WASHINGTON — Pastor and best-selling author Max Lucado said that the dramatic increase in suicide over the last two decades is partially due to the lack of hope stemming from the rise of secularism across the U.S.
Speaking at the launch of his new book, Unshakable Hope: Building Our Lives on the Promises of God, at the Museum of the Bible on Aug. 6, Lucado said we live in a society "where it's like somebody put a liposuction on our hope and is sucking it out."
"I think it's the price we pay for secularism," he said, explaining that secularism promotes the idea that "all of life is what happens between birth and hearse."
"There's no preeminence or divine power; there's no reason to be here, there's no reason to long to live," he said. "All of life is bookended."
This view of the world "sucks the hope out of you" and creates a "sour society," Lucado warned.
"We wonder why the suicide rate has increased 24 percent since 1999. That's an epidemic," he said. "I know it's a complex issue, and I don't want to over simplify it, but part of the reason is, we're dying for lack of hope. There's just not hope. But if you can get hope ... it changes the world."
At the event attended by The Christian Post, the pastor said that his book, Unshakable Hope, draws upon the promises of God to provide hope that is unchangeable and unsinkable in a sin-damaged world.
"We as Christians believe we were not made to live with cancer and diseases and bitterness and hostility, and somebody's coming for us," he said. "There's a rescue mission happening, and that just lifts my spirit. Life can be tough, but if I believe that somebody, someday is going to come, that gives me hope ... Hope changes everything."
Lucado emphasized that all of us build our lives either on the problems of life or the promises of God.
"I believe that for every problem in life, there's a promise from God," he said. "Do you feel all alone? God made you a promise, 'I will be with you always, even until the end of the earth.' Do you need someone to speak up for you? Jesus makes the promise — He's at the right hand of God and He's also interceding for us. One of my favorite promises is found in the book of Psalms: 'Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning.'"
"Morning will come. Not as quickly as we want, maybe not as dramatically as we desire," he continued. "Then again, it may come more quickly than we want and more dramatically than we could have thought."
To illustrate his point, Lucado recounted the story of Mary Magdalene, a woman who had seven demons inside of her before meeting Jesus. Yet, despite her troubled past, she traveled with Jesus as one of His followers and was a witness to His crucifixion, burial and resurrection.
"Joy comes becomes Jesus comes," he said. "And if we don't catch it at first, that's OK — He'll call out our name; if we don't recognize Him at first, that's alright — He'll linger until we get it. ... Your name is not buried in some heavenly file; God needs no name tag to jog His memory about you. You're everything to God."
The pastor contended that the greatest news in the history of humanity is not that God made the world, but that God loves the world.
"He has examined your life from beginning to end; He knows everything, good and bad, and He's decided He wants you in a Kingdom, a Kingdom that is coming and has been a part of His plan since the Garden of Eden," he said. "You've never lived one unloved day — ever."
Lucado reminded those discouraged by the brokenness of the world to remember that joy will soon break through the darkness.
"Rather than look at the problem, look at the promise," he said. "Rather than build a life that's stacked on all the pain and the problems of life, try this. There's over 7,000 promises in the Bible. I would say that for every problem you have, God has a promise. He's kept every promise. He cannot lie. So rather than give into the problems of life, you be one of those who finds unshakable hope on the promise of God. Because His Word is unbreakable, our hope is unshakable."
Lucado was introduced by Museum of the Bible President Cary Summers, who asked the best-selling author to answer the question, "How is the Bible relevant for today's culture?"
In response, Lucado said to "put it to the test."
"Pick up the Bible and read what it has to say about managing your finances and see if it doesn't change your budget," he advised. "Pick up your Bible and read what it says about honoring your wife, honoring your husband, and see if it doesn't bless your marriage. Pick up your Bible and see what it says about right and wrong and the power of character and running a business according to the rules of integrity and see if it doesn't change everything. Just put it to the test."
The pastor added that the Bible answers all the fundamental questions of life, such as "Why am I here?" and "Where am I headed?"
"You don't have to open a page of the Bible and you're told that every person is made in the image of God," he said. "That changes everything. Every person I see is made in the image of God. That means that I carry within me some imprint, a divine imprint. Many of us suppress it, we smudge it, we discard it, but it's down in there."
In a society that struggles with self-esteem, a proper understanding of God's relationship with humanity changes everything, Lucado said.
"Imagine how that corrects our esteem of ourselves — 'I was made in God's image, I have a divine spark in me, and every person I see, regardless of their skin color, ethnicity, or income level — from the prison, in the Oval Office to the person playing golf with me, every person is made in the image of God,'" he said. "That changes the way I look in the world. It means I'm living in a world of miracles."
Unshakable Hope: Building Our Lives on the Promises of God is now available.