In the Middle: The Struggle Is Real

Originally posted on the Eagle Brook Church blog

Lately, I’ve heard many people use the phrase, “The struggle is real.” Sometimes it’s a hashtag in a social media post, other times I hear it in casual conversation. Usually it has a light-hearted connotation, something like, “The drive-thru line at McDonalds is 10-deep #thestruggleisreal.” I kind of like it. It’s a fun way to express a minor frustration and bring a smile to others. But last Wednesday, after spending some time talking and praying with some middle school students, the phrase took on a new meaning for me.

Within a 10 minute time period I heard stories from middle school students of serious health issues, fights with family members, fear over losing a friend, questions about faith and even something as serious as a case of cutting. I’m so glad these students were at our middle school program, Ground Zero, last Wednesday. They had a chance to talk about these issues, pray about them, and receive support and love from their small group leader, from me, and from other adult volunteers. But, I’m also acutely aware that for these students, the struggle is real.

You see, middle school students face a set of struggles on a daily basis that are greatly intensified by their stage of life. Their rapid physical growth, social pressures, lack of life experience and the increasing pressure of school, sports and music place them in what I would consider the perfect storm for very serious struggles. Struggles that are 100 percent real and need 100 percent of our attention. But, although these struggles are real, so is Jesus. Check this out:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

As we try to connect with students who are hurting, it’s helpful to keep this verse in mind. God is the one we can go to for the guidance, strength and comfort we need. Yes, the struggles are real, but so is our God.

In light of this Scripture let me encourage you: If you have a middle school student in your life, take these steps whenever they share one of their struggles.

1. Listen.

Sometimes the stories are long and complex, other times they are quick and abrupt. Whatever the case, when you hear a middle school student express a struggle, lean in and listen. Those moments of listening show them that you care and you are with them in the struggle.

2. Pray.

We have the great privilege of taking our struggles to Jesus. He wants to be the one we run to as a refuge, turn to for strength, and trust when we are in trouble. And we can help students do just that by leading them in a conversation with God. This prayer should express how the student feels, what they want to change and a desire to know God more through this process.

3. Follow up.

When a student shares a struggle with you make sure you check in with them. Ask how it’s going. Listen again, pray again, and continue supporting them any way you can. The worst thing for a student is to struggle alone. Be the one to join them in the struggle and make sure they know they’re not alone.

As you’re reading this, maybe you’re thinking of a very real struggle you are going through right now. Struggles don’t end after middle school, do they? No, but take comfort. The same principles we apply for students who are struggling can help adults who are struggling as well. Seek someone out to listen to you, pray with you, and follow up. And don’t forget, God is our refuge and strength, our ever-present help in trouble.

If you know a teenager struggling with something right now, The Landing might be a great place for them. The Landing is a safe, healing place where teenagers can live freer, healthier, and more God-centered lives. They meet once a week and focus on the 12 steps of recovery and their biblical comparisons. Click here to find out more about The Landing.