“Help! My teenager is uncontrollable”

Does this sound familiar?

I would like to share with you how one parent received relief. His name is Jim Cymbala, and he wrote about his experience in his book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire: What Happens When God’s Spirit Invades the Hearts of His People:

“Our oldest daughter, Chrissy, had been a model child growing up. But around age sixteen she started to stray,…not only from us but also away from God. In time, she even left our home. There were many nights when we had no idea where she was.

As the situation grew more serious, I tried everything. I begged, I pleaded, I scolded, I argued, I tried to control her with money,…nothing worked! She just hardened more and more.

While this was going on, (my wife) Carol needed an operation. (During the post-surgical depression that followed), the devil took the opportunity to come after her and say, ‘You have a big choir, and you’re making albums and doing outreaches at Radio City music Hall. Fine, you and your husband can go ahead to reach the world for Christ—but I’m going to have your children. I’ve already got the first one. I’m coming after the next two!’…One day (Carol) said to me, ‘Listen, we need to leave New York. I’m serious. This atmosphere has already swallowed up our daughter. We can’t keep raising our kids here!’

Then in November, …I received a call from a pastor friend I had persuaded Chrissy to talk to. He said, ‘Jim I love you and Carol, but Chrissy is going to do what Chrissy wants to do. She’s eightenn. She’s determined. You have to accept what she decides. You don’t have much choice!’

I hung up the phone. I couldn’t accept Chrissy being away from the Lord!

God strongly impressed me that I was to converse with no one but God. In fact, I should have no further contact with Chrissy—until God acted!

Christmas came and it was nearly impossible to keep my composure, trying to open presents with the other children and no Chrissy.

February came. One cold Tuesday night during prayer meeting, I talked from Acts 4 about how the church boldly calling on God in the face of persecution. We entered into a time of prayer, everyone reaching out to the Lord simultaneously.

An usher handed me a note. A young woman whom I felt to be spiritually sensitive had written: ‘Pastor Cymbala, I feel impressed that we should stop the meeting and all pray for your daughter.’

In a few minutes I picked up the microphone and told the congregation what had just happened. ‘The truth of the matter,’ I said, ‘although I haven’t talked much about it, is that my daughter is very far from God these days. She thinks up is down and down is up; dark is light and light is dark. But I know God can break through to her, and so I’m going to ask Pastor Boestaaf to lead us in prayer for Chrissy. Let’s all join hands across the sanctuary.’

To describe what happened in the next few minutes, I can only imply a metaphor: There church turned into a labor room…. There arose a groaning, a sense of desperate determination, as if to say, ‘Satan, you will NOT have this girl! Take your hands off!’

When I got home that night, I said (to Carol), ‘It’s over!’

‘What’s over?’ she wondered.

‘It’s over with Chrissy…I tell you, if there is a God in Heaven, this whole nightmare is finally over!’

Thirty-two hours later…as I was shaving, Carol burst through the door. ‘Go downstairs!’ she blurted. ‘Chrissy’s here! It’s you she wanted to see!’

I wiped off the shaving foam and headed down the stairs, my heart pounding. As I came around the corner, I saw my daughter on the kitchen floor, rocking on her hands and knees, sobbing. Cautiously I spoke her name.


She grabbed my pantleg and began pouring out her anguish. ‘Daddy—Daddy—I’ve sinned against God. I’ve sinned against myself. I’ve sinned against you and Mommy. Please forgive me—‘

Then suddenly she drew back. ‘Daddy,’ she said with a start, ‘who was praying for me? Who was praying for me?’ Her voice was like that of a cross-examining attorney.

‘What do you mean, Chrissy?’

‘On Tuesday night, Daddy—who was praying for me? In the middle of the night, God woke me up and showed me I was heading toward this abyss. There was no bottom to it—it scared me to death. I was so frightened. I realized how hard I’ve been, how wrong, how rebellious. But at the same time, it was like God wrapped His arms around me and held me tight. He kept me from sliding any farther as He said, I still love you! Who was praying for me Tuesday night?”

I looked into her bloodshot eyes, and once again I recognized the daughter we had raised.

Chrissy’s return to the Lord became evident immediately. By that fall, God had opened a miraculous door for her to enrol at a Bible college, where she not only undertook studies but soon began directing music groups and a large choir, just like her mother. Today she is a pastor’s wife in the Midwest with three wonderful children. Through all this, Carol and I learned as never before that persistent calling upon the Lord breaks through every stronghold of the devil, for nothing is impossible with God.

For Christians in these troubled times, there is simply no other way.

Only fervent prayer — and nothing else — can help your teenager.

If you need support in praying for your teenager, I’d love to help you, so please do not hesitate to reach out to me by clicking the ‘Leave a comment’ link beneath the title, and write “Please contact me” in the ‘Leave a Reply’ box that appears next. God bless you!