Letter to a 17-Year-Old

by: 

Kathryn E. Darden
Mar 31, 2010

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I just sent a message to a 17-year-old on MySpace who had expressed how he was struggling with his faith and making some decisions he knew were mistakes. If there are any 17-year-olds reading this page, I hope the things I shared with him may encourage you, too.

You know that at 17, the things you are describing are very normal. It is easy to let anger, resentment, frustration, hormones, and friends make you do things you regret later. Probably all your friends are going through most of the same feelings you are going through, although some will never admit it (because they may think it isn't "cool" to admit it).

First, even if you don't have faith in God, He always has faith in you. He never gives up on you.

Second, the chances are very good that your parents really love you, too, in spite of any stupid decisions you have made. They might be disappointed now and then, but they probably love you just the same. Don't let your embarrassment and pride make you aloof after you make a mistake. Learn to say "I'm sorry" and MEAN it. Also, the chances are very good that THEY made some stupid mistakes at 17 and understand more than you think they do.

Third, true friends don't ask you to do things that are wrong, dangerous, or that will cause you regret. If your friends are getting you in trouble, MAKE NEW FRIENDS.

Fourth, give yourself a break. You are 17 - not an adult yet. You have probably heard this until you want to croak, but your body IS going through changes, and the amount of hormones you are pumping now have your body on drugs of your body's own making. It makes you hyper-sensitive, moody, and full of contradictory feelings. You want to be an adult, but you still want to be a kid. Your likes and dislikes are changing. We won't even get into girls. Don't make it worse by putting artificial drugs and alcohol into your system - your own hormones are a pretty potent cocktail right now, and anything else added into the mix just makes things worse.

Fifth, this will sound hokey, but try going for a long walk when you feel frustrated or angry. Get away from the game screen and get some exercise -- that actually pumps the good chemicals like endorphins into your system and helps counteract the others chemicals you are producing. Taking several deep breaths - 3 to 5 - also releases endorphins, which do calm your system and make you feel better.

Sixth, this will sound even hokier, but count your blessings. Thinking about the things you do have, the things you are doing right, the things that are going right in your life, will help put you in a better frame of mind. Focusing on the negative just makes you depressed.

Adults also feel lonely, sad, frustrated, resentful, and we also question our faith from time to time, but we don't have the hormones and changes to contend with that you have. I guess what I'm saying it it gets easier as you grow older if you don't complicate things with drugs, alcohol and really bad decisions that will haunt your future. However, even very bad decisions can be overcome and forgiven.

This is a fallen world. We never reach perfection here, so there is always something that will give you grief and frustration, but the way you learn to handle that is what will determine if your future is bright or grim. God never fails. You may not see Him. You may not feel Him. Shoot, you may not even trust Him all the time, but the more you remind yourself that God holds your future in His hands and He loves you, and He has a plan for you, the more you will believe it, and the more peace you will feel even when things seem to be going badly.

Good luck and God bless you.

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