Is Netflix the Only One Offering Teen Girls Hope?

Teenagers need hope.

I pray Netflix isn’t the only one noticing. Recently, I’ve noted a firestorm of flicks aimed directly for the hearts of teens. In each storyline, the nerdy, friendless, or unattractive-by-worldly-standards girl overcomes the odds and attracts the admiration and affections of everyone—including popular friends and the dreamy, unattainable boy. For two hours, Netflix offers hope through suspended reality.

“An adolescent’s world can be bleak,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, an official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a recent study, the CDC found forty-one percent of teen girls experienced periods of persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness that prevented them from taking part in usual activities in the past year. An article on The Guardian notes, “The ubiquity of the internet and social media, with its . . . body shaming and cyberbullying, is encroaching on [teens’] wellbeing, while a relentless focus on academic high-achieving is turning up the pressure in the classroom. Youth, traditionally thought of as the most enviable time of life, can now look like a deeply challenging and sometimes unpleasant time of life.”

Today’s teenagers need a way out of hopelessness that doesn’t involve binging on Netflix or avoiding real life. They need real hope.

The Church’s Unique Answer to Hopelessness

As a teen, I personally experienced crippling hopelessness. I didn’t need Netflix fantasies to exploit and entertain my false hopes; I needed the Body of Christ to help me put those false hopes to death and then to point me to Jesus as my only source of hope. When God rescued and redeemed my life from my angsty teen years, the payoff was exponentially greater than the ending of any cheesy teen movie.

When God’s people are saved by grace through faith in Christ, they intrinsically become people of hope and overflowing joy. Because I know Christ, I have meaningful answers for those in need of hope and healing—including suffering teenagers.

As mothers, grandmothers, sisters, Sunday school teachers, pastors' wives, mentors, and women who love the gospel, we have an obligation to bear with the young women in our lives, offering them the real hope we’ve found in Christ.

Four Strategies for Offering Teen Girls Hope

1. Address her need; it’s spiritual.

Don’t assume every teenager in the church knows or believes the gospel. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). All need salvation that comes by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Whether it’s the first time or the fiftieth time, proclaim Christ crucified for her sins. No teen is too young, too apathetic, or even too churched to not need the repeated message of good news. The gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes . . . for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith” (Rom. 1:16–17).

2. Address her source of help; it’s accessible.

Don’t assume teenagers know how to turn to Scripture. She may not know where to start. Help her navigate God’s Word so she can drink from the source of living hope. The psalmist was well acquainted with feelings of hopelessness and the source of help. In Psalm 119:25 the psalmist pleads, “My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!” Instead of turning to his own strength or the comfort of others, he turns to the promises of God: “This is my comfort in affliction, that your promise gives me life” (Ps. 119:50). Help teens by identifying and explaining God’s promises in Scripture. Study Scripture together. Underline verses of hope and highlight promises in a Bible as a gift.

3. Address her endurance; it’s necessary.

Don’t assume teenagers understand suffering as part of life. Help teens to see that suffering produces endurance and endurance gives way to hope (Rom. 5:4) that lasts for their lifetime and into eternity. As your teen struggles, remind her of Romans 15:4, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Trials and pain are her invitation to hope in Christ—both for salvation and for His ongoing sustaining throughout life. Pray her hopelessness will be the training ground God uses to develop, strengthen, and mature her faith.

4. Address her pain; it’s real.

Don’t assume that because teenage hopelessness is common that it isn’t concerning. While a teen’s troubles may not be adult-size (money, mortgages, or marriage), neither are her coping skills and experience in turning to God’s Word in trials. Comfort teenagers in their affliction with the same comfort you’ve received from God, sharing Christ’s abundant comfort (2 Cor. 1:4–5). If the teenager’s hopelessness seems severe, physical problems may need to be addressed with physical answers by seeking professional help.*

Today’s teens need more hope than Netflix can offer. They need the loving investment of mature Christians within the Church. Be prepared to pour into the teenagers in your own family, your Sunday school class, your youth group, or your daughter’s school classroom. Let a teen girl in your life know you’re fighting for her hope to be found in Christ alone. To this end, toil and strive as those who have your hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe (1 Tim. 4:10).

*Discipleship and pastoral care are not a substitute for medical evaluation. In some cases, ongoing, extended feelings of hopelessness can be signs of depression and warrant intervention by a medical professional. If you are unsure, please consult a doctor. If you or someone you know may be in crisis or thinking of suicide, get help quickly:

  • Call your doctor.
  • Call 911 for emergency services or go to the nearest emergency room.
  • Call the toll-free 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273–8255 or 1–800–799–4889.

Check out Lindsey’s brand new book for teens, Growing in Godliness: A Teen Girl’s Guide to Maturing in Christ. And . . . we’re giving away a copy! Answer this question in the comments below, and enter the giveaway for a chance to win! Question: Have you seen the teens around you struggling with hopelessness? How?

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About the Author

Lindsey Carlson

Lindsey Carlson

Lindsey Carlson is a pastor's wife and the mother of five children. She serves in ministry alongside her husband in Baltimore, Maryland, where they planted Imprint Community Church in 2017. She enjoys teaching and discipling women in her local church and through writing and public speaking. She is the author of Growing in Godliness: A Teen Girl's Guide to Maturing in Christ (Crossway, 2019). 

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