From eating disorders to self harm, and from an extreme drive for achievement & affirmation from others to relentless anxiety & constant anger, teens in our society can easily learn to classify and even find temporary treatments or ways to manage troublesome behaviors. While some of these issues can stem from physical problems, at the end of the day, many psychological disorders are rooted in a quest for control, a failure to trust and rest in God (watch this YouTube video). The sooner we can help our young people realize that control is a myth and a Sovereign God is worthy of our trust, the more they will be able to live life more abundantly, as He designed us to do (John 10:10).
Calling Out the Myth
The basic outline of 2 Timothy 1:7 offers us the alternatives to living in fear — power, love, and a sound mind (see this YouTube video). Those who yield to a fearful desire for control seem to have power at first, but they ultimately end up losing the power to control their obsessions and compulsions. They become unable to demonstrate love toward others, because they’re so entangled with fear. The self-focused result is a truly disorderly mindset that leads to increasingly illogical and disturbing fears. The whole process is a vicious cycle that must be broken. The first step away from it is recognizing that its source is not from God.
Engaging in the Battle
The answer is no simple repeat-after-me prayer or memorize-this-verse activity. It is neither simple nor easy to combat, especially when we’re dealing with webs woven over time, and the reaping-and-sowing process often allows for a time lapse between change and enjoying its fruits.
In 2 Timothy 10:4-6, the Apostle Paul refers to such long-held false patterns of thinking as “strongholds” because they can so tightly grip our minds, emotions, and behaviors. David, by contrast, considers God His only stronghold — the one Who has captured His mind and soul (Psalm 62:2).
However tightly the myth of control has gripped a person, God is stronger, and He can provide relief (1 Corinthians 10:13). Even if we feel like we’re not up to doing battle with spiritual forces, God has given us the weapons we need to engage in such a struggle (Ephesians 6:10-18).
Trusting Without Reservation
God not only keeps the universe and all the planets in place, but He also shows concern over the details of our bodies and our lives. Among the more mild forms of self-harm behaviors, some people use Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (or BFRBs) such as compulsive hair pulling as an outlet for anxiety. Referred to as trichotillomania or TTM, God seems to offer hope to all those who experience unrest in Luke 12:4-7: He numbers even the hairs on our heads. Even when we find ourselves in life-threatening situations, we are reminded not to fear.
As we allow Scripture to permeate our thinking, and as we grow in our ability to wield His Word to resist the temptation to try to control our worlds, we will enjoy increased victory (Psalm 119:11, Hebrews 4:12).