I haven’t watched the Netflix series that’s generating conversation about teen suicide. But I’m deeply concerned that teens might be drawn into the raw program without processing these sensitive, graphic issues with a trusted adult.
This is another example of the way that books, television shows, and movies engage young people with shocking, grim, and reckless stories. I understand that teenagers are ready to delve into what fascinates and scares them about real life, without the phoniness of a handsome prince swooping in to guarantee the happy ending. Yet, I’m convinced that a biblical perspective is essential for our children to learn to spiritually, cognitively, and emotionally process the realities of this fallen world. This is an opportunity for Christian parents to disciple our kids within a biblical framework in which Jesus reigns and hope lives.
Yesterday, I ventured into the conversation for the first time with my 15-year-old daughter. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I asked her if she’s heard of “13 Reasons Why.” She attends a Christian school, and to be honest, my perception is that she lives a fairly sheltered life. Our appetite for compelling television is fed by “The Amazing Race” and “The Spring Baking Championship.”
“Oh, yeah – everyone’s talking about it.”
I suppose that confirmed my reluctant suspicions that these kids aren’t so sheltered after all.
About 20 minutes into our conversation, we received an email from a teacher about the series, another confirmation that yes, parents need to be aware and engaged in this discussion. It doesn’t mean that we have to watch the program, but we need to be present and willing to have two-way conversations about hard issues like bullying, rejection, abuse, sexuality, self-harm, anxiety, and depression. While our teens are growing, they need roots to anchor them. All of us do, in times like these. We need to be rooted in Christ’s love in order to see ourselves through His acceptance, to perceive our circumstances through His sovereignty, and to establish our hope in His victory.
For my daughter and her peers, plus my small group of 10th grade girls – allow these truths from Scripture to sink deep and these 13-reasons-why-you-can-have-hope to root themselves in your heart. You are fiercely and unconditionally loved.
1. God has a vision for your life (see Philippians 1:6, Jeremiah 1:5, and Ephesians 1: 3 – 4). You are not here by chance. Your life is not a mistake nor is it meaningless. Ephesians 2:10 declares that each person is God’s personal, purposeful creation. Psalm 139:16 says, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”
2. Your uniqueness is God’s gift to you and the world. Psalm 139 says that you are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” God created billions of people yet intentionally gave each one – including you – uniqueness in personality, strengths, and potential. You don’t have to be something that someone else wants you to be. Whatever gift God gave to you, He gave so that you can enrich the world around you. The uniqueness of your personality doesn’t diminish its value; in fact, it enhances what you have to give to the world.
Isaiah 43:7 says, “Bring to Me all the people who are Mine, whom I made for my glory, whom I formed and made”
Jeremiah 1:5 – “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.”
3. God notices you and knows you. All of us feel invisible at times, but God sees and genuinely cares about the details of your life (see 1 Peter 5:7). Luke 12:7 describes God’s attention: “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Psalm 139: 7 – 12 – “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there;if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn; if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”
Isaiah 49: 16 – “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”
4. Nothing can ever separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (see Romans 8: 38 – 39). There is nothing on your part that can make God love you any more or any less. People will disappoint you, but God promises to be faithful, and He doesn’t change (see Malachi 3:6, James 1:17). His love for you will persevere through every situation and will last forever (1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 7, Jeremiah 31:3).
5. In Christ, you are set free. (see Romans 6, Galatians 5:1, Romans 8:1-2) He longs to release those who are slaves to sin or fear. You are never stuck or hopeless, because you can do all things through Christ who gives you His strength and power. You can come to God as a child comes to a loving Father (see Romans 8: 15 – 16 and Hebrews 4:16). No longer do you have to strive for love or forgiveness. Jesus already paid the price, and in Him you are freed to become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Isaiah 43: 18 – 19 – “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way for you in the desert and streams in the wasteland.“
John 8: 36 – “If the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”
6. You are set apart for God. When you trust in Jesus, you have God’s pledge of love and protection. When the world around you quakes, He holds your securely. He puts His seal of ownership upon you. In John 10:27–29, Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”
7. You are worth dying for, just as you are. 1 John 4:10 says, “This is real love–not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” God did this, with you in mind, before you could have ever accomplished anything on your own. Romans 5:8 says “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
8. God takes delight in you. He knows you intimately, and Zephaniah 3:17 captures the truth of God’s heart toward you:
“The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He takes great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He rejoices over you with singing.”
