Why is it that we teens seem plagued with restlessness? More so than other age groups, teens especially feel like they’re living in a transition stage — and they want out. I can relate. Sometimes we get caught in this horrible trap of longing so much to “grow up” that we forget to find joy right now.
But perhaps the restlessness is good. C.S. Lewis once said, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another one.” Christians should be restless, for they are longing for a world better than this broken one. But I fear teens’ restlessness lies not so much in dissatisfaction with this world but with an ingratitude toward its Maker.
We lack joy because we are ungrateful. So how can this change? Here are twelve ways to cultivate joy right now:
1. Stop thinking about these years as a transition.
Thinking that life hasn’t started yet (but will once we’re “grown up”) is a terrible distraction from things that matter. It causes us to lose responsibility for our time.
2. Cultivate ministry right now.
Ministry is not just for adults. Now is a perfect time to find a place to start serving in your church. See what your unique gifts and talents are and use them to minister to others.
3. Don’t waste your education.
As much as we’d like to think of high school, and even college, as time-wasters, there are few ways we could spend our time better. These years of education are tools that are equipping us with many powerful weapons for life.
4. Don’t restrict education to a classroom.
If we think that the only things we can learn are found in a textbook, we’re sadly cheating ourselves. Opportunities to learn are all around us. Find a mentor. Get an internship. See life as the greatest textbook there is.
5. Read good books.
Books are instruments of enjoyment, entertainment, and most importantly, edification. Read well, and read widely. Don’t merely inhale all the saccharine fluff the YA section of the library has to offer you. Read theology books. Read good novels. But most importantly …
6. Know the Bible.
Don’t just read it to make your parents happy. Read it to discover the meaning of life. Read it to know God, and read it to know yourself. But do more than read it; know it. The Bible is the inspired Word of God. Hide it in your heart. I’ve been told that our memories will get worse with age. Use youth to your advantage.
7. Be a godly example.
You are watched. Know that. Those younger than you think you’re the coolest person to walk the planet and they will imitate you. Know that you are setting an example, consciously or unconsciously, and others will mimic you.
8. Don’t let romantic relationships distract you.
I don’t date. And I’m not pursuing a romantic relationship. I won’t until I’m ready to pursue marriage. The main reason is that I don’t want to be distracted. Having a boyfriend (or girlfriend) takes up a lot of time, so that means that other things lose time, other important things. I can’t tell you not to date, but I do want you to always keep first things first. Proper priorities are necessary.
9. Count your blessings.
Don’t just do it on Thanksgiving. And don’t just do it tritely. We are greatly blessed. Go to websites like Voice of the Martyrs or Compassion International and just read and watch. Then really count your blessings.
10. Know what you believe.
Now is what people often call the most important time of our lives in relation to worldview. Claiming our faith for our own or disowning it because it was our parents’ happens right now. Don’t call yourself a Christian because your parents are. Call yourself a Christian because you are following Christ.
11. Make plans.
Just because our teen years are an important time doesn’t mean that we can’t plan for the future. Make plans about college and careers, and dream big, but entrust everything to the Lord and rest in Him.
12. Don’t lose your restlessness.
Ingratitude is not good, but restlessness is. We weren’t made for this world, so don’t get too attached. Keep pursuing the kingdom of heaven, and you will find joy on this earth.
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Thank you for this article! It made me think and I think the articles that make you really think are the best articles. 🙂
Thanks! It definitely gave me plenty of food for thought as I wrote it, so if I can encourage others to think more because of it, my goal has been accomplished!
Really good article!! Thanks!
Jaquelle, thanx for sharing your article with us. I think you really brought out some great points. I especially liked point number 7. I think that the influence of teens on younger children is often over looked. Our influence on younger kids is HUGE! We all have an influence, the question is wether we have a good influence or a bad influence. Even if you don’t have younger siblings you still have an influence. How about kids at church or at school? It is almost scary how big of an influence we have! So lets use it for God’s glory!
Thank you, Nick! Yes, number 7 was a big one for me too. It’s one of those things that we sort of subconsciously know but we don’t take into intentional consideration. And you’re right – with that influence we have a responsibility to use it for the glory of God.
#8: Amen, Sister!
Interesting how thinking of these years as a transition can also be a trap!
I’m glad I could encourage you, Jessie!
Wow, thanks for sharing a bit of your testimony, Trent. And yes, examining yourself and being sure that you’re in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5) should absolutely come before attempting kingdom work. Morality does not save, as you emphasized through your testimony. And good works pursued with gospel-centered motives will definitely be more productive and result in more glory going to our awesome God. Thanks again for sharing!
wow thats really amazing Jaquelle really makes me think. i am 19 and i have a full time job that is phycially demanding so at times it seems like its really hard for me to care about what im doing and where i am going in life… i guess #1 is really hard its really easy to just stop caring or paying attention to where im going… thanks!
Thanks for your honesty, Jess. I’m glad my article could make you think. Number one is definitely a struggle, one that I’ve found can only be combated with the hope of the gospel. That doesn’t always make it easier, but it means we don’t have to go at the struggle alone. (Colossians 1:11-14) Thanks again for commenting!
