Helping Teenagers Make “Lemonade” out of Life’s “Lemons”

My life is but a weaving, between my God and me,

I do not choose the colors, He worketh steadily,

Oftimes He weaveth sorrow, and I in foolish pride,

Forget He sees the upper, and I the underside.

Not till the loom is silent, and shuttles cease to fly,

Will God unroll the canvas and explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful in the skillful Weaver's hand,

As the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned.

This anonymous poem so beautifully illustrates one of the greatest things we can ever teach our teenagers: the ability to find the “hidden treasure” buried within each difficult experience. The Scriptures assure us that trials and difficult times are unavoidable. Although we may work overtime trying to protect our teenagers from pain, we'll never be able to isolate them totally from being hurt by their own or by others' actions. Therefore, we need to teach them how to make lemonade out of life’s lemons. In other words, learning to take any negative experience and actively reverse the damage by turning it into something that we benefit from. Like freshly squeezed, sweet lemonade.

When trials crash into our lives, we are instructed to rejoice, knowing that trials bring about many wonderful things (See Romans 5:3-5). However, don't jump into “treasure hunting” too fast. When we do not grieve first, it's like looking for buried treasure without a map. We can’t go out into our front yard and dig hole after hole unless we have some idea where to start. Grieving provides us with the necessary time to prepare for finding the treasure.


The process of finding the buried treasures within our pain begins by answering three important questions.

  1. What Do You Like About Yourself? This first question is not a narcissistic indulgence, but a healthy exercise in personal value. The goal is for a teen to acquire an accurate view of his positive qualities. Fox example, what are his strengths? What types of activities is he good at? What does he bring to relationships? If he can't think of several strengths, encourage him to ask a coach, youth pastor, parent, or a friend.
  2. What are the Most Painful Trials You've Been Through? Here, the teen lists the main trials that have happened in his life that have caused him pain…especially the ones that have lowered his self-esteem or where he felt shame or guilt. If it is too painful to list them all, then focus in on two or three and deal with the others another time.
  3. What are all The Benefits You Can Think Of For Each Trial? Have the teen list the positive aspects of each of these painful encounters in his life. For example, crisis situations tend to make us more loving, sensitive, compassionate, thoughtful, gentle, careful, kind, and patient. Usually, the things a person likes about him or herself (question one) develops as a direct result of trials. Besides a teen’s own answers, it would be valuable for her to ask the same question of loved ones. They can often add a perspective to her suffering that she may have overlooked.

As parents, help your teenagers to search for the treasures buried within each trial. As they are able to do this, it can turn negative experiences into positive ones. However, treasure hunting is not something they do for just a short time, it's something they can continue until they feel the results of God’s blessings. This will help your teens to continue seeing the benefits long after the trial is over. The best part is that they will have written proof that treasures flow from difficult times.

Negative experiences have the capacity to bring several benefits to those who are willing to be trained by them. Some of these include:

  • Strength
  • Courage
  • Genuine love
  • Righteousness
  • Perseverance
  • Endurance
  • Humility
  • Maturity
  • Draws the family closer together
Greg Smalley, PsyD
Website | + posts

Dr. Smalley previously served as the director of Marriage Ministries for The Center for Healthy Relationships. He is the author or co-author of twelve books concerning marriages and families, and currently serves as the executive director of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family.

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