“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Ephesians 6: 14 – 18
I recently began working with my sons’ youth group as a co-leader/ mentor, specifically for the junior high (or middle school) girls. During our last small group session, a general discussion question prompted the girls to share their struggles as believers amongst friends and in school. Across the board, the girls shared how difficult it is to be a Christian these days.
I know from my older son’s struggles, there are friends or peers that will poke and prod simply to get a ‘rise’ out of someone. Many of the girls stated the same; they are frequently asked to prove it. A couple of the girls said they are sometimes teased because they openly discuss their faith. One student shared that a close friend immediately categorized her and her family into a certain political affiliation and the judgment went on from there. Our discussion even led to past Science instruction relative to creation and evolution.
I realized that I have taken for granted my own elementary and high school education. I went to Catholic school from First through Eighth, followed by an all-girls Catholic high school. I never experienced a verbal assault on my faith, nor was I ever teased. We also had the evolution lesson, but we learned it was a by-product of Creation. By the time I got to college, I was knowledgeable and decently secure in my faith as a Christian. Of course, my faith would be tested as I grew, but I knew enough to hold an intelligent conversation with friends that were of a different faith or agnostic. I was also college-aged! These girls are 11 – 14 and face a barrage of negativity via peer pressure or social media, at times both combined. Not only are they growing in their faith, but they feel pressured to defend it as well.
We encouraged the girls to continue to share with us and pray through their burdens. Things like attending a youth group, a Sunday service and/or talking with Christian peers only strengthens their faith and prepares them for ‘the next time’. Driving home, I immediately thought of the Armor of God. The shield of faith, the feet fitted with readiness, and the sword of the Spirit attained from knowing God’s Word. Our children are going into a spiritual battle every day, unlike anything I have ever dealt with in my youth. We need to show them where the armor is.