“What the hell happened?”

A lovely girl of sixteen tries to kill herself, and a promising student blows his university education because of mind-crippling drugs. No wonder their parents ask, “What the hell happened?”

And it’s phrased that way because it’s so unexplainable. What on earth was going through these young people’s minds that made them ruin their lives? It makes no sense at all. And it makes even less sense if they’ve been loved and grown up in good homes. You mean love isn’t enough?

So where does that leave a parent now, if loving a child is no guarantee a child will turn out right? What went wrong? What was lacking? What did the parents miss? Surely love conquers all, doesn’t it? That’s why parents do their level best to love their children, have fun together, create fond memories, and be there for them whenever needs arise.

It must come as a huge shock, then, when their full-of-life twelve year old, who raised funds for needy families and helped out at the local food bank and enjoyed dozens of sleepovers and activities with friends, suddenly turns into a morose, angry teenager – and for no obvious reason.

So what ‘the hell’ did happen? Well, clearly there was a hole in these young people’s minds that wasn’t being filled by human love alone. The love of parents wasn’t enough, nor was the love of friends, teachers, grandparents, or mentors. Some young people even resist love, and turn on their parents, making life at home a nightmare. Just the slightest aggravation and the child explodes emotionally. Therapy and medication may help, but for many young people there is no medical or counselling aid that can ease the anger they feel.

But why do they feel such anger? Because there’s a hole that hasn’t been filled yet by the Holy Spirit. Instead it’s being filled by another spirit “who is now at work in those who are disobedient (or have no interest in what God wants for them),” Ephesians 2:2. And that spirit has a horrible armoury of junk to fill young people’s minds with, like “frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness, paranoid loneliness, cutthroat competition, all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants, a brutal temper, an impotence to love and be loved, and the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival, etc.,” Galatians 5:19-20.

No wonder so many young people are in a mess and they’re so angry; it’s because they can’t find a way out of it. But God can get them out, by replacing the junk in their heads with “things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity, etc.,” (verses 22-23). He’s there to help, because he’s the only one who can.

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