Recently, I had the opportunity to attend student camp as a leader with my church, as I have been doing for a few years. I was so excited for the fun week ahead. However, as our departure date got closer, anxiety and self-doubt were rearing an ugly head. What if I wasn’t fun enough or my outfits weren’t cool enough? What if I felt awkward and wasn’t able to get out of my own head? I began to question what was wrong with me and why God would allow me to struggle like this. My self-doubt and anxiety entered a contest with my excitement to see who would come out on top just in time to travel six hours away from my comfort zone.
Most of us have heard the phrase, “Hurt people hurt people.” I don’t disagree, but how about, “Broken people help broken people.” When we acknowledge our brokenness and fully rely on God for our strength, He is able to use us to serve others. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” When we are vulnerable, walls break down, allowing deeper connection and the opportunity to minister to those around us.
During bible study with my girls, I shared about my anxiety and self-doubt. I asked them to raise their hand if they’d ever dealt with anxiety, depression, or any related challenge. Almost every single girl raised her hand. I asked them to raise their hands if they had ever felt alone in their struggles. Again, almost every hand was raised. Oh, how the devil loves isolation. When we feel alone, we try to figure it out on our own. Or even worse, we just let it settle in, taking over our lives and stealing our joy. In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
As we minister to teenagers, it is so important to not just lead them, but also walk next to them. This generation of teenagers is facing a lot. Self-doubt, anxiety, depression, self-harm, body image. That just names a few and social media exacerbates it all. We’ve established the challenges our students are facing and the need to walk through life with them, but now what? How do we do that?
First, we can’t do it on our own; we must be willing to be used by the Lord. Ask Him to help you see students through His eyes instead of yours. We must see them as His creation that He loves deeply and infinitely, rather than for the difficulties and behaviors we find frustrating. God is compassionate, faithful, consistent, and loving. These are characteristics that we must strive for as we serve our students. You don’t have to be an expert to walk next to your students through life’s difficulties. We must change the narrative that we should be ashamed to talk about our struggles. It IS okay to talk about the challenges we face and to ask for help. God is faithful and with us always. Model vulnerability, support for one another, and a heart of worship through the good times and the hard times.
While I wouldn’t wish my anxiety or self-doubt on anyone, I would go through it all again, just to experience God’s power as He uses me to help a student through a panic attack, to be the one they share their challenges with, and to point them back to the One who can truly help and comfort them.