CHAPTER 10: LET ME SHARE YOUR HOPE

CHAPTER 10: LET ME SHARE YOUR HOPE

From Chicken Soup for the Soul Presents Teens Talkin' Faith

Chapter Ten

LET ME SHARE

YOUR HOPE

GOD IS HOPE . . .

Throughout this book, you have read about the life experiences of a multitude of teens. They have taken you on a journey of their trials and tragedies, joys and triumphs. Some of the stories that you read may have touched your heart and brought tears to your eyes. Others might have made you smile or laugh. At the same time, I hope that many passages taught you lessons and encouraged you in your faith. But, when all is said and done, it comes down to this chapter. I say this because no matter what you experience in life, if you look to the Lord, He will grant hope to your heart every day! As teens will express in this final chapter, God is hope, and He desires to share it with you!

Mrs. T

GOD’S LOVE IS NEVER ENDING . . .

Ever had a constant romance in your life, and then all of a sudden the romance ends and you are left in the dust? How do you feel? Do you feel angry, betrayed, alone? Well, there is one who will never leave you alone. When you think no one cares about you or even loves you, you are wrong. There is one who loves you with all of His heart and will never forsake you, ever! His name is Jesus, and over two thousand years ago He walked this Earth, died, was nailed to a cross, and resurrected just to save someone like YOU. That may sound way too extreme, and it might scare you in some ways, but He died to give you life. As John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God’s love is never ending. If you don’t know God, please find a church, talk to a pastor or ask a friend who does know God for help. I assure you that they will help you meet God. Please take advantage of this glorious miracle and embrace the love that is waiting for you in God’s arms!

WRENNA, 15

HE GAVE US LIFE, SO WHY NOT BELIEVE . . .

I believe in God for many reasons. He can help us so much. Ever since day one, I have had faith in God, and each year it grows stronger. If I somehow got pulled away from Him, I would be blind and lost. He will help anyone, if you just ask Him with sincerity. He loves us all, and He wants to help us. He gave us life, so why not believe in Him? When I am scared, nervous, or faced with a hard decision, I turn to Him, and He leads me in the right direction. Not only do I ask for His guidance in those situations, but I do it every day. Sometimes I just ask Him to keep me strong, so I can resist the temptations of the world. He has always been there for me, and I know that He will be there for you if you just ask Him.

ALICE, 14

YOU CAN LET HIM IN BY OPENING YOUR HEART . . .

God will help anyone at any time. He doesn’t judge your past but wants you to have a good future. He also provides you with the hope that He will guide you out of troubles or misfortunes. He will do this because He loves you, and if you let Him in, He will do anything for you. You can let Him in by opening your heart to Him, not asking for things, but thanking Him for being present in your life. If you just acknowledge Him, He will help you and provide hope for your life.

COREY, 15

HE WILL ALWAYS BE THERE . . .

It’s really hard for me to tell you why I am a Christian. It is not just a thing you do or say, but a way of life. It is indescribable. When you truly have Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you will never be alone again. You will never have to make a decision by yourself again. He will always be there for you. I know lots of people who think faith or religion is just a bunch of rules to live by, but it’s not. It is more than that. It truly is a way to have love in your life by living every day of your life for God.

GRACE, 14

I WANT TO BE WHAT HE WANTS ME TO BE . . .

As I look to the heavens I know He is there,

Showering me, giving me His love and all of His care.

Every day I wake up and thank God for life,

He’s helped me through so much, all of my pain and my strife.

I feel God inside me; I know He is there to show me the way,

To guide me, to love me, to help me through every single day.

Jesus is there above me, and I thank Him for all He has done.

He is the Savior, the Messiah; it is my heart He has won.

The emotions and feelings I have for God are too strong to express in words.

He has shown me the world and has given me life; the true things that matter from Him I have learned.

I want to be what He wants me to be; it is Jesus that I see.

I get down on my knees and say thanks that my Lord loves me.

I have my faith, oh Lord, and it comes straight from my heart.

It is this faith in You that from my body shall never part.

And I say to You, Lord, that no matter what happens, no matter what I do,

I hope You are listening, oh Lord, because God, I love You!

ANTONIO, 16

. . . WE CAN’T JUST GIVE UP WHEN THINGS SEEM DIFFICULT . . .

