From Chicken Soup for the Soul Presents Teens Talkin' Faith

Chapter Nine





It is my prayer that this chapter will fill your heart with joy and hope as you read passages from teens who share testimonies of God’s unfailing love. Through their perspectives, you will be taken on a journey that will lead to a fresh discovery of how much God loves each and every one of us. You might also be challenged to love those around you with God’s love. Let this chapter nourish you as you focus on love.


Although I have been going to church on Sunday every week since I was a toddler, and even attending a religious school since kindergarten, only recently have I truly come to recognize and appreciate God’s love in my life. While walking home from the bus stop about two years ago, I remember deciding to take the more scenic route through the woods back to my house. It was on that warm spring afternoon that I clearly remember feeling God’s presence surrounding me. The warm sun on my face, the sweet breeze rustling the trees, and the birds chirping nearby filled me with a sense of peace, warmth, and joy that was none other than God’s amazing love. From that day on, God’s love has been a large part of my everyday life, and most importantly, my decision-making.

Seeing God and His presence in all of creation, especially my family, friends, teachers, and even complete strangers, has caused me to take a second look at how I treat others. Also, now every time I am about to make an important decision, whether it’s contemplating whether to go to a party where I know drinking will be prevalent or even just deciding what to buy for lunch, I ask myself which choice would be thanking God for His unwavering love. I have come to realize that appreciating God’s love is probably one of the best ways to show Him how thankful I really am. Respecting others, ourselves, and all of nature is a way everyone can feel God’s love and show thanks. Besides clearly experiencing God’s love through creation, I also believe that God’s love is the warm feeling you experience after helping another individual. By realizing all beings are created in the image and likeness of God, when you help out another person in any way, you understand you are also sharing and professing your love for God. Therefore, as a result of God showering us with His love, we are able to discover this love within the core of our very beings.

THEA, 17


God is love. When teenagers look at this phrase, we usually say, “Yeah, right.” We don’t believe in it because we have always been told that if we pray, God will always answer us and give us whatever we pray for. However, we don’t realize that God grants us our petitions in many different ways. I don’t consider myself an incredibly religious person. I believe in God, but I have lots of doubts about my faith. When something goes wrong, I blame the whole world for it; I blame God, too. But during times when everything seems to go wrong, like when I get in a fight with my parents and it seems like no one can help me, I turn to God and just talk to Him. Sometimes, I even go to church, and it just helps me get over my problems. When I sit in church, I feel safe and comfortable, and I know that God is with me. Then no one is yelling at me; I am just sitting quietly, thinking things over and over again, and I realize that God loves me even when everyone else seems not to care. I know then that with His help I can get over my problems much faster. Knowing that God always loves me helps me appreciate things and people around me, and this gives me confidence that He is always there for me no matter what happens.

JILL, 17


When I was really little, I thought my dad was like God. Every night I would ask him what the weather would be like the next day, and he said he would make the weather what he felt it should be. He would say, “Well, let’s see. I think it should snow tomorrow, don’t you?” This would happen every night, and in the morning, guess what? There would be snow! No matter the morning, rain, wind, snow, or sunshine, he was always right. When I got older, I realized that my dad did this out of his love for me. Then it hit me. If my dad loved me this much, and in my child’s eyes he was God-like, then God’s love must be really amazing! If my own dad could love me like he does, then God’s love for me must be beyond my understanding— much like my dad’s “control” of the weather!



In the past three years, I have had more worthwhile experiences than in the rest of my life put together. Along with new experiences, I have been influenced with new ideas and feelings from the people I am surrounded by. I have felt what it is to be a success and what it is to be a failure. I have known happiness and sadness, and I have known hope and despair. In the middle of all these feelings and experiences, I began to be confused about life in general. My freshman year, I entered high school knowing only three people. I was scared I wouldn’t be cool enough or smart enough or pretty enough to fit in with everyone. I tried so hard to be myself, but I often found myself acting differently just to be like everyone else.

