A Note from Mary Margaret West: Teenage girls’ emotions are no joke! I’m so thankful for Megan’s perspective. She’s a biblical counselor and has some really helpful insight for us today as we walk with the girls we love and lead.
The teenage years can be an intense season of figuring out how to navigate emotions. The teen girls in your life would benefit greatly from your guidance in learning to engage their feelings in a God-centered way. This includes being able to express, evaluate, and lead their emotions.
People generally tend toward one extreme: ignoring their feelings and stuffing them inside, or being overwhelmed and driven by their emotions. You can offer an alternative by creating a safe space for girls to communicate their feelings openly, whether that’s within your student ministry or small group, or in direct relationship with you. Give them a place where they feel loved and understood, not criticized or dismissed. But then point them to our ultimate refuge, God the Father, who knows us completely, hears our prayers, and responds to us with compassion and love. Show your girls what it looks like to pour out their hearts to Him. Scripture gives us a great pattern for this in the Psalms — bringing our raw emotions to God and then allowing Him to help us understand our hearts and shape them with His Word.
Most of the time we stop at expressing our emotions and don’t go any further. But emotions are usually an outward expression of something deeper, so we need to evaluate our feelings in order to get to the root. Encourage the teen girls in your life to journal or talk through why they are feeling so strongly about a given situation. Here are some questions that can help with this evaluation process:
What is important to you in this situation?
What are you valuing, pursuing, or desiring?
What are you afraid will happen?
What expectations have been crushed?
What motives are driving you?
What are you believing about God, yourself, and the other people involved?
How is God inviting you to trust Him and worship Him in this situation?
Emotions speak to us very loudly, and if all we do is listen to them, we will get swept away on a wild ride. Emotions often involve misdirected desires and inaccurate or incomplete thoughts and beliefs. As we grown in our walk with God, we can learn to lead our feelings with truth, reorient our heart toward God, and respond in ways that honor Him.
None of this comes naturally to any of us. Engaging with our emotions in this way must be learned and practiced. If teen girls can start cultivating this perspective and applying this skill now, it will serve them for the rest of their lives.
How People Change, by Timothy S. Lane & Paul David Tripp
The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life, by Jeremy Pierre
A Praying Life, by Paul E. Miller (The chapters on lament praying are especially helpful for learning to express emotions before God.)
J.D. Greear’s sermon series on emotions, “Smoke from a Fire”
Megan Burns is a biblical counselor in Virginia with experience counseling students and parents in the local church. She is married to Brian and enjoys writing about counseling, discipleship and missions on her blog, Remade Whole.