Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Young People and the Bible

Just because the word teenager doesn’t exist in the Bible doesn’t mean that young people aren’t represented within its pages.

Although art and movies of the past often portrayed biblical figures as much older than their real counterparts, the Bible contains many youthful characters. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was probably around 16 years old when the angel announced she was with child.

Of course it’s not necessary for the Bible to be mostly about young people for God’s Word to be relevant to teenagers and for them to appreciate it. But what better way to get a teen’s attention, or engage a reluctant young reader of scripture, than to feature a young biblical figure in discussion or study right off the bat?

As in contemporary young adult/teen novels, characters such as parents, grandparents, and mature authority figures like teachers can be as likeable and interesting as the teenage characters.  But a YA author writes the opening scene of a novel with the focus on the teen protagonist, and soon, if not right away, shows that life is just-not-fair for that teenager.

I know I would’ve been much more interested in the Bible in junior high and high school if I could’ve related my feelings of being treated unfairly sometimes to the same treatment of a young biblical figure. Teens are all about their own problems and validating their feelings about those problems.

As Christian parents, grandparents, counselors and others helping our teens make it through these difficult years, we can point them to God’s Word to encourage and help them find answers to problems.

For example, while Isaiah 40:30-31 recognizes the weariness and discouragement that young people might experience, the passage identifies the solution—reliance on the Lord for strength and endurance.  (With Him on your side, things will get better, right?)

Isaiah 40:30-31 KJV

Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall; But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.

Just like today, troubles can start early. The youngest king of the Bible was Joash (or Jehoash), who was only seven years old when he began to reign in Jerusalem. His father had died when he was one year old. Before he took the throne, he had to hide for six years (with the help of his aunt) from his wicked grandmother who had killed all her other grandchildren and children in order to rule herself.  See 2 Kings 11:1-3.

As a tween or teen, this story would’ve hooked me on the Bible, but I never heard it! Like many young people, I would’ve felt Joash’s sadness over growing up without a father.  I would’ve related to his fear while hiding. I would’ve been angered by the wicked actions of the grandmother and wept that she would want me dead. My own grandmother!

Joash goes on to be a good, wise king and reigns for 40 years. Teens would recognize from this story that their childhood problems, although possibly serious, don’t have to hold them back or make them lose faith in themselves or in God. 

Which Bible figures do the teens you know like or relate to the most?

About the Author

Cynthia T. Toney is the author of the widely popular Bird Face series and will be debuting her first middle grade historical this fall. She is a former advertising designer, marketing director, and interior decorator who holds a BA in art education with a minor in history. While employed by a large daily newspaper, she tried to rewrite some ad copy without permission and got into trouble for it. At that point, she knew she was destined to become an author.

Learn more about Cynthia at her author page on Write Integrity Press.


Shirley Crowder said...

Interestingly, I grew up hearing about the children and young folks in Scripture, but, for me, the things with which I could best relate were things the adults went through that are common to young and old. Especially seeing those who followed God closely (King David) sin, and repent, and live in the forgiveness of God's grace and mercy,as God gave strength, grace, and mercy to deal with the consequences of that sin. I guess to the younger me, as it does to the much older me now, those accounts remind me that all Christ-followers will sin, and that it is important to seek God's forgiveness of our sin so that it does not place a barrier in my relationship with Him!

Kathrese McKee said...

My daughters love Ruth and Esther the best. I think they relate to the stories of these young women who faced terrible adversity but were victorious through their faith in God.

When I was a teenager, I loved to read about David's adventures after Saul became his mortal enemy. David was deeply flawed, especially in his relationships with women, but there were also many admirable qualities about him. I particularly wish my heart was as penitent as David's. Oh, and wouldn't it be nice to compose song lyrics that are still being sung centuries later?

Thanks for a great blog post.

Beth Steury said...

You are so right, Cynthia. Teenagers are all about relevance! And the Bible and it's people are indeed relevant to the lives of today's teenagers. It's up to us to help them understand that this "old" book has timeless wisdom that even in the 21st century is relatable and meaningful. And introducing them to the younger crowd within it's pages is a great way to demonstrate this relevance.

Cynthia T. Toney said...

Shirley, Kathrese, and Beth, thank you for commenting. If someone had provided me more exposure to Bible stories as a child or teenager, the best thing an adult could have helped me understand from them is that one should not use life's troubles as an excuse to sin. The desire to lash out or rebel when we feel hurt is part of our human nature, I suppose, and we can eventually grow and overcome that tendency. But, oh, I would've been so much better off if I'd learned early!