In light of rising suicide rates, Erik Strandness reflects on how we find significance in this world 

The suicide rate continues to climb. We hear sad stories of celebrities who find no solace in fame, students who receive no consolation in good grades, and athletes who feel no sense of accomplishment in competition - all taking their own lives. How is it possible to climb to the top of the cultural heap, look down and see only a pile of rubble? We are bewildered - who then can be saved? As it turns out, the cultural standard for a good life leads to no life at all.

And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19: 23-26)


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St Paul gives us a wonderful example of what constitutes significance. Prior to meeting Jesus, he was by all religious standards a success. He was a Jew amongst Jews, righteous, zealous, and pious, but a funny thing happened on the way to Damascus - he met true Significance. From that point on he considered all his accomplishments rubbish.

If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3: 4-11)

Paul and the postmodern both see their cultural achievements as rubbish. Paul, however, was able to take out the trash and replace it with an imperishable heavenly treasure, while the postmodern continues to dumpster dive for fool’s gold. Paul found joy in Christ crucified but those who don’t know Jesus often end up crucifying themselves.


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I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2: 20)

We need to take Paul’s trash talk seriously because too many people have been led to believe the lie that the stuff of this world will make them happy. A lie because it sets the standard far too low. We make the siren song of fame and fortune number one with a bullet but then when our young people discover they can’t sing in that key they turn the pistol on themselves. We dangle the carrot of fame and fortune in front of our young people but when they catch up with it, they discover it’s just broccoli. We need to remind them that they will never find significance digging in the decaying cultural waste but only in a Christ who makes all things new.

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (CS Lewis)


Erik Strandness is a physician and Christian apologist who has practiced neonatal medicine for more than 20 years.