Ah, the teen and tween years. What fun! What freedom!
My youngest daughter is a sophomore at a very liberal university and is currently getting an up-close-and-personal view of the secular cesspool in which our unbelieving Generation Z swims. Maintaining her Christian stance at school has produced all the love, admiration, and inclusiveness that you might expect – that is to say, she’s getting beaten with the same rubber hose that Peter talked about in one of his letters: “For the time already past is sufficient for . . . sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you” (1 Pet. 4:3-4).
“Dad”, she said to me as we were riding home the other night, “I know as a Christian I’m not supposed to hope that bad things happen to people, but it’s getting awfully hard to not do that when you get so much abuse.”
Like the cowardly lion said in the Wizard of Oz, “Ain’t it the truth?”
Being the good dad that I (hopefully) am, I first sympathized with her and then I passed along something from Scripture that John MacArthur reminded me about the other day during one of his podcasts.
It’s a cold, cruel world
There’s no getting around it – people in general are pretty miserable these days. Especially our young.
It’s sobering to note that the total suicide rate in the United States has increased 35% from 10.5 per 100,000 in 1999 to 14.2 per 100,000 in 2018 according to the National Institute of Mental Health. But it’s even worse for those in my daughter’s age band.
Reuters Health reported in 2019 that, "Suicidal thinking, severe depression and rates of self-injury among U.S. college students more than doubled over less than a decade, a nationwide study suggests." The paper’s co-author Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, said, "It suggests that something is seriously wrong in the lives of young people."
There are many opinions as to what that ‘wrong’ is. For example, commenting on a study that showed Britain has the highest number of teenagers in the world who believe their life is meaningless and thus consider suicide, cultural commentator Paul Joseph Watson says, “When your heroes are just an endless avalanche of recycled comic book remake characters; when your role models are a perpetual parade of twerking imbeciles; when your icons are a monotonous march of inauthentic NPC media drones with everything to risk but nothing to say…who wouldn’t want to kill themselves?”
When a person reaches the conclusion that their life is meaningless and full of despair, it first leads to fear, but then soon afterwards manifests in raw anger and abuse towards others. Odd as it might sound, a better conversation on this fact can’t be had other than the one in the movie Tombstone where Wyatt Earp asks Doc Holiday why their enemy commits all the evil that he does and what he wants in the end. “Revenge”, says Holiday. “For what?”, asks Earp. There’s a short pause before Holiday responds: “Being born”.
The difference God makes
For those of us who have been Christians for some time, it can be perplexing and frustrating to witness the rage and lashing out of unbelievers at life in general and us in particular. This happens because we’ve forgotten who we once were.
Fortunately, the Apostle Paul helps us remember in his letter to the Ephesians. He starts off chapter two by saying, “And you were dead in your offenses and sins, in which you previously walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all previously lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the rest” (vv. 1-3).
Dead. Not a great start.
This spiritual death leads to following the twin pied pipers of destruction (the world and the devil) who, along with our own fallen nature, cause us to think wrongly and commit acts of disobedience against God, which result in reaping a whirlwind of negative consequences, just as Peter says in his second epistle: “suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong” (2 Pet. 2:13).
A truly miserable situation to be in, wouldn’t you agree?
That used to be you and me. We were “just as the rest”. But oh, the difference God makes, which Paul makes clear in vv. 4-10, where He discusses the saving actions God took on our behalf and how our lives are now different because of His grace.
Paul then immediately hammers home his reminder about our prior state a second time by saying: “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:11-13).
How would you feel, live and behave today if you still had “no hope” and were “without God in the world”? If you had no real answers to the big four Life questions of Origin, Meaning, Morality, and Destiny?
You’d most likely act in the way we see unbelievers behave. They act exactly as the Bible says lost people do.
That being the case, we need to remember we used to be in the same boat and that it is theologically impossible for non-Christians to live like Christians. So, we should have empathy and sympathy for them even when their fury at God and life personally rains down on us.
Believe me, I know how hard this can be to do on a daily basis, especially when our culture’s morals seem to be deteriorating at an accelerated rate while hostility levels are rising at the same pace. But, remembering who we use to be can provide the needed fuel to be both salt and light in a dark world and spur us on to pray that those without Christ will one day be born again and receive the same freedom we have from grinding through life without God.
Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.