Recently, we were discussing the nature of God, specifically his omniscience. This means His ability to know our innermost thoughts and the paths of our lives. The discussion began with Psalm 139, a poetic example of God’s innermost knowledge of our creation and formation.
As a father expecting another child, this Psalm has been influential for me lately. Our students were asked how it makes them feel to know God knows the direction of their lives even if they don’t have the slightest idea. I was surprised at how the conversation seemed to explode from there.
The responses were a spectrum of answers, but one stood out to me. One of the teenagers, a young man in a group home and soon to be 18, found the idea somewhat terrifying. He’s on the cusp of a big decision. When he turns 18, he chooses whether he stays in the group home for a few more years (in what sounds like a toxic environment), finds another house for older boys (which will probably be just as bad), or is homeless. All these choices are very nuanced, and there are other options, but his fear is centered on making the wrong choice at the end of the day. He doesn’t want to follow the wrong path and walk away from God’s plan.
After he verbalized this thought, there was a sense of solidarity in the room. These teenage boys, from 14-18, felt the same way. If God has a path and plan for them, they better be sure to make the right choice.
I think we all wrestle with this idea, but there is far too much pressure on students to figure out the path of their lives. Think back to when you were in high school, in your junior and senior years. So many people were asking, where are you going to go to college? What are you going to major in? What are you going to do when you grow up? We’ve probably all asked these questions ourselves at one time or another. Yet, does our life currently look anything like what we thought it would be when we were in high school? I know mine doesn’t. I didn’t have a clue at that age!
There are too many voices telling young people that they must figure it all out. We’re talking about teenagers here, who are full of hormones and anxieties. What is the rush to figure these things out? How often do we speak that message? How often do the young people we influence hear from us that it’s okay not to know?
Someone once told me something powerful that stuck with me. I was on the brink of making a big decision, ultimately the one that led me into ministry. I was wrestling to figure out what God’s will was in that decision. My friend told me, “we serve a perfect God who is going to use whatever decision I make in a perfect way.”
We all know that young people make decisions that do not align with God’s plans or scripture in the slightest. However, if we can speak more to students about seeking God’s kingdom in their choices (Matt 6:33) and help them understand that God will use the choices they make, maybe we can alleviate some of the anxiety and stress about making decisions.
Also, we need to speak more about the freedom not to feel the pressure to achieve so much at a young age. Young people need to know the freedom of being young. They don’t have to have it all figured out, and that can wait. Honestly, there are too many people out there with college debt, stuck in a job they hate because it’s not what they are truly wired to do. Let’s not get more young people tied up in this.
God bless you as you work with young people,
Cody Kiwaczyk is the Youth Pastor at Alive Church in Tucson, Arizona.