What Older Christians Want Younger Ones to Know Day 1 – We’ve Felt the Same Pressure to Conform
“Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.” (Job 12:12, ESV)
“I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.” (Psalm 37:25, ESV)
“Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.” (Proverbs 23:22, ESV)
First of all, age is relative, isn’t it? In the eyes of the kids in my world, I’m getting old. To my parents and those in their age range, I’m not quite there yet (and I’m fine with that!). But for the sake of this study, I will rank myself as one who’s been around the block a time or two. I am in my 4th decade as a Christ follower, and while I have much yet to learn about Jesus and His Word, I have learned a little along the way. While I speak as representing those who are older in the faith, I also know there is a lot more to be learned from those who have been around much longer than myself. With these disclaimers, we can move on and get into our study.
Every parent who has ever parented a teenager has certainly heard this phrase from the lips of their offspring: “You just don’t understand.” And in some instances there are things we may not have experienced. Things like a personal attack, the pressures of social media, and the cultural norms of today’s younger generation are possibly uniquely known to your child. But most of the issues young Christians experience we’ve also experienced in one way or another. There is peer pressure, pressure to give in to pleasure without considering consequences, struggles with our identity and purpose, and buying into the idea that we are entitled to have what we want.
The truth is that we all feel a degree of pressure toward conformity. We want to fit in, not stand out. Standing out can bring unwanted attention our way, and that can be difficult for teenagers, and even older people. No matter what era we grew up in, there has always been the lure of sexual temptation, alcohol and drug use, using bad language and gossiping about others. These things aren’t unique to young Christians today; we have felt—and sometimes still feel—that same pressure ourselves. We compare ourselves with others, feel jealousy when we think we don’t measure up, and put others down to elevate ourselves. We seek attention in unhealthy ways, hide things from our parents or others, tell lies to cover up our behavior, and betray friendships.
As Christians, though, we know that we should not act the same as those who don’t know the Lord. So what can we do about peer pressure? How can we stand firm under the force of society’s pull? I would be the first to acknowledge that it’s not easy to stand against social norms. It takes courage and strength, and a determination to live our lives in a way that expresses our love and thankfulness to our Savior—but it is worth the effort. We have been promised that the Holy Spirit is always with us, always available to help us, yet He is compassionate when we fail to honor Him. Arming ourselves with Scripture is a big part of how we can fight the battle, for in its pages we find help, insight, wisdom and truth. We find words that offer guidance when we are unsure of what our next step should be. There is no circumstance we may face in which Scripture is not a relevant source of help.
A word to us who are a bit older: being compassionate toward our younger brothers and sisters is so important to building relationships. Being interested in them and asking them questions, while reminding ourselves that we were young once, help us connect better with younger believers. If we are to be a source of help in these formative years, they must know we love them and care for them, and we must invest in their lives to prove it. We cannot be dismissive, critical, and unkind, and then expect them to reach out to us when they have questions or problems. It simply doesn’t work that way.
In the body of Christ, we are to rely on and encourage one another. If you’re younger and have questions or issues you’re currently wrestling with, reach out to someone who has been there and who will give you godly advice. Take your pressures to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to guide you, guard you and give you everything you need to remain strong. He promises that when we ask those things of Him, He will answer and will give us the strength and courage to make choices that honor Him.