This weekend at The Refuge, we’re going to be having a conversation centered around worry and anxiety.
We have all experienced some form of anxiety — feeling nervous before presentation at work, or worried about how you’re going to do on an important test, or the butterflies in your stomach before a first date — and these are all situations where feeling a little bit anxious is normal.
But for some people, anxiety doesn’t stop there. For some people, when they’re worried, they’re worried sick, their stomach in so many knots that they’re nauseous, or their brain is so tired they develop migraines.
For some people, when they’re anxious, they’re so anxious that they can’t sleep, or they can’t sit still, or they can’t eat. For some people, anxiety becomes a constant in their life, always just under the surface, where it could boil over at any moment, causing them to shut down completely.
While experiencing some anxiety is normal and is a part of all our lives, for people living with an anxiety disorder, those are the realities of their everyday life — anxiety that is constant, persistent, and overwhelming, interfering with their ability to live their life.
And for more and more of our teenagers, living with severe anxiety is becoming their reality. In 2015, research showed that 30% of teenage girls and 20% of teenage boys — or about 6.3 million teenagers — have been diagnosed with some form of an anxiety disorder.
There are a lot of factors that researchers and psychologists believe play a role in the rise of severe anxiety and anxiety disorders. Increased technology use has begun to lead to decreased face-to-face interaction and deep interpersonal relationships, with no escape from the social pressures we face.
Life moves faster than ever before, seemingly never giving teenagers the chance to catch their breath or process what is going on around them. And on top of all that, teenagers are expected to have life all figured out. They’re supposed to know where they’re going to college, what their profession will be, and what the next five or ten or fifty years of their life looks like — before they have even really figured out what tomorrow looks like. Or how to just get through today.
This weekend, on October 13th during the Refuge, our conversation will not be about social media or self-care or career planning — because, while all of those things are important to address, our teenagers have heard all that before. Instead, we’ll be taking a deeper look at the way we view the story of our lives and what we think is a life well-lived.
If we see life as a story with only one path we can take, a path that we have to follow or nothing will work out for us . . . if that is what we believe, I don’t know how anyone would be able to live a life without severe anxiety. There’s no hope in that, there’s no freedom in that story.
But we know that isn’t the life we were meant for. God created us and gave us freedom, hope, and a calling. We were given the freedom to wander — to question and struggle, to find our way as we go, to get a little lost only to realize we are exactly where we are meant to be.
We were given hope — hope in knowing that things will get better, that everything has been redeemed and been made new and that we are never alone. And we were given a calling — a calling to follow the example set before us in Jesus, to try to make the world around us a little bit better, for it to look a little more like heaven — no matter the path we take to get there.
Our hope for this weekend is that our teenagers will find some freedom and hope in knowing that their story is not yet written and that the best is yet to come. We hope that finding this freedom and hope will provide them with at least a little bit of relief in the world of anxiety they’re living in.
Associate Director of Youth Ministries