Augustine famously wrote, "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you." But what happens when a whole culture decides to reject God? What happens when we no longer form our lives and cultures around the God who made us?
Loving What Kills Us
According to a recent study, the mortality rate of working-class white people has risen in the West. There have not been similar results with other people groups. Ross Douthat has written about this shocking reality:
We had hints that something like this was happening. We knew suicide was increasing among the middle-aged, that white women without a high school degree were struggling with health issues, that opiate addiction was a plague in working-class communities. But we didnt know it was bad enough to send white death rates upward in the richest nation in the world.
The study shows the rise of mortality is directly linked to suicide and distress on the body as a result of drug and alcohol abuse in legal and illegal forms. Self-reported declines in health, mental stability, and the ability to conduct activities of daily living have been noted. Increases in chronic pain and the inability to work, as well as deterioration in liver function, all point to growing distress in the population. Yet, the problem facing each one of us is much deeper than drug addiction.
Putting Away Unrealistic Expectations and Dreams
Our romantic view of life has fooled us into thinking that we could fill all our needs with someone or something in this life. We look to things and people to satisfy an endless list of demands and desires. We want them to fulfill us, but they cannot. And this is why the drug problem has arisen. We look to it for solace when others cannot fill our needs. We will look for anything to numb us from the boredom and pain of a life without him, even violently filling our lives with what kills.
Those of us who have experienced addiction know how difficult it is to find freedom. We are left in a downward spiral that feels physically impossible to flee. Our vision of reality becomes distorted. The breakdown of purpose and meaning – a life devoid of a transcendent God – destroys our capacity to live with its pressures and disappointments. What we need is Jesus.
Needing Jesus in the Modern World
Modern people still need the Lord. Although there is a time for therapy, something much deeper is at stake, our very ability to live. What secular cultures need are not more psychotropic drugs. No, they need nothing less than an all-embracing turn to God who will rescue them from their distress. Only the Lord can hear us where we have fallen because he is the only one who has fallen to a deeper point of distress on the cross. In so doing, he can save us to the uttermost.
Our only hope is free forgiveness and grace. Nothing less than God can bring restoration and redemption to such a culture of despair. Recognizing the evil of our sin with the beauty of grace is the greatest therapy and solace. We need absolution for our pent-up guilt as well as the power of love to restore our vision of life.
We desperately need God! We need forgiveness to live with ourselves once again. This is what we find in Jesus who took all our shame and guilt, clothing us with his love, meaning, and purpose to give us back to God as holy and blameless before him! Finally, we can love what gives life.