Parents, When Jesus Says, “I’ve Been There,” He Means It

When you’re a teenager, you often hear adults say, “I know what you’re going through, I’ve been there.”  Now that I am a parent, I have used that phrase with my own kids. Parents often try to placate our kids when they’re in a difficult situation with those words in the hopes that we can gain favor and connection with our children.    

While children may or may not believe that their parents understand their suffering and difficulties, many struggle to believe the same could be said about God. Teenagers often believe that God (if they even believe he exists at all) is cold, distant, out of touch with their reality and emotions, or too indifferent to care. When we portray God as a judge and stress compliance to his commands, we often miss the personal and relational aspect of God. But Hebrews 4:14-16 tells a different story.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

We see here that Jesus is not only able to empathize with our children’s weaknesses, but he was tempted as they are. When he says “I’ve been there” he means it. The difference is that unlike us, Jesus has the power to transform any difficult situation. 

We can merely identify with our kids, but Jesus can both identify and work out a plan to transform their challenge into a triumph.  When the passage says he can “empathize with our weaknesses” and was “tempted as we are,” he Jesus becomes far more personal. He isn’t just a distant cosmic judge; he is highly invested in meeting us in our weaknesses and temptations and using them to conform us into the image of Christ. 

Consider the three areas where Jesus was challenged that can help our kids understand God’s grace in the midst of their own trials.

He Was Tempted

In Matthew 4, the devil tempted Jesus three times in the wilderness. He first tried to tempt him physically, to turn stones into bread while he was fasting. Like all of us, teenagers are creatures of the flesh. When they face sexual temptation or a lack of self-control, Scripture reminds them that Jesus was tempted in the same way and overcame. 

Satan then tried to tempt Jesus’ faith by telling him to jump off a mountain, misinterpreting Psalm 91 as a trick. Jesus fought back with Scripture, “do not put the Lord to the Test.”  It’s very important that we as parents teach our children God’s word and equip them with a strong theological foundation so that they will not be deceived by fine-sounding arguments.

As a last attempt, the devil took Jesus up to a mountain and told him that he would give him all he could see if Jesus would bow down and worship him. This is the test of allegiance.  All throughout the formative years, teenagers are vying for the allegiance and devotion others. This passage shows that Jesus understands this temptation. He had the opportunity to choose to follow God or the riches of this world. How much more can this story apply to students who are torn between the popularity of social media, the pursuit of academic achievement, and the allure of wealth at the expense of a relationship with God?  

He Suffered Emotionally and Relationally

Any parent knows that the childhood years are full of relational drama. Someone might be a best friend one day and a sworn enemy the next. During his darkest hours on earth, Jesus experienced two well-known betrayals. Judas sold him out for money and Peter denied even knowing him three times. Not to mention the time in John 6 when many “disciples” deserted Jesus after he said “unless you eat my body and drink my blood, you have no life in you.” Jesus knows what it’s like to be betrayed and cast off.  When our children go through similar situations, they can know that they have a Savior that has “been there, done that.”  

He Suffered Physically

While many of our children thankfully will not experience the pure torture that Jesus did on the cross, it’s the significance of the cross that can speak to them in difficult times. Jesus bled and died on the cross to forgive them of their sin and brokenness.  So while the world may reject them, colleges may deny them, sports teams may withhold scholarships, and employers may choose other candidates, they have a Savior who gave himself completely for their sake. He endured pain and suffered so that they won’t have to. They have been given eternal life, through his physical suffering on the cross. “The chastisement that was upon him brought us peace,” (Isaiah 53:5).  Our children can have peace in the midst of their sufferings because of Jesus’ suffering on their behalf.

The most beautiful part of the suffering that Jesus endured – the temptation, the relational conflict, the physical suffering – is that in all of it, he did not sin. When we try to identify with our children’s struggles, it often comes from a perspective of the one who erred. We tell them we understand their temptation because we succumbed to it ourselves. We tell them we understand their relational conflict or betrayal because we were partly at fault for our own conflicts. But Jesus went through all of those situations, yet without fault. He did not retaliate, seek revenge or give in to temptation. For that, he can be trusted. 

As parents, let us remember that while we can offer our own advice in the midst of trials, Jesus has the ultimate street cred. He has been through the worst, but unlike us, has come out victorious over sin and temptation. He has the ability to turn our children’s ashes into beauty and their brokenness into triumph.  

Did you know we now have a Parent Guide for walking with your children through our newest study, Knowing Jesus? If you purchase the Knowing Jesus bonus curriculum, you’ll be able to share these guides with all of your youth group’s parents. Families will be able to talk about the Scripture, the questions, and the main takeaways together at home. We also think this is a perfect study for your summer programming. Since each lesson pulls from different parts of the Bible, students who have missed a lesson from summer trips won’t fall behind, and can even go through their missed lessons at home as a family in their own time. It’s a flexible study, perfect for looping in families and introducing new believers and non-believers to Jesus. If you’ve already purchased this study, the parent guides are in your library. If you haven’t, go ahead and purchase today so you can study with the youth in your life, whether at church or at home. 

Steve Eatmon has over 12 years of experience in youth ministry and a Masters of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary.  Currently, he serves as the pastor to high school and middle school students at the Chinese Bible Church of Maryland. He is married to Heather and they have two children, Ryan and Rachael.  

More From This Author