Symptoms of Purposelessness: The Link Between Epidemic Suicides, Drug Overdoses, and School shootings
© 2018 by Philip A Matthews
Psalms 14:1—To the choirmaster. A Song of David. The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."
First of all, why would the Bible say that a person who denies the existence of God is a fool? Obviously, because the fact that anything exists means that something or Someone has always existed. The simple, one minute proof is that SOMETHING can NEVER come from NOTHING! So since the Universe exists, and since we exist, all of this had to come from something. The Universe did not create itself. The Big Bang could not start itself. Something that was already in existence had to cause the Big Bang to happen and the Universe to begin. That Something is GOD. Only a fool, no matter how intelligent or how educated or how politically-correct, would deny these undeniable facts.
From this GOD, everything else in existence came to be, including human beings. Though we are part of the physical world and dimension, we possess certain qualities that seem to be part of another dimension, i.e., a spiritual dimension. Most notably, we have this thing called CONSCIOUSNESS, which has been difficult to define. Some have called it a “sense of selfhood,” the awareness of one’s existence as a separate being and its relationship to everything else, the awareness of being aware, etc.
Part of our consciousness is an awareness of meaning and purpose, and we feel a keen need to know if our existence has any objective meaning and purpose. Something within us, something beyond the physical and beyond the psychological (mental and emotional) aspects of existence, desperately wants to know WHY we exist. For some unseen but very real reason, we seem to get our VALUE from the meaning or purpose that gives us a reason for WHY we exist, for why we COUNT, which is a term of value. If we don’t have an answer to that question, then our existence becomes pointless and our lives make no sense. We kind of just grope in the darkness, living pointless lives without understanding. We grow afraid that we don’t count after all, an utter nightmare.
So in our desire to make our lives count (i.e., to give them value), we try to attach ourselves to things that society says are valuable: money, fame, power, pleasure, “happiness” (as defined by the world), relationships with other people, etc. But we know all along that we are going to die and leave every bit of this stuff behind, even if we don’t lose it before then. It’s all TRANSIENT, quickly passing away. None of it brings real meaning or lasting value. What we really long for is something that has value that outlasts this world, that TRANSCENDS our lives. THOSE values would be true values that never lose their value.
The problem is that objective, transcendent value comes only from God because He is the ONLY Being that transcends this world. He is the ONLY ETERNAL. He is the only Existence OUTSIDE of the Universe. But if there IS no God, as the “fool” says, then there is NOTHING outside of this world, and everything that happens in this world, in the end, means NOTHING! There is NO reason for morality—right and wrong. NO reason to act good or bad. NO reason to delay your gratification because, in the end, we all die and it’s all over. NO reason to live purposeful because, in the end, nothing means anything. We’re all just “cosmic accidents.” So who cares, why does it matter?
Thus, people, who were created by God, cannot truly live without God, because when they live without God, they then must live without transcendent purpose, meaning, or hope. They live completely DEVALUED LIVES. They are forced to live utterly EMPTY LIVES. When they discover how profound this emptiness is, they make the various adjustments we see throughout all modern society:
(1). Many of them no longer want to live, so they kill themselves. Some have everything going for them—fame, riches, power and influence, beauty, good health, and a life others would kill for. But for some reason, they still think that they would be better off dead and the world would be better off without them. Thus, the suicide epidemic we now see in America. According to a recent CDC report, suicide rates are on the rise in almost every state, rising by 30% or more in some areas. More than 123 Americans 10 years old and up, including 22 veterans, commit suicide EVERY DAY! This amounted to nearly 45,000 people last year. This is not normal. Something sinister is going on—the tragic loss of purpose, meaning, and hope caused by our pervasive unbelief in God. We have quickly run away from the one, Eternal, Source of meaning.
Of course, we blame “mental health issues,” which may be true, but the questions should then be, “Why are we so mentally unhealthy now? What’s going on in this society that is scrambling our minds, depressing us and spreading utter hopelessness? At a time when we are far more aware of mental health issues and have more resources available than ever before, including a National Suicide Prevention hotline (1800-273-8255), why do we still have this sudden and continual increase in suicides?” We haven’t always had these resources or these hotlines—nor this high rate of suicides! Furthermore, the CDC report said that over half—54%—of these people had no known mental health issues!
(2). Many others turn to a nihilistic attitude towards life: “You only live once,” meaning, just have fun and be happy because “nothing means nothing anyway.” Better get all the pleasure out of life you can, because it’ll all be over too soon anyway. As the Apostle Paul wrote in describing this condition, “Let’s eat, drink, and have some fun, because tomorrow we just gonna die!” (1 Corinthians 15:32).
