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by Jacob Ninan
We are young only once. After that we become old, first middle aged and then really old! Youth is the peak time of human strength, abilities, ideas and dreams. Young people are no longer kids who have to hold their parents' hands. Passing through the teenage years they have developed their own thinking process, ideas, values, goals and ambitions. Self confidence is at its peak marked by unquestioning optimism. Nothing can go wrong, or can it?
Young people who have been cherished and nourished from childhood by parents who loved them no matter what, accepted and valued them as they were, taught them the right values and rules of individual and social life and helped them to find their own way in life are generally on the right track. But just look around. How many are 'lucky' enough to have had that kind of parents and upbringing? Less and less as time goes by. So as a result the number of young people who are unsteady, confused, perplexed, without any clear goal in life, etc., is increasing very rapidly. But young people, if you sit around blaming your parents for what they have done or not done to you, you are not going to get to any better life, are you? You need to sit up, think about it, and take up responsibility for your own life, don't you, if you want to succeed in life?
I remember reading about a man who came from a dysfunctional family (one where the father and mother were not doing the things they ought to) who came to this conclusion. He realised that he couldn't expect his parents to help him to go forward in life. So he started working to support himself in his studies, got himself a good education, started working in a company and worked his way up to become the CEO of a large firm. Later on he obeyed a call from God to take up the responsibility of running a major Christian aid organisation. There are many such examples, aren't there? Whether it is in a secular set up or Christian ministry, 'success' usually comes to those who work harder than the others!
What young people lack
What many young people have are intelligence, knowledge, skills, enthusiasm, strength, optimism, zeal, etc. What is it they lack? Experience! Older people may not be as clever as you are. You may know many things they don't. You can do many things they can't. But they have more experience in life! They know, from their own experience of success and failure and watching so many other people, what will work and what will not. When they tell you that the way you are taking is not going to take you to the place you want to reach, they know. You may not be able to accept their words because you are sure it will be different for you. But remember, these old people have been through quite a lot of ups and downs in life and painfully learned some truths. Do you want to go through the same pain later on in life? If you don't want to make the mistakes they are warning you about, listen to their advice!
Another thing many young people suffer from is a lack of foresight. It is admittedly difficult to see the need for planning ahead when one doesn't have much experience of failure. So many young people imagine that things will turn out well sort of automatically. Even if they miss classes or study only the night before the exams they would get through! Even if they eat too much, they will never become obese. Even if they smoke a pack a day, their lungs would be just fine. Etc. In other words, enjoy the moment, don't worry about the future, things will be OK! But wise people will think ahead.
Something that doesn't work
A great scientist once gave an illustration to teach a great truth. If we go to a chemistry lab, take two particular chemicals and mix them up in a vessel, a certain chemical reaction will take place. That reaction can be accurately predicted depending on the chemicals we mix. We can write a chemical equation such as A + B = C + D, which will be true every single time. Now the truth the scientist wanted to illustrate was this. If we do certain things in a certain way in life, we will get a certain result. If we don't like that result, we have to change something we do! If we keep doing the same things and expect different results next time, aren't we being really stupid? But many times we are stupid, aren't we? Don't we like to think that even if something happened to us once, the next time it would be different somehow? No, we get the same results! Aren't we, so to speak, buying lottery tickets or gambling, hoping that next time our luck will turn? It doesn't work that way. If we get a bad outcome, don't we need to look back at what and how we were doing things, and change them?
Many young people who have grown up without proper parenting set their heart on wrong goals for life. Many young people seem to think that the only thing they need to do is to 'enjoy.' There is nothing wrong in enjoying life or having fun! What goes wrong is if we make that as the goal of life, or if we don't keep limits on how we enjoy.
Let's look at the common potato chips! Chips are so delicious, and addictive. You can't eat, as they say, only one. Each chip compels you to have one more. We feel so good, because chips give us a 'starch high,' when the carbohydrate in chips raises the blood glucose level rapidly. But actually chips carb is bad carb because with its glycaemic index of 95 the glucose level rise in the blood is virtually more than for any other food. On top of that, chips are covered with fat! Too much of this stuff will 'kill' us, but it is not easy to stop it, is it? So people eat and eat, and end up with all kinds of problems later on from which they suffer for the rest of their life. The thing that gave us so much pleasure has turned out to give us so much suffering! When we don't keep pleasure within limits. What about soft aerated drinks with their high levels of fructose (a dangerous form of sugar) and acid? If these soft options are so dangerous, we don't even need to mention alcohol, drugs, etc.
What about the pleasure of relationships? We human beings are social beings, and relationships are necessary in life. Friendships offer some of the best supports for our life. Yet we know that relationships without discipline can ruin us. Boys and girls who flirt around may imagine that they are enjoying life to the maximum. But do they realise that careless intimacy and wrong relationships can cause terrible damage to the personality? If marriage is the most intimate and satisfying relationship between a man and a woman, casual relationships, live in arrangements and same sex intimacies will cause many complications and suffering that are not obvious in the beginning.
Thrills are great, when they are kept within limits. The adrenaline rush that we get by driving fast, doing wheelies on a bike, jumping off with a bungee rope, and things like that are also fine, aren't they, provided they are not what we live for, and we don't go beyond safety or legal limits. But the danger is that once we get hooked to it, it is difficult to keep within limits. "Nothing will happen," is the young person's standard response to warnings, which shows lack of experience about the number of things that can go wrong!
Another common goal many young people set for themselves is to get rich. They have figured out that money makes things work in this world, and assume that if only they can have more of it, they will be able to handle all other problems. What usually happens then is that in their pursuit of money they neglect or overlook other things that are also important in life, such as character, relationships with God and men, etc. There are snares in the way of going after money, and "I know how to handle them" may not go a long way there.
A quick self check can save many young people from a painful future. One has to sit down and examine oneself honestly to see:
1. The way I am going, where will I be one year from now?
2. Is that where I want to be?
3. If I want to be somewhere else by the end of the year, what changes should I make now?
It may not be always easy to make this type of self-assessment because one has to be really cold-headed about it. It is not possible to look at oneself objectively if one is not willing to face unpleasant truths about oneself. For example, it may be difficult for a student to admit that the way he has been studying he is not likely to pass the exams, because he may want to think that it will all work out well in the end. But once it dawns on him that the way he is going now he is unlikely to reach his goal of passing the exams, he will realise that he has to make some changes to his priorities, activities, etc. That is also when he realises that he would like to have someone to help him.
A wise young person will also check it out--the way he/she is planning--with others to know if they have thought of every possible angle. The consultants will not be irresponsible friends who are just pressurising them to go along with them, but those whom they can trust as being knowledgeable, experienced and objective.
After this, one can also think about five years from now, and then ten years from now.
A Christian young person has the advantage of knowing that God is with him, to whom he can pray, whose advice is reliable, who can see the future before he can come to it. In this way he can avoid a lot of unnecessary complications and pain, and have a satisfying and enjoyable life on earth (and afterwards).
A young person's life has many challenges these days, from peer pressure, the temptations around, lack of sufficient parental attention, lack of good role models, distorted values from the media, etc. It is difficult to be able to stand (survive) without a direct relationship with God. But the answer is right there. God wants to help you out and is reaching out to you through Jesus Christ. Seek Him with all your heart.
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