This way of life continued during my sophomore and junior years. I would laugh at things I did not find funny. I agreed with things I did not believe in. I did just about anything to try to make others like me. I had a few close friends with whom I could be myself, but in school or at parties I had to be careful how I acted. Oftentimes I would ask myself why I felt I had to be this way. Why couldn’t I be happy with who I was? I never asked God for His help during my time of need. I suppose I never really thought He would be any help to me. He was there the whole time, though, and I know that now.

In October of my senior year, I went on an overnight retreat. I was glad I got to miss two days of school, but I never expected it to have such an enormous impact on my life. My perspective on my family and friends, school and life in general was totally changed. I got in touch with God and myself in a way I never imagined was possible. I began to realize that in the past three years, I had not done anything for myself. Everything I ever did or said was for someone else. I finally realized that I did not have to do that. I know that my family will support me in anything that I choose to do with my life. I know who my true friends are, and they are all I need. I don’t regret the past few years because I learned from all my mistakes. When I wasn’t even looking for God, I found Him. I know that He will remain in my heart and love me forever. He is a powerful guiding force, and I feel fortunate to have realized it.



God so loves the world that He gave Jesus, His Son, to us. God gives unconditional love to all people, regardless of what they have or have not done. God’s love is visible in all of nature, the birds, the trees, the sunshine. God’s love is that unseen, but not unfelt, presence that makes the world a better place.

JOSÉ, 17


I never really had a good relationship with God when I was younger, probably because He wasn’t introduced to me by my parents. My dad was an alcoholic. He used to drink while he was at work, and then come home and be very violent. My brother and I used to sit through the horrible fights every night, and it would usually get to the point where we (my mother, brother, and I) had to leave and get a hotel room. If you asked me two years ago how many nights I actually slept in my own bed, the answer would probably be no more than ten. Sometimes, my mom wouldn’t leave the house, and I would call a family friend. She would have to come and get us. I honestly believe this person is an angel in disguise. Through her, I began to have a relationship with God. She introduced me to Him and kept me headed in the right direction, even though all I was seeing was violence. Through her, God kept love in my heart instead of hate. He also gave me the strength to persevere. I know now that God has been with me every step of the way. My dad and mom divorced, which was for the best in our situation, and my dad finally got the help he needed. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I have, but maybe with the love God has given me, someday I can use my experiences to help other people.


AUTHOR’S NOTE: Please remember that should violence ever occur in your home, it is imperative to seek help. Talk to someone you trust who can lead you to resources to keep you safe. Also, keep in mind that if you are living with an addict, organizations such as Al-Anon or Alateen (1-888-4-AL-ANON/1-888-425-2666) can be helpful in providing support and guidance.


We humans, with our faulty conscience and moral failings, have messed up so many times that you’d think God would have just washed His hands of us a while ago. He didn’t, though, and probably never will. Can you understand that kind of patience and love? I mean, I can get pretty mad at small occurrences, never mind a world war or any other numerous instances where the human race has been less than perfect. I mean, can you imagine how stupid and misguided war must seem to God? It entails thousands of His supposedly intelligent creatures blowing each other’s heads off . . . for what? A chunk of land or a couple more meaningless pieces of paper or bars of yellow metal? If I tally up my day’s actions, the ones I perform are usually done more for bad intentions or wrong ones. But I haven’t been struck down yet, so I guess God is willing to forgive me and keep His unshaking patience. I guess God can sort of be considered the first eternal optimist. He is always ready to forgive us and is never negative in His view of our wavering world.



My life has been moderately hard. I think many teens would say the same about their lives. But I have not always lived my life the way I do now. I used to make very bad decisions. I used to cuss like a banshee. I used to all-out rebel and disrespect my mother. I was a rebel child, and I did not live my life in a way acceptable to God. And yet, if you had asked me during this time if I was a Christian, I would have said yes. But I think I would have been wrong. I’ve learned that you cannot just talk the talk; it is also important to walk the walk. I think my youth group leader helped me realize this.

