Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. II Timothy 2:22
In addition to the points raised in recent posts, there may be another reason why teenagers suddenly become silent and distant. As has been observed by most of the known world, the teenage years are a time of change. One change is the emergence of youthful lusts that Paul warns about in 2 Timothy. The word for lust used in the passage above is also translated as “passions or desires.” With the onset of puberty a new physical dimension is added to the already potent mixture of selfishness and desire for immediate gratification. A twelve- or thirteen-year-old may be overwhelmed by this new, powerful, and enticing set of temptations. Parents, this is one reason why you should address selfishness forcefully in your younger children. A fixation with favorite toys or activities can be a self-centeredness that will manifest later as enslavement to the passions of youth—if it is not addressed at the heart level.
The dangers of youthful lusts are illustrated in the narrative of Amnon and Tamar in 2 Samuel 13. Amnon’s heart, his inner being, is consumed with lust and passion. The same thing can happen to your teenagers. It is not the natural pattern (although it is desirable), for your teenage son to come to you and announce that he is struggling with pornography and sexual fantasies. But there are other ways to be aware of this struggle. Even though movies and other worldly influences teach that hedonism is fun and harmless, the impact on your teenagers is quite the opposite. Teenagers who are trapped by these desires are drawn in by the raging desires they produce. At the same time their guilt and shame over contemplating these desires push them away from parents and those who could help them. Many teenagers in Christian families live a double life that, on the one hand has to do with normal family life, school, church, and the “common” tasks of living. On the other hand, they are enslaved in a world of deceit, feeding desires that will not be satisfied, that often lead to masturbation, pornography or actual fornication. The two worlds are diametrically opposed to each other and your teenager may be passing back and forth between them on a daily basis.
As 2 Samuel 13 shows us, youthful lusts are nothing new. However, what is new today is the easy and pervasive access to graphic images that entice as well as enslave. Anyone with an Internet connection is just a mouse click away from free gateways to the most perverse forms of sexual immorality. I recall seeing a TV show a couple of years ago that had as one of its subplots a teenage boy who had run up thousands of dollars on his parents’ credit cards by viewing online pornography. Today these same images and movies are free and accessible to all. Simply typing a phrase on a search engine will access the entire world of movies, images, stories, chat rooms and more. While some pornographic sites charge for these things, more and more do not. You may place Internet filters on your home computers, but that may not be enough to protect your teenagers. Laptops and smart phones allow pornography to be displayed anywhere—the neighbor’s house, school, church, camping trips—anywhere.
If your teenagers have grown distant and silent, one factor that you must consider is that they have been caught up in this web of perversion and lust. While the thought of your children being involved in this type of sin is almost beyond contemplating, you must realize it is a possibility.
If your child is withdrawn, counter that with warmth and kindness. If you have not discussed with your children the problems of lust and the passions the world offers, it is time to start. There are appropriate chapters in Shepherding a Child’s Heart to help you with some of these concerns. Encourage your church to address these issues that young people face. The point of the last post was to work prayerfully at creating a relational climate in your home in which your children will come to you with the questions and struggles they have. One way to understand the struggles that exist with your teenager is to understand how the lust cycle works. I’ll have a separate post on this shortly.
But most importantly, show the mercy of Christ and the power of the gospel to your teenagers. Don’t measure them by their performance. Psalm 103 and Matthew 18:21-35 teach that we are not to treat others as their sins deserve. While you must hold out God’s truth for your children, this must be done with the grace of the gospel. Pray for your children. Be thankful for them, even in the midst of their struggles, silence and sin.