Helping Our Students Understand Hard Times
Original photo by Michael Dorokhov.
I left the funeral.
People were sobbing over the loss of Jeremy, a teenager who was driving and texting. Not only was his own death tragic, but it was also even sadder because Jeremy had crossed the medium and piled into another vehicle, killing both passengers. Not only could I see it on people’s faces, but I heard this word over and over: “Why?”
The Bible, as complex as it is, does not shy away from such topics as death, trials, temptations, and suffering. Teens want some answers to the “why?” questions.
In the book of James, we see that the author understood hard times. He referred to them as “trials of many kinds.” We learn three important issues about understanding hard times.
First, trials come in many shapes and sizes.
James not only deals with difficulty in life, but actually tells us that there is a benefit to trials. “Consider it a sheer gift, friends” James says (MSG). Trials seem to be a gift that many don’t seem to want, yet James tells us to “consider it pure joy” whenever we face trouble, suffering and any “kind” of trial. How could anyone have joy over the death of a teenager, seriously?
Second, James explains the nature of a trial.
James defines it as “the testing of your faith” (verse 3). Why does our faith need to be tested? The same reason a teacher gives students an exam: to see if the knowledge is understood and applied. Some young people have an “affiliation” faith, faith that lasts only when friends are around. But what happens to someone’s faith when life falls apart, when a parent dies or their best friend commits suicide or a teen dies in a car wreck while texting? The testing of one’s faith reveals what we really believe in and who we trust. Hard times show us what’s deep inside of our souls.
Third, we learn one of the reasons for trials.
“The testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James is saying God’s intent is to create resilience in our soul, the ability to “stand under’’ the worst possible test or trial. He goes on to say that, “under pressure, your faith life is forced into the open and shows its true colors” (verse 4, MSG). How does one react when life is hard? What is beneath the surface when you face suffering? What deep-seated emotions and reactions beneath the water line come out when pressure hits our lives?
David Olshine is the Director of Youth Ministries at Columbia International University, a speaker, author, husband, and father. David wrote Studies On The Go: James, 1-2 Peter and 1-3 John with the busy youth worker in mind, who either lacks the time or the information to lead a quality Bible study. These are written for the fast-paced leader who does not skimp on depth and substance. The books of James, Peter, and John deal with real life issues and questions that are down to earth. Studies on the Go pushes teens into the text and explains how to hear God’s word on a practical level. So whether you need something for a class, youth group, or small group, this curriculum is a great resource for you! Check it out in the YS Store HERE.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.