The result? The opioid crisis and epidemic drug addiction. People are trying to fill the emptiness that results when life is purposeless. INNER EMPTINESS creates an addictive personality, making a person vulnerable to any destructive habit. 64,000 Americans were killed by overdoses in 2016, more than in the Iraq and Vietnam wars combined. That’s 175 per day! More than 650,000 will die from opioids in the next 10 years if nothing is done. Alcoholism has also quietly increased by 49% since 2002, meaning 30 million Americans, especially the poor, women, and minorities, now suffer from alcohol addiction. Methamphetamine abuse rose by two-thirds from 2007 to 2013. All of this represents a tragic attempt by Americans to anesthetize themselves from the hopelessness and emptiness within.
(3). Looking at the epidemic of school shootings, it becomes obvious that something is happening with the lost boys of this nation. The problem is not too many guns. Girls are around the same guns the boys are—but girls haven’t turned into school shooters. Something sinister is happening with the boys: Fatherlessness, divorce, and alienation from the fathers they do have is leaving boys without a sense of purpose for their lives. These purposeless, hurting boys go out and hurt others. Or they grow up and become adult mass shooters.
Drs. Warren Farrell (The Myth of Male Power) and John Gray (Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus) write in their new 2018 book, The Boy Crisis, that increasingly American boys are experiencing a “purpose void.” Because men no longer are bound to fulfilling the “sole breadwinner” role or the “warrior role,” boys are not being given any alternative purpose for their lives. Thus, they fail to “find a purpose larger than themselves.” “The alternative is a purpose void, often triggering a ‘failure to launch,’ and its collateral damage: depression and self-disgust” (The Boy Crisis, page 47). Then they fall into “the black hole of entitlement:” instant gratification, video games 24/7, little desire to get a job, no desire to get married (1/3 of Millennials will never marry), living at home with their parents, etc. Recently, a dad and mom had to go to court and sue their 30-year-old son to force him to move out of their house!
The above social evils are just three of the “Symptoms of Purposelessness” we see so prevalent in America. There are many, many more. What is the solution? To turn back to the ETERNAL GOD. From Him come all meaning, value, identity, and transcendent qualities that make life truly worth living. He gives us a purpose for our lives that we can hold on to for our entire lives, that does not depend on transient things like money, fame, pleasure, or even relationships with other people. Let’s UN-forget God! He still unconditionally loves us, and is patiently waiting for us to return!
As Matt Walsh blogs, “[P]raise God because there is a reason [for living], there is a point, there is a meaning. God is our foundation, our truth, our purpose, and the substance of our lives. We are not mere accidents. We are not clumps of dust that grew randomly from the Earth and somehow developed consciousness and a moral code and the capacity for love… There is a transcendent, spiritual character to humanity, and we all innately recognize it. We find despair when we reject it and try to separate ourselves from it and from ourselves. Hope is found the other way, in the opposite direction. Hope is found when we embrace who we are, as children of God, and we keep our eyes and hearts focused on eternity, on home. God wants us there with Him. But not yet. There is still more to be done, more life to be lived, and we can live it in joy, knowing that there is a meaning and a point to all of this.”
Two Levels of Christianity
And now for a very politically incorrect discussion for everyone who says things like, “I believe in God, I’m a Christian, and I still suffer from crazy depressions,” or “I go to church, but I still feel purposeless and empty inside.” Some will even claim that “I’m filled with the Spirit, but I still feel like killing myself sometimes.” They mention these objections to support their belief that prayer and religion don’t work, that Christianity is one big, useless sham, and that if the medical and psychological experts can’t help, then it’s definitely futile to look for spiritual answers, because they’ve already tried them all.
But this is something you should know: Being “spiritual” does not necessarily mean that you know the Eternal God at all! Being a “Christian” does not necessarily mean that you know Jesus Christ at all! Even being “born again” does not necessarily mean that you know much about applying the principles of spiritual healing and grace to your life.
There are two kinds of Christians in the world:
The first are those who say they believe in Christ and claim to be serving Him, but who keep complete control of their own lives and don’t apply the principles of the Living Word to their decisions, desires, and deeds. They may view God as the “Big Blessing Machine in the Sky,” Whose biggest job is to keep them “happy” (i.e., always feeling good), protect them from trouble and discomfort, provide them with material blessings, and make everybody around them cooperative and easy to get along with. They have lots of “bad days” depending on their circumstances. If you get on their “last nerve,” some of them might even cuss you out! Their “Christianity” is a “work in progress,” but it never seems to really make much progress and finally reach maturity.
They nurse grudges, refuse to forgive, carry old wounds forever, know little about the agape love Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13, have several troubled relationships in their lives and even hate certain people, can never release their pride, and have never experienced the INNER HEALING of the Father’s Love. They are constantly trying to compensate for this missing Love by filling their lives with stuff. They wrestle with all kinds of desires, and, surprisingly, because they have never been healed in their souls, you might even hear of them being some kind of addict: porn, sex, gambling, nicotine, alcohol, and even drugs. They have absolutely no protection against the evils of this world. They and their families are vulnerable and open to demonic oppression (yes, it does exist, but I said this wasn’t going to be politically correct!), contagious social evils and attitudes, and other negatives that happen to the common person in the world. This, my friend, is “religion.” America has been flooded with this kind of selfish, i.e., self-centered, “religion.”
