One question I ask many teens (and adults) who come to see me for counseling is:
"In your opinion, does life get easier or harder as you get older?"
Almost every single answer I've gotten so far is:
"It gets harder."
As adults we often forget how difficult it was to be an adolescent. Personal identity is not yet formed and pressure from parents, teachers, friends and the media lambast teens with messages of how they should act and who they should be, and obviously not all messages are positive.
It should be no surprise that in all this confusion, many teenagers become depressed or turn to various forms of addiction to find relief. Most chronic adult addicts can pinpoint a time when their addiction took hold, and more often than not, it was when they were in their teens. Adolescence is hard enough, but believing that it only gets worse can cripple one's ability to mature as they grow older.
There are numerous studies that postulate what age in life is the happiest or most fulfilling. It's my hunch that it depends on each person and how they decide to deal with life's demands. Those who are willing to own up to minor setbacks and cope with major traumatic events are those who develop the strength to deal with whatever life throws at them in the future.
But our human nature is to avoid hard things, to go around them rather than through them. Just because something is easy doesn't mean it's better. Even Christians can fall for the idea that God should simply fix everything, when in reality, there may be something we need to learn and grow from. The Apostle James speaks to this when he encourages his fellow believers by stating:
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-3)
Embracing hard things is the only way to grow stronger. This is why so many people remain locked in self-defeating habits and attitudes. One must shun the shallow comfort of self-pity and delve deeper into the pain itself in order to grow. This is where maturity forms and character blossoms. It also requires a deeper, authentic relationship with God and close, trusted friends to rely on.
So does life get easier or harder?
It may get harder, but it's meant to get better.
Directly dealing with grief makes it more bearable when it happens again. Maturity means having deeper emotional wells to turn to—experience, wisdom, and deeper relationships. Ironically, embracing misfortune leads to a richer, more fulfilling life. It is through adversity we can find pure joy.
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