Having hope in God is similar to having confidence in a friend. He doesn’t impose Himself on you. He’ll listen to you no matter what. He’ll give you support during difficult times. He’ll carry you when you can’t go on. But I also understand that it is easy to lose hope. Looking at the world, and all the bad things that have happened and are happening, I can see how some people could lose hope in God. We just have to remember that God would never give us anything we couldn’t handle. Most of the problems we have today, such as hunger, poverty, and war, can all be improved if we just worked together to do something about them. There is enough food to feed everyone in the world. There are enough materials to build decent houses for everyone in the world without being destructive to the planet. There is enough good in the world to stop all war and bring everlasting peace. We just have to realize that we can’t just give up when things seem difficult. We can’t just think that somebody else will take care of it. Most of all, we have to realize that it is possible. We just have to care enough, realize our hope in God, and go out and make it happen. Remember, with God anything is possible. In this sometimes hopeless world, to have hope is to have God. Remember this saying, “Don’t lose hope, for like the stars that come out at night, the light of God shines brightest in the dark.”

TARYN, 17

MY FAITH IN GOD HAS GIVEN ME A SENSE OF DIRECTION AND HOPE . . .

Teenage years are probably some of the most difficult times to go through. There is peer pressure to do things that may not appeal to you. There is the fear of what people might think of you if you don’t fit in. There is a great amount of confusion about friendships and relationships. Although things sometimes seem so hard, I have learned through experience that if you have hope in God and believe that He will guide you through things, it will be okay. I realize through my faith in God that even in the toughest times, I know that someone else in the world has it worse than me. I should be happy for what God did give me and learn to accept my hardships. My faith in God has given me a sense of direction and hope. It has taught me to stand strong in my beliefs and values, and not worry about what others think because God is the one who truly knows me. So stay positive toward your own values, and your hope in God will help you through.

DANI, 16

JESUS WILL BE WITH YOU EVERY STEP OF THE WAY . . .

When you feel alone or abandoned, hated or forgotten, don’t give up hope that things will get better! When life gets bad enough that you want to give up, God is with you! He will always be with you. He loves you so much that He gave His one and only Son to die for you, so you wouldn’t have to spend eternity away from Him. All you have to do is accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and ask Him for forgiveness. So, if things are tough, remember: carry on and head straight for the light at the end of whatever tunnel you are in. Jesus will be with you every step of the way, guiding you away from temptation, and protecting you from evil. When you feel the weakest, that is when you can be your strongest if you just look to the Lord. Don’t turn your back on Jesus because He will never turn His back on you!

CONNOR, 14

HE IS THE LITTLE LIGHT OF HOPE . . .

God is always there with you. He is the little light of hope getting you through the worst days of your life.

MAYSON, 18

. . . A BONFIRE OF HOPE . . .

I will always remember the moment when my sixth-grade teacher appointed a boy in our class to join my reading group. He loudly objected, “I don’t want to be in this stupid group because they’re not smart enough.” He sneered at the teacher and refused to move. This was the first time my learning disability was broadcast to my friends. At that moment, I visualized the chain of gossip going from this class and throughout the school. My thoughts got uglier as class dragged on; I felt terrible. I tried to sneak out of the classroom so no one would see me. Luckily, it was near the end of the day, so I only suffered a short time until I could share the incident with my mom, who was waiting for me outside. If ever there lives a bonfire of hope, it is in my mother. To me, she is God’s channel of it. I think we don’t recognize that sometimes. God uses people in our lives to bless us with hope. For me, that person is my mom. After I explained my sadness and worry to her, sparks flew. She set about to right the situation, and a line of support quickly came to my aid.

At bedtime each night, I thank God for everything. Well, not quite everything. . . . Why did I have to be born with a learning disability? At this point, I don’t know how to tell Him “thanks” for that. I can only hope that someday I will understand. And as my mom always points out: Life can be a whole lot worse, so never give up hope!

EDDIE, 15

. . . GOD WILL ALWAYS FORGIVE YOU . . .