The second kind of Christians are those who actually have a living relationship with the Living God. They have believed in Jesus, dedicated themselves to Him, and given Him complete control of their entire lives. They are selfless. They make decisions as the Holy Spirit gives them direction and only to glorify God and His purposes. Whatever happens to them, good or bad, they recognize as something that God has allowed for His reasons, so their main desire is to go through that situation with the same attitude and actions as Jesus would have. So instead of fighting against God’s will and taking back control over their lives, they continually “let go and let God.” They submit to God in every circumstance—past, present, and future—and this HEALS them from the inside out.
Thus, they are protected and never damaged by the craziness of life. They are keenly aware that they are in this world for a specific transcendent purpose—to glorify God and give Him pleasure, not themselves. So their lives are full of eternal, transcendent values which they are determined to live out every day in every situation He places them in. Life is therefore exciting, never boring, new and refreshing, adventuresome, and full of joy (not always emotional) and peace that is often inexplicable. There is no way for this person to be overcome with depression, wounded and destroyed by bad situations, or desperately hopeless in the worst set of circumstances.
So, yes, there are two kinds of “Christians” in this world. Some live selfish lives centered around their own interests, desires, and choices. Others live selfless lives, centered around Christ and His interests, desires, and choices for them. Some live lives conformed to the values and practices of this world, which they love. Others live lives completely transformed by the Love of God. Some wear the cross around their necks and tattooed on their arms; others use their crosses to deny themselves and die on. Some have no idea what their purpose for living truly is; others have been called according to His purpose and are driven and controlled by it. These are the two kinds of “Christians” in the world, and their lives and destinies are radically different. WHICH ONE ARE YOU?
We close with a story based on the words of Jesus in Matthew 21:44—“And whoever falls on this stone will be broken to pieces: but he on whom it falls will be crushed to powder...scattering him as dust.” The kernel of truth is this: When God allows a stumbling stone of any type to be thrown in your way—a loss, a loved one’s death, some kind of persecution, rejection, abuse, or whatever—if you submit to God and voluntarily “fall” on the stone by accepting the adversity as God has permitted, it will indeed “break” your life into pieces, forcing you to make undesirable changes but ultimately making you stronger.
But if you refuse to “fall on the stone” and instead allow the “stone to fall on you”—that is, if you try fighting against the adversity or the people involved, blaming God for allowing it, refusing to forgive, holding on to your pride—then the weight and negative effects of those troubles will “crush and grind” your life to “powder.” They will leave you hurt, damaged, bitter, emotionally and even physically and mentally impaired, and unable to ever rebound or recover—“scattering you as dust.” In every negative situation you must submit to God for your OWN good and your OWN protection against permanent damage. Most “Christians” do not know about this type of submission.
We once counseled a young man who seemed to have only trouble in his life. He couldn’t keep a job: Somehow he would always start believing that the boss and his coworkers were against him, which invariably led to some kind of major crisis, during which he would be fired. He couldn’t maintain any healthy relationships. He had close kin, but he blamed them for all of his problems. He lived with permanent anger and resentment. His life was a mess.
When we met him over the phone, he was threatening to jump out of the window of his 25th story apartment. After that crisis was averted, we got to hear his very sad story: He never knew his father, and his poor, single mother allowed the various men she cohabited with (basically for rent and bill money) to physically and sexually abuse her son, the young man. So he grew up hating her, as well as himself. He tried various methods to find some self-worth and value for his life. He tried sports and body building. He tried political and social causes. He changed his name to improve his self-identity. He went to therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health “shrinks,” but nothing could shrink his humongous inner turmoil and woundedness. Absolutely no therapies worked. He was still an emotional wreck, ready to jump out his apartment window.
Our belief was that his desperately-needed healing could begin if he could somehow find a way to forgive his mother and her boyfriends. We asked if at least he would be willing to try to forgive them. He let us know very loudly that even the secular psychologists had focused on that point, but absolutely “NO WAY WILL I EVER FORGIVE HER!!” We explained that as long as he held on to her, he was actually keeping himself from moving past that point. He said he didn’t care. We would have to “try some other way and some other method.”
But there was no other way. There is no other method to deal with such bitterness. He needed to recognize that, true, God had allowed this broken world to really hurt him badly and “break his life into pieces,” but if he could only be willing to let the other people go, God would keep it from “crushing him to powder and scattering him as dust.” God would heal his life. But he continued to refuse. The last time we saw him he was still struggling desperately to keep his sanity, i.e., his mental health. We can only hope that he was able to win that battle, but his chances were not very great.
May God bless us all.