In my pastoral disappointments and discouragements, I have found great power for perseverance by keeping before me the life of a person who surmounted great obstacles in obedience to God’s call by the power of God’s grace.
I have needed this inspiration from another century, because I know that I am, in great measure, a child of my times. And one of the pervasive marks of our times is emotional fragility. It hangs in the air we breathe. We are easily hurt. We blame easily. We break easily. Our marriages break easily. Our faith breaks easily. Our happiness breaks easily. We are easily disheartened, and it seems we have little capacity for surviving and thriving in the face of criticism and opposition. And if we think we are not children of our times, let us simply test ourselves to see how we respond when people reject our ideas, spurn our good efforts, or misconstrue our best intentions.
We all need help here. We are surrounded by, and are part of, a society of emotionally fragile quitters. The spirit of the age is too much in us. We need to spend time with the kind of people whose lives prove there is another way to live. Scripture says, be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12 ESV).
We are all children of our times, aren’t we? The celebration of our nation’s veterans each year gets me thinking about this a lot. I don’t want to paint entire generations with too broad a brush, but what on earth has happened to us that we have indeed become so very fragile? The ease with which we are quick to be offended, to fold, to complain, to turn our eyes inward to ourselves is something quite disheartening.
On Veterans Day last year, I encouraged (ok, forced) my boys to come sit with me for a hot minute to talk about this. We keep a little box of war medals and photos of our relatives who served in some way up on a bookshelf. From WWII to Vietnam to Korea, our parents and grandparents, like countless others, sacrificed much to be a part of something bigger than themselves. We live the lives we do today because of what they did.
My oldest then said something that just broke my heart.
“Yeah, they did all this, and it’s my generation that has the highest rate of depression and suicide.”
It’s crazy and it’s true. We who reap the benefits have gotten so comfortable, perhaps too comfortable in our lives of freedom and leisure, that we have become a bunch of navel-gazing, self-absorbed, offended basket cases.
Again… not trying to put everyone in the same category here, but it’s generationally true. When there’s nothing to fight for outside of ourselves, when there’s no bigger picture to focus on, we begin to rot from the inside out.
We are all children of our time. Our pastor spoke last week about how the spike in anxiety and depression in our country directly correlates with the advent of our precious little smartphones. Life got so darn easy, we forgot about the bigger picture.
Instead of worshipping God, we obsess over ‘self-care’, as if we know better than He does what will fill our hearts and minds.
We have every version of the Bible at our fingertips, every commentary that was ever written, and yet we are starved for truth.
Instead of enjoying Jesus as our daily bread, we are content to live on the sugar-rush theology that scrolling through random Christian celebrities gives us.
All this stuff adds up over time and creates squishy (for lack of a better word) Christians. We are tossed here and there by every new drama, offended at the drop of a hat, involved in useless disputes we have no business being involved in, all the while neglecting what would actually give our lives significance.
What is the chief end of man?
If you know your catechisms you know the answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”
One of my greatest desires is that my family and I would be less fragile and reactive to the things of this world. It’s all fun and games until we don’t get our way, isn’t it? What do we do in those times? Do we fold like a cheap tent? Do we rally our family and friends around us in prayer?
We Christians should be the most joyful group around, the most secure, the most resilient. Not because life always goes our way, but because we have something bigger, outside of ourselves to live for.
When the job goes away… what defines us?
When our very best just isn’t enough… what sustains us?
When happiness is elusive… do we have the faith and patience talked about in Hebrews to know that we are still heirs to the promises of God?
I think about the generations that are all too quickly fading from this world. Men marching right off to war, women supporting and fighting their own battles on the home front, with no guarantee that life would ever be fair, unoffensive, happy, lucrative, or any of the other qualities we obsess over nowadays. They were focused outside of themselves, and it made all the difference.
We aren’t doomed. But we do need to put down the phones and look around. Self-esteem, self-love, promoting oneself on social media… these are not the way to a happy heart. We don’t have to be victims of our times. Opposition and criticism will come; Jesus said it would. We survive it by picking up our cross, not by picking up everything that offends us.
May we not be children of our times, but children of God. Let’s remember those who have gone before us as well, let their stories be passed down and let them be remembered as the ones who lived for something greater than themselves.
Featured Image By Daniel Mingcook Kim
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on scasefamily.com.