June 15, 2023

The Burdens Our Teens Carry

This post is a contribution from guest author John Perritt, Director of Resources for Reformed Youth Ministries.

I remember a specific day from my childhood all too well. I was in sixth grade. The school day had ended, and a friend invited me over to his house. We were in his brother’s bedroom and my friend got down on his knees to reach under the dresser. My eleven-year-old self had no clue what was about to happen to my heart and mind as I was exposed to a pornographic magazine.

At that point in my life, I really didn’t know what sex was. What my eyes saw that day wasn’t sex, but a perversion of it. I’m now approximately three decades removed from that incident, but I can recall the exact image to this day. It’s seared in my mind. Like a scar, it seems it’s going to be with me until I go home to be with the Lord.

By God’s grace, that image deeply upset me. It was enticing but repulsive. Amid my ignorance and naiveté, I knew something wasn’t right about what I was viewing. Part of what I remember about that moment was the feeling I had—not arousal, but something more akin to sickness. A feeling that made me want to go home immediately. That image hurt me.

The Weight of Pornography

There’s a weightiness to pornography that, I think, gets at a creational good from the Lord. God created man and woman as sexual beings (Gen. 1:26–28). As Christians, we know that sexual desires are to be expressed specifically between members of the opposite sex in the context of marriage. This gift from the Lord carries weight because he’s given us precise instructions for stewarding it. The specificity of the gift points to its weightiness.

There’s another aspect of this weightiness. I never told my parents about when I saw pornography. I don’t even know if I spoke about it with the friend who showed me the image. I took that image to bed with me that night. I carried it with me in the hallways of my school. I’m sure it poisoned the way I looked at the opposite sex. The initial sickness I felt became a weight I carried around, a weight I didn’t allow others to help me carry.

What are your children carrying around with them? What secrets are they keeping from you? How have these images heaped burdens upon their shoulders?

To be sure, the Lord was helping me carry that weight, but I wasn’t reaching out to the community the Lord had given me. I was too young to know what I should do with that weight. I’m confident I was a Christian at the time, but I didn’t talk to the Lord about this. I didn’t know what accountability was—so I carried that weight with me.

There’s weightiness from the good things of the Lord because they point us to his glory, his immensity and omnipotence. At the same time, there’s weightiness from the evils of a broken world, too, which become burdens we carry around.

As you read this article, you know what I’m talking about. Right now, you’re carrying some burden. It may be a specific sin you’re wrestling with or your marriage, divorce, or singleness. It may be the burden of parenting or barrenness, an illness or chronic pain. The fall birthed endless burdens that plague us.

Our Children’s Burdens

What about our children? Single or not, we’ve all been given children because of the body of Christ—we have spiritual sons and daughters. And those sons and daughters are carrying burdens right now. How many of their burdens are related to pornography?

Some are saying that most teens spend approximately nine hours a day on screens. Even though they’re in classes and have after-school activities, they manage to find hours upon hours to look at a screen. What do they see?

In those nine hours, they’re looking at thousands of images. No doubt, some of them are pornographic. Others may fall in the category of ‘soft porn’ or implicit sexual images: bodies may be fully clothed, but the images are sexual in nature. To state the obvious, this still stirs up lust, and God’s Word doesn’t take that lightly. These images leave deep impressions upon our children.

What are your children carrying around with them? What secrets are they keeping from you? How have these images heaped burdens upon their shoulders?

Christ, the Burden-Carrier

This entire article may be burdensome to you. While I want this to be a sobering look at the world our children are growing up in, I also want to give you some hope. Remember our Savior’s words:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28–30)

Jesus not only carried our burdens on the cross and triumphed over them in the resurrection, but he also bore them throughout his perfect life. He is the one human in history who endured temptation without sin (Heb. 4:15–16). He knows our weaknesses. He remembers that we are dust (Ps. 103:14), and he will not break a bruised reed nor quench a faintly burning wick (Isa. 42:3). We can come boldly to our Lord and point our children to him in hope.

Talk to your children. Today. Push things aside and ask your children about the burdens they’re carrying.

So, first, take those burdens to the Lord. Voice them to him and know that he hears you and loves to talk to his children. Also know that he loves your children more than you do.

Second, talk to your children. Today. Push things aside and ask your children about the burdens they’re carrying. Even if they don’t open up, let them know you’re in their life to help carry their burdens; they don’t have to carry them alone. Remind them that their heavenly Father is carrying them as well. Remind them he’s always listening, and he always understands.

We can approach our children with compassion, pointing them to Christ and praying for them to know the peace of laying their burdens at the foot of the cross.

John Perritt, DMin, serves as the Director of Resources for Reformed Youth Ministries (www.rym.org) and has served in student ministry for over twenty years. He is the host of “The Local Youth Worker” podcast. John is the author of several books, including “Insecure” and “Social Media Pressure: Finding Peace Alongside Jesus.” He and his wife, Ashleigh, have five children and live in Ridgeland, Mississippi.

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