My youth pastor took me directly under his wing and treated me like his son. He had a very strong belief about never cussing, as did the youth group. I feel that this is valid in that it can stunt your spiritual growth. The Bible says, “From the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks,” and I did not want such disgusting things in my heart. Now I rarely ever cuss. My youth pastor also showed me unconditional love, which after a month or two, I picked up on and started to attempt to treat others the way he treated me. It really isn’t all that hard, if you try. He taught me how to make right decisions by going to God and asking for His advice and always listening to His voice. If anything, this is one of the more difficult things for teens to do. He also showed me verses in the Bible about disrespecting your parents. He taught me how to deal with my parents and how to love them. That carried over to how I treated other people. If there is one thing I have always had trouble with, it is the command to “love all.” What a command! How can you love people who treat you badly? I can tell you the answer to that. It is impossible for us to attempt to love all people on our own. You have to give it to God! He will give you the love in your heart to spread to all others. Then He will give you patience, love, kindness, selflessness, and compassion, all of which I have found you need to love all others. Even though people are very cruel to me at times, even though I may not like them in the least, I will always try to love them. There are many times that I find I cannot do some of these demanding tasks, and usually those are the times I am trying to do it on my own. You always have to give it to God. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to do some work in your life; it just means He will give you the power to do that work.



Behind the smile, the face, the clothes Is a girl whose life has completely froze.

A mask is what she hides behind, The answers to life she cannot find.

Everything passes; a hazy, cloudy blur.

She wonders why this is all happening to her.

Self conscious about everything from head to toe, Trusting no one, she will not let her feelings show.

Everyone else seems happy, so fixed, and so real.

She wonders why her own wounds will not heal.

Her life seemed unwritten, unscripted, unplanned.

She walked around aimlessly, ignoring God's hand.

He patiently waited for her day after day, but felt His heart ache when she walked the other way.

He watches her search from place to place, Ignoring His scarred hands and feet, His love-filled face.

For her He died, yes, He loved her that much.

He waits for the day she'll pray for His healing touch.

Until then, He will wait, yes, He will wait.

He wants her to find Him before it's too late.

He'll stay by her side, help her up when she falls.

Until she discovers, finally for herself, the great love of all.



I know that God is always there for me, waiting for me to speak to Him. He wants me to tell Him anything, everything! I can pray to God at any time. During the day, I find myself praying for guidance whenever I need it. If I need a listening ear, I know He will be there for me. After I pray, I am careful to stop for a few minutes and listen for an answer. God will answer your prayers! His love for each of us is beyond comprehension. When I feel this love, it surrounds me like a blanket, and I am peaceful inside. Nothing else matters. I put all my trust in God, and He showers me with unconditional love in return. It’s a great system. In this day and age, it’s easy to get pulled into the pressures of society. My faith in God keeps me steadfast on my journey to eternal life in His presence. It’s a great feeling being loved. With God on my side, I know that I am never alone.



Sometimes things in my life become completely overwhelming, and there seems to be nowhere to turn. Things get so bad and lonely, I feel as though no one would notice if I was gone. On days like these, the only one I have to turn to is God. I am forced to think about the value of my life, knowing that God has given me so much. God gave me gifts that I have to offer to other people. God has made me a strong person with all of my battles. My life is very hard, but someone out there has it worse. After every problem, it gets better. It helps me keep my faith.

I have to trust in God. I haven’t given up on me, and though many other people think I am too messed up, God won’t give up on me either. I know that I have respect, faith, and trust in God, so He must have those things in me. No matter how hard my life gets, I will always have someone to turn to, someone who loves me. Even on the days when I feel so completely worthless, I know that God is watching over me. And I know I can’t give in. God gave me my life as a gift from Him, so I have to respect it. God gave me something of His own, and even though I feel like some days His choice for my life was unfair, I know by choosing this path for me I will have a better life, full of lessons and truths sent from God. I have to respect the gift He has given me. God gave me a life where I know people’s struggles. I know what pain is, and I can offer comfort to the people who don’t have the faith that I do. My life has given me such a greater respect for people and how they live, act, and learn. God has a greater plan for me, and I can’t give up, or I would be giving up on God and His love for me. Besides, I find great hope in knowing that someone will always love me: God!



