What 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.
Gentle 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.
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