“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who did not travail with child! For the [spiritual] children of the desolate one will be more than the children of the married wife, says the Lord.” (Isaiah 54:1, AMP)
The first time I read this, I felt like the air was knocked out of me. Was God telling me I would never have children? Or at least not physical ones?
“Barren” and “desolate” were certainly how I would have described my singleness. I had no prospect of a husband and no hope for children. But God was showing me it wasn’t the circumstances of my life but my heart He was changing through this verse.
We live in a time where broken homes are the norm and many churches have dismal youth ministries. Teens are struggling and exposed to things no other generation has been exposed to all at once—bullying, questioning their sexuality, pre-marital sex beginning in junior high school, teen pregnancies, and suicide, to name a few.
Once believed a constant source of safety, many teens come to Christ with deep wounds from mothers and fathers who have left them even before they were born. Not only are they looking for acceptance, they’re also looking to see if those who are going to lead them will be committed to them.
Four or five years ago, I never thought I’d be working in a youth ministry. After a break up, I spontaneously went to Canada for a conference and it was there God gave me a vision.
The vision was of the teens at a church I been attending at that time. I saw their faces and had an impression on my heart to mentor them. Doubt immediately stepped in and I thought, “God, You want me to work with teens?” I am introverted by nature and my immediate answer when asked to do anything outside of my comfort zone is always an emphatic, “No!”
I’ve worked with children as a Sunday school teacher and hearing impaired adults, but teens? I thought they would be the most challenging group to work with, and for that reason had to be avoided at all costs.
Once I returned to New York, I promptly forgot about the vision and went on with other ministry, until 2 years ago when a need arose for a youth leader. Like Isaiah, I said, “Here I am.” Then He reminded me of what I had seen and challenged me by asking if my fear was going to be bigger than my faith?
Many times, I have been overwhelmed with their needs and felt highly under qualified to meet them. It’s been in those times when I’ve had to press in closer to God and continue on by faith. Repeatedly, I am reminded of Isaiah 54:1 and this is what God has ministered to me:
1. The need for spiritual mothers and fathers. I never thought I would have anything to give to a child let alone a teenager, but God has used my failings and weaknesses to help other girls around me. Teens are bombarded in countless ways to be lovers of this world and haters of God. They need spiritually mature adults to be “living epistles” and bright lights shining during these dark times.
2. The joy of being a spiritual parent. I stepped out in faith when God urged to me to follow Him into youth ministry, and He has stretched me like never before. Every teen girl that has come under my care has worked her way into my heart. It doesn’t matter if she’s outgoing or introverted, faithful or fledgling, God has given me just a taste of the love He has for them.
3. The rewards of spiritual parenthood. I may not have biological children, but I do know I’m leaving an inheritance to the ones I’ve poured my time and energy into. They will go on and have their own children, biological and spiritual, and they will always be my legacy to this world. Proverbs 13:22 (AMP) promises “A good man leaves an inheritance (of moral stability and goodness) to his children’s children…”
4. The promise of a Husband. It’s a blessing to be able to give what I have received—the grace and faithfulness from the One who in Isaiah 54:5 calls Himself “Husband.” Through it all, I found out I am not alone even in my singleness and where God calls, He has supplied for my every need.
There are times when I wonder if marriage is in God’s plan for me, if my parents will get to cradle grandchildren in their arms. Then there are other times—awe-inspiring, thanks-giving, heart-bursting moments—when I am so filled by the life He has given me.
I don’t consider this “practice” for when my biological children come. These youth have completely captured my affections and given me the sweetest joy. God knows that my heart’s cry is to be a mom and He has heard my cries; He has answered me.
I’m here, Lord, and I’m singing!
Do you mentor youth? How has God ministered to you through them?
Photo credit: uhhhlaine