I have faced much fear and discomfort in my early childhood years. One day, when I was seven, the school day had just ended, and my sister and I were called to the office by intercom. Once we got there, we were given books to read before the principal came in to talk with us. At the time, we were very scared because we thought we were in trouble. The principal felt really bad about telling us of the situation, but he got through it. He told us that our parents weren’t home and that we had to go to a fun place where we would meet lots of new people. Later that day, we were taken to a foster-care center. We were frightened to find out that our parents couldn’t take care of us anymore. Our mom sent us away to protect us from our dad because he was an alcoholic, used illegal drugs, and was abusive. Our dad sometimes chased us with a vacuum or told us to walk around the block with a bottle of beer and not to come back until it was empty. When we walked around the block with the beer, I threw it in a neighbor’s garbage can because I didn’t want to end up like my dad. We tried to avoid our dad as much as we could once we noticed the danger.

When we got to the foster-care center, God gave me courage, and I knew He was watching over me. I made many new friends who took me warmly by the hand and helped me to move on and start my new life like the others there. I didn’t keep my friends for very long, though, because after about a week, my sister and I were chosen to leave with our first foster parents. Later, I was sent to three more foster homes. After a couple of years, God finally led us to our adoption family. He picked the perfect family for my sister and me because we do many things as a family and enjoy being one. I was allowed to see my mom one last time before I was adopted, and I was and still am grateful for the moment. I was afraid that I would never see her after that scary day after school. The chance to see her again gave me that feeling that she still did really love us. When I turn nineteen, I plan on finding out where my mom is so I can see her again and catch up on all the years that have passed between us.

I went through some rough times in my younger life, and you might think I would be angry at God about all that I was put through. But I don’t blame God because I don’t believe it was His fault. Seven years ago, to tell the truth, I never thought about God being there with me. I look back now and realize He was with me the whole time. I was disappointed in myself that I didn’t think about Him being there when I was little, but I know now that you don’t have to think about God for Him to be there for you or for Him to love you. He showed His love for me by sending me on a better path. This was the scariest experience in my younger years, but God was and is still always there to help me. God overwhelmed me with His love, and even though I didn’t notice it at the time, I sure do now.



Comfort, help, and friendship are all aspects of God’s love. At one point in my life, confusion and pain were the only feelings I endured. The death of my brother, whom I was closer to than anyone else on this Earth, destroyed my senses of reality and understanding. His death left me an emotional and psychological mess. At first, a sense of betrayal was all I felt toward God. But that soon changed. Almost instantly after my brother died, friends began offering themselves to my family and me. These acts of kindness, compassion, and love really helped me, not to understand, but to accept and grow. Friends from my church best represent God to me. I feel that they carried out God’s love. By showing compassion and love through these people, God touched my heart and helped me heal.



Isolated. Empty. Incomplete. These are such sad and lonely words. Yet, I have heard so many teens use them when referring to their lives or to how they feel inside. My cousin, Sion, has used these words to describe his teenage years as well.

If you were to ask Sion’s peers, they likely would have told you that he had the ideal life, because when they looked at Sion’s family and his lifestyle, they thought he had it all. They watched Sion’s stepmom cheer louder and longer than anyone else at every one of Sion’s football games. They knew that Sion’s dad was one of the few who would give his son a big bear hug in front of everyone and say, “I love you.” His friends were aware that Sion had a nice home, a hot car, and a little extra spending money. They also knew that Sion’s family spent time together on fun vacations, snowboarding, waterskiing, and taking houseboat trips.

But what Sion’s peers didn’t see was that his biological mom and dad were both recovering addicts. They divorced when Sion was a child. Sion’s dad remarried an extraordinary woman, and together they did their best to raise Sion and his younger brothers with love and understanding. Yet for Sion, something was still missing. Perhaps it was the addiction issues that had plagued his family throughout his childhood. Or he thinks it could have had something to do with the deaths of his best friends in a car accident—a car in which Sion was supposed to be riding. Regardless of the reason, an emptiness grew inside his heart.

