You’ll never be good enough. You’re a waste of money to raise. You’re worthless.
These are some of my parents’ words that have haunted me throughout my life. Most of my childhood was spent stepping on eggshells, fearfully appeasing, or in rebellion. I searched for belonging, hoping to drive away feelings of unacceptance and insecurity. Sadly, this is not an uncommon experience and many people have lived in similar or worse situations. Whether our parents’ actions and words were careless or intentional, all children of verbal, physical, or emotional abuse have paid a cost.
Whether you know it or not, if you work in youth ministry you are likely serving one or
more children from broken homes. Here are five truths to encourage your teens in dysfunctional families:
1. Pour Out Your Troubles to the Lord
No person or trouble is too small or insignificant for our Heavenly Father. He sees your secret suffering and knows everything that ails your heart. We are not alone in this life. When your flesh and spirit faint within you, he knows your way. When you feel as though nobody sees your suffering, your soul can find refuge in him. When your persecutors are too strong for you, cry out to him! He listens because he cares, and he desires to hear from you (Psalm 142:1-2b).
2. You Have Intrinsic Value and Worth
Incessant criticism can be unbearable. It fans the flames of our insecurities. We may chase after idols to prove our value either to ourselves or to others. But, in Christ, we are freed from this endless enslavement. Our Lord has assigned you value by simply creating you in his image. We were made for a purpose: to know, to love, and to glorify God. He knows your strengths and even the weaknesses you desperately try to hide. Yet He still loves you. If He cares for the lilies of the field and the sparrows in the sky, how much more precious are we?
3. Our Father in Heaven is the Perfect Parent
Despite what you may be hearing at home, love is not conditional. Love is not earned through obedience, good grades, admirable qualities, or works. True love is sacrificial, patient, kind, humble, selfless, not easily angered, and it honors others. Because we live in a fallen world, there is no earthly parent who can live this out perfectly. However, our Heavenly Father’s love is perfect. He is faithful. He is unfailing. We do not have to perform for His love. Therefore, put to death the belief of needing to be the smartest, most beautiful, handsome, athletic, wittiest, successful, and gifted person you can be. In Christ, you are loved simply for being his child. He will never disown you, forsake you, or remove you from his good favor. Take comfort in this unwavering truth.
4. Pray for Your Parents
This may be challenging. Why would I pray for someone that is abusive, unrepentant, and hurtful? However, the Lord explicitly commands his people to love, bless, and pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Whether or not you view your parents as “enemies,” we are called to love those who persecute us. While this is not an excuse for abusive behavior (which may require legal protection, seeking help, or separation with the hope of restoration), we are still commanded to show the love of Christ. We must remember our persecutors need Jesus as much as we do. The scandal of grace is that enemies of God undeservedly receive his mercy and forgiveness. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Praying for our parents’ repentance and salvation reflects our understanding of God’s lavish and unmerited favor towards us.
5. Behold, He is Making All Things New
Painful memories and suffering can hinder us in so many ways. We may feel hopeless. We may wonder if life will ever change for the better. And while hardships may tempt us to covet happy and healthy families, all of these families are still merely shadows of God’s perfect family. When Christ returns, He will remove all sorrow, brokenness, desire to belong, insecurities, fears, and suffering. We will rejoice in eternity as a family of redeemed children, united, and whole. You have been freed from identifying with your accomplishments, failings, and sufferings. We are new creations in Christ and are seen as holy and blameless, clothed in the righteousness of the Son. There is a rich inheritance awaiting us in heaven that is far more valuable than anything the world can offer. Therefore, wait and hope in the Lord. Cling to Christ. He is ever faithful.