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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Turn on the Lights

As you grow up, you become more intelligent.  It’s common sense, really.  The older you are, the more experience you have.  The more experiences you have, the more wisdom you collect.  The more wisdom you collect, the less impressionable you are.  If all of that is true, then what age group is the easiest to trick?  To manipulate?  To push around?

Kids.

For decades, cigarette companies targeted kids.  Their ads and commercials were geared for one thing: Get children to smoke.  Why?  Because they knew their product was addictive, and if they could grab you early…you’d be hooked for life.  Fact: About 90 percent of smokers started before they turned eighteen (Illinois Department of Public Health).

The same can be said about religion.  Nearly 60 percent of people going to church LEAVE during their teenage years (The Barna Group).  Sixty percent.

Why does this happen?  Why do so many turn away from God in their teenage years?  Satan.  I hate Satan.  We all know that’s a strong word, but it’s accurate here.  I.  Hate.  Satan.  He’s a bully.  He’s the evil cigarette company, targeting teenagers because he knows that THAT’S the time to hit us.  How does he do this?  By constantly attacking us emotionally.  He wants to throw us into a pit of darkness where we’re blind to God’s love as well as the love of those around us.  He wants to stress us out.

Where does that stress come from?
àGeneral body and hormone changes
àFamily issues
àA loss of a loved one or a pet
àSchool
àSocial issues (sex, physical appearance, bullies, friendships, “love”)

What can excessive stress lead to?  Depression.  Depression is the devil’s pit of darkness.  He WANTS to throw you in there so you are blind to all that’s good.  He will trick, manipulate, and push you into that well of black with all of the force he has.  It’s a strong move on his part, too, because depression is an awful, awful thing.

How serious is it?
-         About 20 percent of teens will experience some form of depression before adulthood (Teen Help).
-         Sex is one of the biggest pressures teens face and often the biggest cause of depression, yet 13 percent of kids have sex before they’re fifteen.  Seventy percent have sex before they’re nineteen (Teen Depression).
-         The stress is even worse if the teen winds up pregnant.  Ready for this one?  Of all the teenagers who are sexually active, 90 percent of those who do not use a form of birth control become pregnant within ONE YEAR (Teen Depression).
-         About 30 percent of eighth graders have tried alcohol (Family First Aid).
-         About 3 percent of eighth graders smoke (Family First Aid).
-         About 10 percent of eight graders smoke pot (Family First Aid).
-         About 44 percent of teens abuse prescription drugs (Prescription Drug Abuse).
-         [*Side note: While alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drug use amongst teens has gone down in the last decade, prescription drug abuse is up 300 percent!! (Family First Aid).]
-         About 20 percent of teens have admitted to purposely injuring themselves.  This includes: eating disorders, cutting, pulling out hair, and burning themselves (Troubled Teen 101).
-         To take it one step further: Someone taking their own life is the fourth highest killer of teens (Teen Suicide Statistics).

We ALL experience stress.  We will ALL be affected by depression—whether it happens to us or someone we know or love.

When you’re depressed, there’s an emptiness inside you.  You are a hollowed-out, emotionless shell.  You feel like all of the world’s light has vanished, leaving you alone to be swallowed by a massive black hole.  I would know.

During my sophomore year of high school, I went through a bout of depression.  During this time, I isolated myself from all of my friends.  If they tried to talk to me at school, I just sat there.  Unresponsive.  I wasn’t TRYING to be mean…I simply didn’t hear them.  I was dead inside.  Empty.  I was never angry or sad, because I had to have emotions to feel anger or sadness.  I felt nothing.  I never yelled.  I never laughed.  I never cried.  I never spoke.  There would literally be days where from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to bed at night, I did not say a single word.

After school, I came home and listened to music.  That was it.  For hours.  By the time the rest of my family showed up, the sun had set and I had not turned on one light.  They would walk into a pitch black house to find me sitting in a chair listening to music.  When they would turn on a light, I would get up, move to a different room, and resume this practice in THAT dark room.

See…in the dark, I disappeared.  I could see nothing, and nothing could see me.  I couldn’t see myself.  I vanished.  I preferred “not being there” because it reflected what I felt inside.  Nothing.  I felt “nothing there” inside me.