In his early teens, Sion chose to fill that void with temporary pleasures. He began to drink and experiment with drugs. Marijuana became Sion’s drug of choice. Soon he was getting high every day, throughout the day. Even knowing that he was at risk for becoming an addict because of his family’s history with addiction, Sion still chose to use. In spite of knowing better, Sion also rationalized his use by telling himself that pot wasn’t a hardcore drug. So he smoked a lot, slept a lot, and in between tried to maintain a somewhat “normal” teen existence. The reality of the situation, however, was that as much as using alcohol and drugs may have given Sion momentary pleasure, the feeling never lasted.

It was not until recently, when Sion discovered God’s unending love, that he realized that his short-lived vices were meaningless. He had gone to church in the past, and he had always believed in God, but his prior spiritual experiences had been routine and insignificant. For some reason, even unbeknownst to Sion, this time it was different. It may have been something the pastor said, or perhaps it was simply that Sion was tired of living life as he was, but this time as he sat in church beside his brother, he experienced the feeling of his heart overflowing with the unconditional love of God. Only in that moment did he understand that the path he had chosen previously only nourished his feeling of emptiness. When Sion smoked pot, he could fill his lungs with smoke and hold it there until he began to feel the high taking hold. This high may have carried him a few moments or even a few hours, but in the end this feeling was only temporary. Now, with thanksgiving, Sion understands that God’s love can carry him for a lifetime. He doesn’t need drugs or alcohol because he has the love of God. His love is unconditional. God loves without reservation or restriction, despite one’s faults or flaws. His love is unchanging, everlasting, and pure. Can you imagine this type of love?

Picture this: A teenager goes to a party with his friends. His intention is to hang out, have fun, and stay sober. However, everyone is having such a good time that when a beer is offered to him, he decides, “Why not?” Ultimately, that one beer turns into many more. Soon he knows that he’s gone too far. His dad had always said that although he hoped his son would never put himself in such a situation, if he ever did, his dad would be only a phone call away. So the teen calls home and asks his dad to pick him up. He waits nervously, worried that his dad will be mad and ground him 24/7, but more than that the teen fears that he will disappoint his dad. Yet, when his father arrives, he puts his arm around his son and walks him to the car. Once inside, the teen drops his head in his hands, and with tears in his eyes says, “Dad, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking.” His dad reaches over and touches his face so that their eyes meet, and he says, “Son, I love you so much. Even though I may not approve of your drinking tonight, and despite the fact that there will be consequences for your choices, I am so proud that you called me.”

Can you conceive the amount of love and grace that filled the car that night? Not to mention the abundance of love that was felt in each of their hearts. I find it amazing to consider that if a mortal father can love his child that much, then our heavenly Father is capable of a love beyond our wildest dreams! From a teen perspective, I would think that God’s love would be one of the most incredible experiences in the world.

Because God’s love is offered without strings attached, He loves you for who you are, not how you look or what you do. God loves you regardless of whether your hair is dyed or if you have a tattoo or an obscure piercing. Likewise, He doesn’t require that you wear certain clothes or shoes to be accepted by Him. Name brands mean nothing to God. He doesn’t love you because you get good grades or because you are a fantastic musician or a great skater. You see, who you are on the outside doesn’t matter to God. He loves you because of who you are on the inside. God loves you because you are YOU!

Given such, I have spoken with numerous teenagers who have expressed that they feel unworthy of God’s love. Please know that no one is worthless in God’s eyes. This is why He sent Jesus to live among us and die for us. It is also why He gave us the Holy Spirit to live within each of us. God’s love for us is that strong. Rely on faith to connect your desire for a love so real with the blessing of God’s offering. Open your heart to God, and let Him fill you with His love.