I know how much God helps me every day, and I want people, including you, to have the same feeling that I do . . . that someone cares for you, that you have someone to talk to when you’re feeling bad. The Lord is always there for you, and He loves you and forgives you even when you sin. In Psalm 23 it says: “The Lord is my shepherd . . . He restores my soul.” I think the psalm means that God will always forgive you, and He will restore your mind and soul with good, not bad. If you already are a Christian, I just have one more thing to say: Share the Lord with people, and let them see His light through you, and how happy you are to have the Lord in your life!

ANGELICE, 14

GOD HAS BEEN THERE FOR ME . . .

I was always brought up as a Christian. When I was born, my mom was a strong Christian and still is. I went to church with her as much as possible. When I was old enough to understand completely, I accepted God as my personal Lord and Savior. He has helped me through many things. The one specific event that God helped me through the most was the death of my brother. I mean, I still feel the pain of losing my only brother, but God reminds me that He has a plan for everything and that we will be reunited in heaven someday. God keeps me on the right path. When I am presented with a difficult situation, I go directly to Him. He guides me, just like a lost sheep. I rely on Him for everything, because without God, we are nothing.

So, what would I tell teens about Him? I would have to start by telling them that He can help you through all your problems—anything from relationships, school, family, friends, etc. Also, He will give you eternal life in heaven if you just believe in Him. People say that Christians miss out on all the good things—drinking, sex, all the fun—but I don’t think so. By setting standards, God is just protecting you and showing that He cares very deeply for you. God has been there for me. He will be there for you, too.

JAY, 15

. . . A WONDERFUL FEELING OF PEACE . . .

I can’t really pick out or define one specific area or category of God that means the most to me. He’s been so involved in every single aspect of my life, especially recently. My life has been definitely better, more rich and joyful, since I’ve decided to let God in. First off, I guess, is guidance. My junior year has been extremely stressful, and sometimes I have trouble handling it. My anxiety bubbles over into other areas in my life, and my friends, family, and relationships always suffer. For a while, I might even get confused about God. Then something always happens to make it better. Maybe a song comes on the radio or a friend calls or a teacher spends a little extra time with me. Or even, for no reason at all, a wonderful feeling of peace comes over me. At times like this, I know God is guiding me and comforting me, saying, “It’s going to be all right. Don’t worry.”

God has an awesome amount of patience, too. The number of times I’ve messed up or turned my back on Him is countless. Yet, there’s always His love, beckoning me back. Because of this, I’ve realized that all of my guilt and sin can be washed away by God’s love and patience. It’s an awesome gift.

This sort of leads into my next point: God is grace. I feel so overwhelmed at times, and all of a sudden, I can literally feel His loving presence. And that’s what grace is: God’s forgiving and patient presence. If His grace is with you, you’re okay. One time, I did some pretty bad stuff. I thought that I had hidden it pretty well from my parents, but I hadn’t. They found out, and I was busted. My punishment was severe, but it fit the offense. However, I was inconsolable. All of these thoughts ran through my mind: “I’m a rotten kid.” “Why am I even here?” “I’m a waste of air.” “Nobody will ever trust me again.” Basically, I was wallowing in self-pity. Then, I could suddenly sense this feeling of peacefulness, and I knew it was God’s grace healing and consoling me.

When I was little, I used to say my prayers every night, regarding them more as an obligation than anything else. Then I started to realize what prayer is: not reciting rote passages as fast as you can so you won’t go to hell, but being with God, hanging out with Him, if you will. I think over this last year, I’ve prayed more than ever before, in both ways, ritual and conversation. I’ve learned that God will answer your prayers. It might not always be in the way that you want, but God does listen and respond to you. All of these things I’ve talked about have one thing in common: my faith in God. It’s central to everything in my life. I know that with Him, I can do anything. Like that church song goes: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Give God a shot in your life. What have you got to lose?

TRAVIS, 16

ACTIONS DEFINITELY SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS . . .

All my life I have been raised a Christian. I have always gone to a religious school, and I attend church regularly. When compared to the society around me, I always considered myself to be a pretty devoted Christian. That view of myself drastically changed six months ago when I spent three weeks of my summer in a little village way up in the mountains of Haiti. In the village of Dessables, the people have virtually no material possessions, especially when compared to the environment I am accustomed to. Their houses are made of sticks, and they are lucky if they have an animal or two. Sometimes they will not eat for a week. Yet these people have incredible faith in God. The feeling you get when you are there in this presence is indescribable. I could truly see the face of God when I looked at these people. No matter what, they always put people before anything else. And even though we didn’t speak the same language, I could always understand them. Actions definitely speak louder than words. They would go to church for the entire day on Sunday. And it was so full of life. Even though they didn’t know where their next meal was coming from, they put their faith in God to watch over them. This experience has given me the strength to go beyond what is expected of me in my society as a Christian. I think of these people, and I know that I am doing good things, even when people question me as to why I put so much time and effort into God. It is not just for Him but also for me and all people of the world. I share this experience with you, hoping that you can see these people as an example and grow in your faith, too.