One night, as I sat in my dark room, wallowing in the well Satan put me in, my mind began to wander.  I started to think about HOW I would take my own life.  I knew it was something I would never do, but I allowed my brain to come up with options that would be the quickest and least painful.  That’s all.  IF I was ever inclined to do it, HOW would I do it?  I didn’t think Option A would work…Option B would have been too easy to screw up…and as my mind turned to Option C, something snapped.  Something broke loose in my chest.

I felt something.

I felt fear.

What are you doing? my brain screamed.  Is this how far you’ve fallen?

For the first time in seven months, I experienced true emotions.  It was as if someone poured Drain-O down my clogged, emotional pipes, and they all came flooding out.  I was terrified that I had reached this level.  I was angry with myself for letting it happen.  I was sad for abandoning my friends and hurting my family.  Pandora’s Box was open, and I felt it all.  Emotional overload, and my system shut down.  Suddenly, I couldn’t breathe.

I literally dropped to my hands and knees, and finally the flood broke through the dam.  As the tears streamed from my eyes, as my body violently shook with emotional spasms, my breath—and life—returned.  In that moment, I turned to God.  I only spoke two words: “Help me.”  Seconds later, I fell asleep on the floor.


Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12


The next morning, I woke up and felt…lighter.  It was as if someone had pulled the weight of a car off of my chest.  I smiled for the first time in months…and it hurt my cheeks!!  During my second period at school, two people sat down next to me and just started talking.  They were friends of mine in elementary school, but we hadn’t been close in years.  They had been in this class with me all year, but on THIS DAY, they sat down next to me and struck up a conversation for the first time.  Notice: A conversation.  Meaning: I talked back.  I realized—it felt good to talk.  I humbly went back to my old friends and family.  I began to open up—sharing what I had been going through all year.  The more I talked, the better I felt.  It wasn’t instant, but over the next few months, I began to heal.  What’s more—because my friends knew what I was going through, whenever I had a bad day, they wouldn’t let me stay quiet.  They wouldn’t let me hold it in.  They wouldn’t let me return to that dark pit.

They were determined to help.

Have you ever noticed that we never ask for help?  We see it as a sign of weakness.  Whatever our problem is, we believe that we can handle it by ourselves.  Well…we’re wrong.  Meanwhile, until we do something about it, Satan will keep piling on…and he’s betting that we’ll keep letting him.  He’s assuming that we won’t ask for help.

-         Of all the teens suffering from depression, 80 percent of those who seek help GET the help they need (Teen Help).
-         Sadly, though, only 30 percent of teens suffering from depression look for help (Family First Aid).
-         If left untreated, a teen suffering from depression: Will lose friends…will have more problems at school…30 percent of them will develop a substance abuse problem…they are more likely to be sexually active and obtain STDs and/or get pregnant…and are 12 TIMES more likely to make an attempt on their life (Teen Help).

Here’s the thing: You cannot defeat Satan by yourself.  You can’t.  None of us can.  He’s too strong.  It’s like challenging the Hulk to an Ultimate Fighting match.  You’ll get destroyed.  However, one of the things the Bible tells us again and again and again is that Jesus is our champion.  Jesus is our light.  And Satan’s darkness never has and never will overcome that (John 1:5).  How do you get that kind of protection?

ASK!!

If you’re going through a dark moment in your life, talk to someone.  The WORST thing you can do is hold it in.  Talking FEELS better, so share what you’re going through.  Tell a parent.  A friend.  Tell your pastor or youth leader.  A teacher.  A bald guy who writes a blog.  ANYONE.  If you have a friend who is going through something like this—talk to them.  Don’t allow them to fight this on their own.  Tell those same people as well.  Let them help you, help them.

Most importantly:  PRAY!!  God WANTS you to bring your problems to Him.  He WANTS to take them off your back.  He WANTS to make you feel better.  You just have to LET Him.  It doesn’t have to be some big, fancy prayer.  Mine was two words.  But recognize that you are not alone and you can’t defeat this darkness on your own.  God is always there.  He is your strength and your light.

You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light. – 2 Samuel 22:29