God put within you a desire to delight in Him as well. Some may mock or deny it, but in every human soul, there is an awareness that there is “something more” than this world can offer. Jesus says that He came to bring you life to the full (John 10:10). This isn’t a promise of material prosperity but a pledge that Jesus will satisfy your the deepest desires of your heart completely.
9. God is for you and with you. The enemy of our souls will fail every time he tries to make a charge against you. No crisis or failure or hardship or accuser could ever budge God from His commitment to His child. With steadfast love, He invites you to draw near to Him (James 4:8). Anytime you withdraw or hide, you give the enemy leverage to drag you into shame and despair. But as you draw near to God, you can rest in His presence, trusting that you are fully known, fully seen, and fully loved.
Romans 8:31 – “If I am for you, no one can stand against you.”
Psalm 18: 16 – 19 – “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.”
1 John 3: 19 – 20 – “And by this we will know that we belong to the truth, and our hearts find rest in His presence: If our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and He knows all things ….“
10. God hears you. Even if you have turned away, you can call upon God and know that He is eager to listen.
Psalm 40:1 – 3 – “I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.”
Jeremiah 29:13 – “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.”
Ephesians 3:12 – “In Jesus and through faith in Him, we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”
11. God is able to redeem (bring something good) out of our struggles and sufferings. We don’t have to figure out how God will bring good, we just have to stay on the journey with Him and trust that He is working. The Bible is very realistic about the reality of pain. Many men and women in Scripture did not understand the reason behind their suffering, but they trusted that God was orchestrating every event of their lives into His good and perfect plan. Jesus Himself endured abandonment, rejection, injustice, even execution. But His purposes always prevailed; on the cross, He turned evil back on itself; and His resurrection proves that He has overcome the power of sin and death. This is the anchor of our hope: God bends suffering to His glory and our benefit. One glorious Day, He will redeem everything and wipe every tear from our eyes. When circumstances tempt you to believe otherwise, God is still in control, holding you in the palm of His hand (Psalm 139:10). He will show His goodness, wisdom and faithfulness when you hold on and wait for Him.
1 Peter 1: 6 – 7 – “There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”
Lamentations 3: 19 – 24 – “The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”
12. God’s plan means that you don’t have to be alone. He has created each one of us for relationships, and you have a place of belonging in His body, the church. Psalm 68 promises a family for the lonely – a place of security and significance – and if not with relatives, then with people who are accepting, loyal, and caring. In Acts 2, we find that God intends for us to live in community where we walk alongside one another. If you feel overwhelmed with your emotions, ask God to provide you with a trusted adult. Don’t hide behind a pretense of having it all together. Bring your struggles into the light of a safe place and utilize the resources that God gives for your safety and well-being.
1 John 1: 6 – 7 – “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
13. God is still writing your story. God is the giver of life. He gives, and He takes away (Deuteronomy 32: 39 and Job 1:21). We are not our own; therefore God calls each one of us to surrender to His authority as the Author of our individual stories (see 1 Corinthians 6:19 – 20).
“Your story isn’t an autobiography. Your story is a biography of wisdom and grace written by another. Every turn He writes into your story is right. Every twist of the plot is for the best. Every new character or unexpected event is a tool of His grace. Each new chapter advances His purpose.” Paul David Tripp
“By God’s grace, I am learning that in these in-between chapters, character development takes place. He’s teaching me trust, patience, and how to wait on him through the unknown. Just like with fictional characters, unexpected twists and turns and trials come into our lives, many of them being entirely out of our control. But the author always knows how the story is going to end before the characters do.
When I fix my eyes back on Jesus, I recall that He is the author and finisher of my faith (Hebrews 12:2), and will lead me to a beautiful destination — a destination that will bring Him glory. I have no need to anxiously distrust Him and fear what is written in my chapters ahead. I can rely on His faithfulness as a Shepherd to guide me to the end. I can depend on Him, because I know that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). – Kariana Reyes
Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in. – C.S. Lewis
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. – Isaiah 40: 28 – 31
Find more encouraging posts today on Holley Gerth’s “coffee for your heart” link-up.