KAILYN, 17

. . . I AM SAVED . . .

Has anyone ever told you how great God is? Well, God is GREAT!! He is a strong and loving Father. He is the best. I believe in God because through this belief, I know that I am saved because of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son. Faith is like a bridge between me and God. If I didn’t have faith, it would be like not having air. My faith is a part of who I am. I am shaped around it. I am who I am because of what I believe. I believe in God, my only and everlasting Father; Jesus, my savior and everlasting friend; the Holy Spirit, my leader and everlasting guide. I am a Christian. I hope that you can believe in God, too!

BENITA, 16

“T ” TALK

I have known many students who have touched my heart. Perhaps one may have a quick wit or a genuine compassion. Another may have had a tough life or seem hopelessly lonely. Regardless, different students have made lasting impressions upon me in various ways. One such student was Jason. What impressed me most about Jason was his natural ability to reach out to someone in need. It may have been with a touch, a smile, or even with a particular action. Jason always took it upon himself to look after others. However, after getting to know Jason, I realized that although he took initiative when it came to helping out his peers, he didn’t seem to take time for himself. I asked him about it once, and he said that as far as he was concerned, his life really didn’t matter. Jason told me about his parents’ divorce, and how he’d like to live with his dad. However, in addition to his dad’s verbally abusive behavior, he didn’t seem to want Jason in his life. Jason explained that his relationship with his mom and siblings was falling apart. Jason felt that no one in his family listened to him or seemed to care about what he thought. This made him either depressed or extremely angry. He felt that he had no control over either of these feelings. To compound these emotions, Jason’s best friend had recently died, and his girlfriend was in the process of being diagnosed with cancer. In his grief, his fear for her health, and his frustration within his own family, Jason felt he had no one to turn to.

Eventually, Jason confided in me that he felt an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. Feeling a bit helpless myself at the gravity of his situation, I asked him two questions. The first was if he would be open to counseling. He said that he’d tried that, but at this point didn’t want to pursue it further. Second, I asked Jason if he had a spiritual faith to turn to during this difficult time in his life. Considering that he felt he had no one who would understand or listen to him, I thought that if he could turn to God, he wouldn’t feel so alone. Yet, Jason wasn’t so sure. He wondered if there really was a God, then why didn’t He do something to show Jason that He cared? Why didn’t He make Jason’s life better? I asked Jason to consider that sometimes when we feel so discouraged or helpless, it is the perfect time to open our hearts to hope.

I remember leaving that conversation with Jason, wishing he could see that if only he could find faith in God, he would discover hope in his life, for I truly believe that our time on this Earth is a spiritual journey. I believe that everything that we experience in some way enhances our spiritual growth. That doesn’t mean that God wants bad things to happen. But at the same time, I think that when bad things happen in our lives, God can enlighten us with precious life lessons, if only we choose to open our hearts to His teachings. Perhaps if Jason could understand this, he wouldn’t feel so disheartened.

Hope. I talk to teens every day who have lost hope. Perhaps they have experienced a trial or tragedy in their lives, like some of the kids who wrote for this book. Maybe they have been abused or neglected. Perhaps someone in their lives died senselessly. More likely, though, the reason is a temporary problem that overwhelms them, like a breakup with a girlfriend or boyfriend or an inability to communicate with their parents. Yet regardless of the situation, a sense of hopelessness prevails. As Jason eventually discovered, though, the Lord can guide you out of your deepest despair.

