Walk them through things and help them to figure things out. Home ought to be a haven and a refuge from the world. For too many, it’s the closed door to a bedroom where they find this. Alone with dark thoughts and anxious feelings isn’t a good setting.
Fifth, be engaged and connected with your kids. Know who they are texting and who their friends are. Make your home such that your kids want to have their friends over. You can keep an eye on what is going on. You can hear what they are talking about. They need you to guide them and help them. They don’t feel that way, nor would they ever admit that, but it’s the truth. They need you. They need your attention. They need you to make a big deal about them. They need boundaries. They need accountability.
It’s sad that kids are so anxious. It’s worse that they feel there is no one they can talk to. And, worst of all, that God isn’t in the picture for them. That is something that we must work better on. God is our friend. God wants us to follow Him and trust Him.
Maybe this very Jump Start, can begin conversations tonight around the kitchen table. It starts with you, Dad and Mom. Put the phones up. Turn the TV off. Tell something funny that happened today. Laugh at yourself. Let your child know that you love him. Hug him. Be interested in his world. Make a difference.