Have you heard of the Guinea worm disease? The Guinea worm is one of the largest human parasites. People get infected when they drink or swim in parasite-filled waters and unknowingly ingest the larvae of Guinea worms. In about a year, the worms pierce the intestinal wall, grow to adulthood, and mate. The worms eventually mature to a length of as much as three feet. They make their way through the body to the surface of the skin causing swelling and burning blisters.
Here’s where the problem intensifies: To soothe the burning, an infected person often runs to local water sources and immerses his or her infected limbs into the water for relief. Unfortunately this is exactly what the female (males die off inside the body) Guinea worm wants: access to water. Once in water, she lays hundreds of thousands of more eggs. And the cycle continues.
In many ways this horrific process is one that is repeated over and again in the spiritual lives of teens everywhere. In their search for relief from life’s “diseases,” countless teens run to the infected waters of the world: drinking, drugs, cutting, sex, partying, binging, porn, and more. In the moment their choices may appear as soothing and innocent as the local waters appear to those infected by the Guinea worm. But below the surface lies a raging and burning consequence that will never satisfy and will only leave them desperate for more.
I met a teen named Katie at a conference I spoke at. She recently sent me an e-mail. It reads: “For as long as I can remember I wanted a boyfriend. I finally met a guy in eighth grade who told me I was beautiful. We slept together. I was a Christian and so was he. We dated about a year, but then he broke up with me. I was so crushed I wasn’t sure if I could keep living. I don’t think I had ever felt that kind of hurt before. But shortly after, I started dating another guy. We began having sex within a month. We broke up too, and that hurt like anything. But then I started dating another guy. Over the next few years I dated a lot of guys, many of whom I slept with. I always think I believed that the next guy would be the one; the next relationship would stick and he’d be around forever… What am I supposed to do? Help.”
I wish I could say that Katie’s was an isolated story. She picked the wrong goal, then in an attempt to heal her hurts, she hastily jumped into other relationships, only to continue the same mistakes again and again. I hear from countless teens just like Katie from across the country. The specifics of their stories are different, but inside all are seeking help from the “diseases” of the world, and many are jumping into infected waters.
As a parent who loves God, it’s important for you to guide your teen to real safety. I’m convinced that Christian teens are desperate to be taught how to stand for what is right. But many aren’t sure how to do so. They need help, and, often want our help as influencers in their lives. However, many feel as though a parent is unapproachable when it comes to the big struggles of the teen life.
There is a very big war being waged daily for your teen’s soul, and the consequences can be deadly. But there is hope. Ephesians 6:10 encourages us to “be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” The Bible gives us tools for suiting up in armor, taking up shields of faith, and holding firm the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Your teen needs you to suit-up for battle. Your teen can’t find alone.
Work to create an environment in your home that screams to your teen, “I am approachable.” Strive to help your teen see that, unlike the infected waters of this world, you offer a safe place of help, hope wisdom and support that will never fail!