Thank you so much for this! Great article!
You’re welcome, Barbara! Thanks for commenting.
The teenage change also makes you seem to be more vulnerable to attacks people make on you. I very recently had a realization that I had received a spirit of pride. At first I was like “How did this happen??” It was harder for me to notice because it only showed on my inside, it wasn’t on the outside. It wasn’t that I felt like I was better than everyone else. At the age of about 13 I started to realize I was my own person, not a clone of a parent. As I started to figure out what I believed many of my opinions began to clash with my parent’s. We would get into fights and I would try to just get them over with, it would happen so often, and I would get so hurt by what they said that I started to take nothing from them, compliments or insults. I didn’t know at the time, but what was blocking them was pride. We’re still going through arguments, and I still struggle very much because nobody likes getting hurt, and still, it’s even harder when you’re commanded to honor your parents, but if anyone starts to have something similar happen to them, where they start not taking things from certain people because they hurt them, it’s better to to be hurt, trust me. I lost a friend because I was ignorantly having pride issues, and other people couldn’t tell because it was on the inside. Please examine your heart without ignorance to find what’s really there, and don’t make excuses for yourself, they don’t pay off….not just in heaven, but not even in this life. Please be very careful.
Hey Sam. You’re right in that the teenage years can be a greater time of vulnerability for attacks, and that they can also be marked by pride. And it’s not just teens that struggle with this. I once read a quote by Jon Bloom which said that pride is the core of all sin. So you’re right, we truly ought to examine ourselves and pursue humility at all cost. Thanks for sharing.
Reminds me of a song by Switchfoot….
I am restless, I am restless
I am restless, looking for you
I am restless, I run like the ocean to find your shore
Looking for you
I can hear you breathing,
I can hear you leading
More than just a feeling
More than just a feeling
I can feel you reaching
Pushing through the ceiling
’til the final healing
I’m looking for you
Thanks, Christian! I’ve never heard that song before, but it really seems to echo this restlessness that exists not only in teens but every Christian. Thank you for posting it.
No problem! And thank you for posting this!
Good word! 6,7 and 10 are really big ones for me, thanks for sharing.
You’re welcome, Ezra. Thank you for your comment!
Thanks Jaquelle for a thought-provoking article! This is not an exhaustive list, but rather, godly principles that I can munch on and work towards. Thank you for reminding me to cut the excess stuff that gets in the way of me living life to full (God’s way) right now, as a teenager.
Hey Jessica. I’m glad this article could minister to you. No, you’re right, this is definitely not an exhaustive list (I know there’s so much more I need to work on!) And they’re things that, like you said, are made to be thought through and worked towards, not things that can just be instantly done. Thank you for your comment, and blessings to you!
Great article and great action points! So many times words of wisdom are shared with teens but they are frustrated by them because what they really need is application. Thank you for giving them great application!
Thank you! And I so agree – we teens are too often told what we’re supposed to do without being taught how to do it. I guess that’s why I love The Rebelution; not only do they encourage teens to rebel against low expectations, they show exactly what that means.
Wowah! This is what EVERY teenager needs to read! I STRONGLY agree with your first point. God doesn’t have any teenagers. We are either Children or adults. If you act like a child, you will be treated like a child and vise versa. Simple as that.
Wow! That is a wonderful article. I agree on all those points. I don’t date either. My parents don’t want it and neither do I. Thanks so much for sharing this! Really gives me something to think and work on. God bless!
Thanks, Jaquelle. My family has been living on a ship in Africa most of my life (check out http://www.mercyships.org), and recently I have been feeling like it is time to move on. I was wondering if this was simply a result of moving around so much. Maybe I’m restless because changing places have been a part of my life for so long. However, your article has made me rethink that. Maybe wanting to start a new season in life is good. Maybe my restlessness and not being attached to any one place comes from the fact that I really belong in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Woah! Thanks Jaquelle! I love that quote by CS Lewis and it is cool to put restlessness vs ingratitude! Gratitude is something I believe everyone can use more of! And these are some really awesome points and things to work on!
Thank you for your sweet encouragement, Christina. C.S. Lewis is so wise on the subject of living a restless and joyful life now. Many blessings to you!
This resounded so deeply. I thought my current restlessness had more to do with finishing high school and ‘starting my life’ but reading this helped me realize that not only has my life already started, but that restlessness is a tool God uses to spur us into action. I live on a pretty small island where is sometimes feels like even if I was ‘grown up enough’, I can’t do much for God here. I guess God is showing me just how wrong that thought was because so much has happened over the past few months to widen my eyes to the ministries available here. I want a part in God’s plan, but there’s nothing that says I need to wait to get one; I’ve already been given one. 1 Timothy 4:12 and all that, huh?
Thank you so much for letting God speak through you via this article.
Hey Janaya. You’re most welcome for the article, and praise God for encouraging you through it. And you’re so right – there can always be ministry opportunities available if we look for them. Some of us just may have to look a little harder than others. 🙂
Many blessings to you as you continue to pursue God’s glory and rebel against low expectations! Thanks for your comment.
Just subscribed to your email list. WOW. This totally describes me, thank you so much!