To my surprise and answered prayers, that very summer Jason discovered God, and through his newfound faith, he encountered hope. Jason wrote me a letter that summer, telling me that he had been spending most of his time supporting his girlfriend through her radiation treatments. Yet, Jason had a different perspective this time. He said that he credited his new outlook to his girlfriend and her faith, and ultimately to God. Jason wrote, “I look at God, and I thank Him every day for the faith that He has given me and my girlfriend. The reason I have faith is because she had it, and I finally caught on. Having faith is like having this feeling in you that helps you know everything will be okay in the end.” Jason told me that as he stood by his girlfriend throughout her time in the hospital, he had felt so much hope. He knew that she would beat the disease. At the same time, he understood that we all have obstacles we have to deal with in life. However, he felt that he would be able confront those placed upon his path because finding faith in God had led him to faith in himself. Jason didn’t feel hopeless anymore. In fact, he said that if I were to ask him what the word “faith” means to him now, he would say it means “power”—the power to be able to take yourself out of situations that are hard and make them a little bit easier. Jason could not have done this alone, but with God by his side he felt that anything was possible.

If you are a Christian, you are probably smiling right now because you can identify with Jason. What a glorious feeling it is to share one’s faith in the Lord. When your emptiness has been filled with God’s love, when your doubt has been turned to belief by the Lord’s comfort, you want other people to experience this feeling, too. Remember, though, that it is important to share God’s hope without judging people for their resistance or skepticism. The best way to lead people to the Lord is with acceptance and love. Show them, by your actions, the peace and hope that they, too, can discover in Christianity. Be conscientious of their hesitation or doubt. If they seem to be pushing you away or avoiding you, it is possible that you are coming on too strong. Sometimes an overzealous Christian ends up alienating the very people he or she is trying to lead to Christ. Keep in mind that if you keep a humble heart and focus on God’s love, He will guide you and help you to witness in a way that glorifies Him.

If you do not consider yourself a Christian or if you are trying to figure out this whole “God thing,” know that discovery is part of your life journey. God is patiently knocking on the door to your heart. He doesn’t have any desire to leave His place there because that is where He belongs. His sole purpose is to be available for you, to be yours. But He will not enter without an invitation. He wants the choice to be yours. Does that mean that if you invite Him in, you will hear fireworks and immediately feel “saved”? Maybe, but probably not. I can’t tell you what you’ll feel, because everyone’s experience is unique. God touches each person’s heart in a special way. Some people need time to get used to God living there and loving there. Others are ready to jump into a relationship with God right away. Regardless, I’ll bet that if nothing else, you will feel just a tiny bit of peace enter your heart. God’s promise to you is that, like a mustard seed growing, peace will grow into strength, love, and hope that exemplifies the glorious life found in the kingdom of God.

You may be wondering exactly how the Lord might provide someone with hope. I suppose He does so in a myriad of ways. Some teens have told me that feeling Christ’s comforting presence has brought them peace. Others, like my friend Laura, have experienced a true miracle. Keep in mind that miracles are not beyond God’s mighty power, and miracles undoubtedly bring hope. Many teenagers have shared that they discovered hope in an answered prayer. On the other hand, sometimes hope is found in an answer that is entirely different than we expected. Nonetheless, if you let God reside in your heart, a glimmer of hope will abide in endless splendor.

Still, I have had many teenagers say to me that they don’t know how to invite God in; they don’t know how to ask Him. The beauty of it is that there isn’t a right or wrong way. You can simply use your own words to tell God that you want to turn your life over to Him. Ask God to reveal Himself to you in a way that you will understand. Tell Him that you want to love Him and receive His love in return. In your own words, express your sorrow for your past misdeeds and ask Him to guide you in your words and actions in the future. God will be so happy that you are opening your heart to Him that how you went about doing it will not matter to God at all.

Remember that when you feel you have nothing, you always have God. Sometimes, especially as teenagers, we are so focused on ourselves and our needs that it is difficult to let go of the hold we have on our problems and our lives and grab on to hope of God’s love. Yet if you choose to let God hold you, your life will be lighter. There will be room in your heart for the Lord’s joy. He is the Comforter and the Provider. He is the Maker and Counselor. God is the Lord of hope and the Giver of peace. If you don’t have the answers and you are looking for hope, rely on the Lord. However, like Jason discovered, it is a matter of choice. You can turn from God, but in doing so you will be turning from His ability to provide you with the hope to persevere. So turn toward Him, and let God fill you with hope while you experience His joy, peace, courage, and love!

Mrs. T

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