Encouragement for spiritually discouraged kids

Encouragement for spiritually discouraged kids

teen girl discouragedWhat does spiritual discouragement look like in children? No hope for a way out of a tough situation? The faith (or nonfaith) they are growing up with not aligning with what they read, hear, see or feel in school and the world around them? Tired of rituals that do not resonate?

In the depths of their spirit they might hurt because of bad religion or no religion. Maybe a young person is seeking to understand new sensations that “something other” is nearby, hoping, if they focus on that mysterious presence (of God?), it will manifest itself in their life. Or maybe they’re running away from religion or it just doesn’t make sense to them now in their current stage of life.

One man I interviewed gave four ideas for encouraging discouraged kids.

I went to religious schools—one of them in particular stunted the possibility for spiritual growth in me by putting a crabby, nasty, angry, judgmental face on God. They masked God to the point where I could no longer derive comfort from him.

Then another religious school (it was Mennonite, which is not my own faith tradition) dismantled that false, ugly face for me. Through their gentle words and humor and fun and acceptance, they drew me back to the Shepherd.

I cannot overstate what a difference this made to me: If I had continued in the other school I can conceive that it might have taken many years to journey back to the God of love. There is a distinct possibility I would have never returned to a spiritual path that includes the Christian tradition.

laughing girlGentle words, humor, fun and acceptance

Our best friends and our favorite people do all these with us when we’re discouraged! It is the same with children. When we’ve listened without judgment to their distress or doubts and returned gentle words, haven’t we sensed them “melt” into the wonder of being heard and accepted? Humor can relax our discouraged spirits, and sometimes it’s just the fun of letting laughter wash over us that can bring refreshment and a wider perspective.

Tweetable: What does spiritual discouragement look like in kids? And the encouragement they’re looking for. Click to Tweet

Children ask: Why doesn’t God make trouble go away?

Children ask: Why doesn’t God make trouble go away?

Sooner or later, every child sees trouble coming into life. Things go wrong. When their questions come up, this perspective– written in a child’s vocabulary– may help you talk about it.

379254_1089 trouble

Even as a young child you feel anger, disappointment, grief, pain, loss. You might not like the design of your body, the parents you got or didn’t get. You are surprised when you first learn that adults aren’t always fair or kind. You are sad when the people who are supposed to keep you safe don’t do their job. You feel helpless when bad things happen or no one listens to you.

God understands everything you feel inside.

He is always with you. He brings you comfort by being right there with you and never leaving you alone.

So why doesn’t God make it go away?

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He is powerful and he could make people do what’s right. He could make people stop. He could see to it that everyone has enough food and a home to live in.

Yes, he could, if he wanted to control people’s lives. He would have to eliminate choice so that no one ever chose to do wrong or make trouble again.

What kind of world would this be if God forced people to do right?

Or insisted that they feel happy all the time? Wouldn’t God become the dictator of the whole world? What kind of person would you be? Your freedom would be gone. You could not make choices.

Trouble is here to stay, and with it, people’s right to think their own kind or cruel thoughts, feel their own hate or love, do good or bad. Remember that in your troubles you have God who shares them with you. You can put complete trust in God’s intention to bless you, not harm you.


Try a different perspective when kids ask why God doesn’t stop trouble. Click to Tweet