Considering God’s gift of love to us, wouldn’t you think that we should love one another in kind? The obvious answer would seem to be simple, yet the reality is quite bleak. Think about your school environment. There is so much judgment and jealousy that exists at most schools. Teens are labeled based on the way they dress, what they are involved in, or where they live. People tease and discriminate on the premise of what someone looks like or who they hang out with. Sadly, no love can be found in this behavior. Consequently, the ultimate outcome causes heartache and anger and can force the judged into depression, isolation, or rebellion. Where is the love in this? Why must we judge? Aren’t we all similar on the inside? Don’t we all crave love and understanding? Don’t we all wrestle with our emotions when faced with difficult life situations? If so, then why not focus on love?

If you are thinking, Yeah, why not? then we should probably attempt to understand the meaning of love. Many would describe love as an emotion that one feels. Being “in love” may actually be described as a strong emotion that makes your heart feel as if it is going to burst from the sheer pleasure and overwhelming joy that encompasses the feeling. At the same time, apostle Paul proposes that true love is fundamentally an action rather than an emotion. He writes, in essence, that if you were to use the model of Christ’s love, you would be kind and patient. You would not be jealous or envious of others. If you were to act out of pure love, you would not be rude or conceited. Therefore, boasting would definitely be out. You would need to hold your temper and not keep track of the wrongs done to you. Your actions would always show honesty and truth. You would not do anything that would be considered evil or corrupt. You would always protect and trust people, including your parents. And you would always keep trying with a hopeful heart, even when utterly frustrated or confused.

I realize that it may seem almost impossible to even attempt to love others in such a way, especially on days when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed or get into a huge fight with your parents or friends. The good news is that God knows that you are going to have bad days. He understands your imperfections. After all, He created you. Who better to understand you than the Lord? So if you are confused or feeling inept about how to love others in such a Christ-like way, take your concerns to God. Let Him guide you and teach you. Reflect on Jesus’s model as the perfect example of how to love. During the days that Jesus walked the Earth, He was nonjudgmental and accepting of people, especially those who were considered outcasts. He took time to meet the needs of others, but He also took care of Himself. If He needed time alone to pray, He made sure that His time was uninterrupted. In this way, He reminds us that acting out of love means loving ourselves as well. He also prayed for people with utter compassion and complete conviction. We, too, can love in this way. I feel sure that if we each take a step to love each other as God loves us, such love would enrich our family relationships, friendships, and even our school atmosphere. For that matter, our world would flourish with love and peace.

On the other hand, you may feel that loving others comes naturally to you. Perhaps, instead, you struggle with a need to be loved. Do you feel alone in this world? Do you ever wonder if anyone really cares about you? I have spoken with many teens who have felt this way. Some have been homeless, others abused. Several felt neglected by parents who had to work long hours to put food on the table. There are numerous teenagers who feel unloved because their mom and dad have divorced, and now their parents’ time and energy are focused on dating and making ends meet. This isn’t to say that the parents of these teens don’t love their kids, because undoubtedly they do; it is just that in their current situation, the teens may not feel loved. Regardless of why you might feel alone or unloved, know that God does love you. He is simply waiting for you to accept His love. Considering this, you may be wondering how to recognize God’s love.

Remarkably, God showers us with His love in so many ways. When a stranger smiles at us and brightens our day, God’s love is touching us through that person. When a friend shows us kindness, we can feel God’s love. When we observe the beauty in nature, we can thank God for loving us so much to give us peace in the warm sun and hope in the majesty of the mountains. His love is even evident in joy that you feel in your heart when that hot girl or guy that you’ve been subtly flirting with all week flirts back. (Okay, so maybe your hormones have something to do with that one, but still.) When it comes down to it, God showers us with these visions and experiences so that we may have evidence of how much He cares.

With God’s love will come a joy and fulfillment that you may have never felt before. If you have already accepted God’s love in your life, then you know what I mean. My cousin Sion told me that when he first experienced God’s love, he learned that there was a difference between happiness and joy. He found happiness to be temporary. A person can easily be happy one moment and sad the next. However, joy is eternal. It lives in your heart through God’s love and stays forever. I pray that you find joy in God’s love, because the power of His love can change the world. I encourage you to embrace, share, and celebrate the love of the Lord!

Mrs. T

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