Learning how to get closer to God is a lifelong journey. For teenagers, growing closer to God depends on their personality, interests, and relationship with God.
Learning how to get closer to God is a lifelong journey. For teenagers, growing closer to God depends on their personality, interests, and relationship with God. Put simply, teens feel close to God in different ways, most especially through their love languages.
For example, those who have physical touch as their love language might naturally raise their hands while singing worship songs. And they will say, “I felt God’s presence.”
Quality-time teens will not likely have that experience. They will most likely feel God’s love as they have their daily devotions and quiet time with God. They might feel closest to God and loved by Him when they read the Bible and talk with God about what they have read.
Words-of-affirmation teens might thrive when they read affirming words in Scripture or hear them in a sermon or from another person. Those whose love language is receiving gifts will feel loved by God when they realize all that God has given them.
Teens get closer to God through their specific love languages—those unique and fundamental ways they experience love.
Why Your Teen’s Love Languages Matter
Each teen has a primary love language—one that will speak more deeply to him or her emotionally, be it words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts, quality time or physical touch. We can certainly see God’s love in any of the five love languages since He speaks each language fluently.
So how do we help our teens experience God’s love through their primary love language?
Love Languages for Teens
First, we must discover and understand our teens’ primary love language. With that knowledge, we can better guide them into experiencing God’s love.
To discover your teen’s love language, answer the following questions:
- How does your teen most often respond to you and others? If he or she is often touching you, it’s likely because your child wants to be touched.
- What does your teen complain about most often? If a son says to his mom, “I can’t ever please Dad,” his love language is likely words of affirmation.
- What does your teen request most often? If your daughter is regularly asking you to take a walk with her, it’s probably because her love language is quality time.
Using the Bible to Bring Your Teen Closer to God
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, when He was returning to the Father, He said: “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me” (John 15:26).
So, the Holy Spirit is active in the world today, revealing God’s love to us. One of His tools is the Bible, the Word of God, which gives us a record of what Jesus taught and did: “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26).
We cooperate with the Holy Spirit in exposing our children to the things Jesus said and did while He was on earth. When teens reflect on the life of Jesus, the Holy Spirit opens their heart to all the ways that God loves them.
So, tell your teens that God loves us in all five languages, but we feel His love most deeply in our own love language. Then encourage them to read the four Gospel accounts of the life of Christ: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. As they read, have them look for ways that Jesus expressed love.
After reading each chapter, have them answer four questions in writing:
- What did I learn about Jesus?
- Did He express love for people?
- If He did, which love language did He demonstrate?
- How might being shown love in this way make you feel?
Then ask: “Can you think of an example of how God loves you in the same way?” If your teen doesn’t immediately have an answer, offer an example from your life.
How to Get Closer to God
Because we have different love languages, our experience of God’s love may be different from that of other Christians. Teenagers, like adults, may sometimes wonder why they don’t experience God in the same way as other Christians.
Encourage your teen to discover how he or she best receives God’s love. Perhaps it’s through volunteering at a soup kitchen or an animal shelter, sponsoring a disadvantaged child, taking nature walks or any number of different ways God has created for us to experience Him and His love more fully.
But most importantly, as parents we can instill within our children the realization that they don’t have to experience God’s love the same way others do. If they don’t feel God’s love as you or their siblings or kids in their youth group do, that’s OK. God created your teen to love Him in a way that is unique to your teen. And that’s a good thing.
Parenting Generation Screen
The Five Love Languages in the Bible
God doesn’t just show His love in the Gospels; He displays His love for us throughout all of Scripture—the Old and New Testaments. Have your teen look up scriptures that demonstrate the ways God speaks your teen’s primary love language. Here are some to get you started.
Words of Affirmation
If your teen’s primary love language is words of affirmation, have him or her look up the following verses so they learn how to get closer to God:
- Genesis 1:27-28
- God blessed Adam and Eve. The word blessed means to verbally affirm. God affirmed their worth and their dominion over creation.
- Isaiah 41:10
- God wants to comfort, encourage, and strengthen people.
- Jeremiah 29:11-14
- God has plans for His people. Plans to prosper and not harm, to give hope and a future.
- Jeremiah 31:3,13
- God tells us how loving and kind He is and how He longs to comfort us. What could be more affirming than these words? You can extend this list as you read the scriptures and look for affirming words from God. These words will speak deeply to them.
To show His love, God gives good gifts. Here are some examples of how to get closer to God by recognizing His gifts:
- Genesis 1:29
- God’s first gifts were to Adam and Eve when He placed them in the garden and gave them an abundant source of food.
- John 3:16
- God gave the best gift He could give—His Son.
- 2 Timothy 1:7
- Instead of fear, God gave us the gift of power, love and self-discipline.
- James 1:12
- God gives us a crown of life. From the first chapter in the Bible to the last, God gives because God loves.
Acts of Service
God expresses His love by offering acts of service to His people. To learn how to get closer to God, have your teen consider these passages:
- Exodus 14
- After God delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage, Pharaoh’s army gave chase as the Israelites made their escape. God showed up and acted.
- Matthew 20:28
- Jesus said that He came to serve and to offer His life as a ransom for us.
- Romans 5:8
- Jesus showed His love by dying for us while we were still rebellious toward Him.
- Romans 8:28
- God is continually working on our behalf for our good, no matter what happens to us.
For those who delight in receiving quality time, God has all the time in the world for them. Have your teen consider these verses to continue growing closer to God:
- Psalm 145:18
- The Lord is near to everyone who calls on Him in truth.
- Isaiah 43:1-2
- God calls us His, and when we face trouble, He is with us.
- John 14:23
- Jesus promised that God comes to live with us when we choose to love Jesus.
- John 14:25-26
- The Holy Spirit, whom the Father sent in Jesus’ name, will remain with us and teach us all things.
Jesus never hesitated to touch those who needed Him. He is the same today. To get closer to God, your teen can reflect on these passages:
- Matthew 8:2-3
- Jesus touched a man with leprosy, willing to touch even the untouchables of His day.
- Mark 10:13, 16
- Parents took their children to Jesus to have Him touch them. And He took the children in His arms and blessed them.
- John 9:6
- When Jesus encountered a blind man along the side of the road, He made some mud with His saliva and placed the mud on the man’s eyes. When the man went and washed, he was able to see.
How to Get Closer to God
Today, those whose primary love language is physical touch will often experience God’s love through a spiritual touch that stimulates emotions, bringing tears or chill bumps. They will sometimes say, God touched me. For them, this is when they most deeply feel loved by God. These teens often raise their hands when singing worship songs.
As we encourage our teens to look up these Bible passages, as well as others, we’re giving them the tools they need to seek and find God’s love the way they most deeply experience it.
© 2021 Dr. Gary Chapman. Used by permission. All rights reserved. This article first appeared in the October/November 2021 issue of Focus on the Family magazine as “How Does Your Teen Feel Close to God?”
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.