What is 13? Thirteen is a special age! This is the age at which we really begin to mature. It is the threshold of adulthood. We have become something we’ve been waiting for: teenagers! No, the physical, psychological, and emotional upheaval does not suddenly occur on our 13th birthday. Some individuals are far more mature than others at this age, but God gradually prepares us for these responsibilities. Yes, they are responsibilities! That’s what you want, don’t you? For years you “strained at the leash.”

“Mom, don’t you trust me?”

“Dad, why can’t I do it myself?”

Independence; that’s what we want!

Of course, this is just the beginning. You’ll need guidance. There will be trials and errors. When we turn 16, Dad doesn’t just hand us the car keys and say, “Okay, you’re old enough to drive now. Get going.” Or if you could afford a plane, “All right, hop in and fly it.” We need instruction. We must hone our decision-making skills. We must get the “feel” of the car or plane while accompanied by the driving instructor or pilot. We need hours of practice under their watchful eyes.

So it is with grown-up living. We can’t suddenly make all the right decisions. But the Lord provides us with counselors: parents, grandparents, teachers, pastors. Actually our entire lives up to this time have been preparing us for adulthood. You have been watching parents, teachers, and other role models as they accomplish various tasks. At your request, “May I try it?”, you’ve been entrusted at first to help and then to handle certain situations alone. Now we want our complete independence. Or don’t we?

Our minds are filled with questions and uncertainties. On the one hand, we are self-centered and want to be self-sufficient. On the other hand, we are filled with self-doubt. Our childhood, which we’d like to leave behind, still clings to us. There are many “Whys.” Why so fat, so thin, so ugly, so shy, no friends, not understood, so stupid. Why does a loving God let such cruel things happen around us? Earthquakes, tornadoes, air disasters, floods, terminal illnesses (even in children). Why was I even born?

Who art thou, O man, to question God? Imagine if you can, that you had power in and of yourself, apart from God. Then imagine that you created a person. You created his surroundings and everything connected with him. Now, does this person who is total dependent on you for everything, even for continuing to breathe, have the right to tell you that you made things all wrong? Does he dictate the rules for his own life or do you, his creator?

And this is but a poor illustration. You know yourself to be a sinner and your power is not used properly. Our God, the Almighty Creator of the heavens and the earth, is absolutely righteous and holy. His doings cannot be understood by us, His mere creatures. So we murmur and complain!

Do you remember how the Israelites complained as God, by the hand of Moses and Joshua, led them through the wilderness? Isn’t that a pretty good picture of us as we are led throughout our lifetimes? We are certainly as dissatisfied as the Israelites were. And yet, God was faithful. Time and again He rescued them from the disasters into which their sins led them. And time and again the Israelites repeated their sinful foolishness. Yes, there were times that many of them were destroyed. Think of Achan, of Korah, of those who perished by serpent bites. All were not Israel who were of Israel. God’s children, by His grace, repent and turn from their sinful ways. Those who do not repent never were His children, even though they outwardly belonged to Israel. God calls all of His children to repent and to flee from their sins. As soon as children understand the ideas of right and wrong, parents must tell them that for God’s sake they must do the right and repent of the wrong.

As young teenagers we do not wait for our parents to hover over us to make our decisions, but we show our budding maturity by choosing right and by showing sorrow for sins. We are reaching for adulthood, as Paul defines it in I Cor. 13:11. “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

The greatest enemy you face right now is peer pressure. Yes, the devil knows the weaknesses and uncertainties of the teenage years, and he uses his most effective weapon: peer pressure. Every time you come to a decision-making moment, a whisper comes to your ear: “Just try it once,” “Everybody’s doing it,” “Don’t be a wimp,” “The kids will make fun of you,” “No one will ever know,” “Don’t be square,” “Parents don’t understand,” “God wouldn’t be that unreasonable.” And so, gradually your resistance to evil can be shattered. After all, you do want to be with the “in” crowd, don’t you? But do you really?

Think about Noah. The “in” crowd was eating and drinking and making merry until it was too late, and the waters of the flood swallowed them. Noah dared to be different; he was saved! Jesus said (Matt. 10:32, 33): “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”

In fact, Jesus tells us that if there is some certain sin that constantly allures us, we should take drastic measures to get rid of it, even to the cutting off of a hand or plucking out of an eye. It is better to enter into heaven maimed than to remain whole and be cast into everlasting fire.

Our life on earth is likened to a battlefield. We are called to be soldiers of the cross; to fight the good fight of faith. When a country prepares for war, who are chosen for soldiers? The young people! The strength of a country is its youth. They certainly need the wisdom of seasoned warriors, but warriors are trained from their youth.

So also in the battle we wage against evil, we must be prepared while we are young. We will have a lifetime battle against the devil. However, we have one advantage that no earthly army has. We know that we shall win the victory. Our Captain has already obtained the victory for us!

So—thirteen-year-olds: there will be problems, but they are not insurmountable. There will also be much joy and satisfaction. You will grow physically, psychologically, emotionally, and, by God’s grace, spiritually. Exercise your new maturity by looking to your Heavenly Father for help in time of need. ❖