Curiosity, peer pressure, boredom. All of these can motivate a teen to seek out — or acquiesce to — all kinds of deviant behavior. Sometimes, though, teens are searching for a way to numb the pain. Often, it’s a pain, a growing internal ache, an ache that they can’t name. From sexual activity to drugs and all sorts of entertainment, teens often get into things their parents don’t approve — all in a quest to fill, or at least forget, that gnawing ache.
It’s Nothing New
Let’s not get caught up in the particular brand of cravings with which today’s teens meet their ache. Essentially, it’s nothing new. C.S. Lewis wrote about it this way: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
Lewis even associates this otherworldly longing with the kinds of deviant behaviors commonplace today: “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
While religion won’t satisfy that longing, God Himself most certainly can.
It’s Here To Stay
While the phrase “troubled teen” is often used to denote a young person who is in trouble with the law or is otherwise held captive by some unusually addictive behavior, the truth is, we’re all troubled. And as long as we’re on this earth, we always will be.
Holly Stratton writes, “As I wait for redemption of creation and of my body of decay, I groan inwardly. Because of what God has told me, I don’t expect that life in this world should be filled with good feelings. I don’t expect that life in this world should leave me feeling satisfied and fulfilled. Sometimes God allows these good feelings, but many times He doesn’t.”
It Will Someday Be Quenched
The problem we face on this side of Heaven is not that God doesn’t fully satisfy, but that our capacity to truly and fully delight in Him is lacking. While we can develop a greater appetite for spiritual things (more about that in another post), we will remain somewhat “troubled” as long as we’re on this earth.
The Gray Havens describe the “Far Kingdom” in which our longings will ultimately be satisfied:
There is a far kingdom
On the other side of the glass
And by a faint light we see
Still there is more gladness
Longing for the sight
Than to behold or be filled, by anything
That sense of groaning is more pervasive to some people than others, in some situations than others. But really, it is a gift from God, pointing us to the only One Who can fill the emptiness inside.