Neonatal physician Erik Strandness asks some challenging questions in light of many young people’s desperate struggles and explores what hope there is
Teen suicides are soaring. Meaninglessness and lack of purpose haunt our young people. Are you OK with that?
Christians, have you done a good enough job telling your children that they are precious image bearers? Do they look into the mirror and see a child of God or a cultural orphan? Do they see one with eternal potential or a mortal expiration date? Do you tell them they are heirs of a kingdom or squatters in the state? Have you dragged them down with guilt or allowed them to soar on eagle’s wings? Have you made them fear death or anticipate an empty tomb?
Prosperity preachers, have you done any better? You tell them God is more interested in expanding their stock portfolio, being more bullish or bearish, when in reality he wants them to be more lambish. You encourage them to stock up on a wealth that is susceptible to moths and rust instead of a treasure in heaven that will never perish. You encourage them to sow their fields with money seeds but find that the only thing that grows is the root of all evil. You call on the name of Jesus but fail to disclose that he had no place to lay his head and that his afterlife success was marked not by a Rolex but by a scarred wrist.
You purveyors of alternative religion have you done any better? You see broken spirits and tell them they didn’t think enough happy thoughts. Their lives are shattered, and you tell them to put them back together with the law of attraction. You elevate them to god-like heights yet can’t explain why they feel like they are stuck in a pit. You tell them to extinguish desire but then explain to them that what they really need is your latest seven-part video series. You offer rebirth as kings or queens but fail to disclose that karma is a cruel task master and, more often than not, you come back as a peasant covered in dung.
The boat is sinking but instead of tossing them a Jesus floatation device you tell them that all religious life preservers are the same. As they reach under their seats all they find are detailed instructions on the best ways to tread water.
There is one hope.
While you scramble to patch the hole in your cultural hull with a COEXIST sticker, Jesus offers you an entirely new ship. He walks through the cultural wreckage and weeps. He goes to the poor in spirit you ignored and offers them a kingdom. He calls the vulnerable little children you took for granted to his side and warns those who would cause them to stumble that they will be washed overboard with a millstone around their necks.
You ignore him at your own peril. He gives you what no other religious or societal institution can offer – redemption, transforming the worst situations in our lives to the most glorious.
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We watch him sweat blood at Gethsemane, we see him beaten and mocked by soldiers and finally hung on a cross to die a slow painful death. We can’t look away because he is the only one who understands our pain, our abandonment, our betrayal and yet, he offers paradise, even to one who never attended an Alpha class, heard a sermon or sang a praise song.
Life is heavy, often drenched in sorrow and sadness, but you can take a load off by embracing the Jesus way and finding rest for your souls.
To the teenager contemplating suicide, God says: “You are my child. I made you unique. Nobody sees the world the way you do. All I ask is that you let me in so I can see my world through your eyes and be captivated.”
PS You will find the answer here:
“Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
A concerned parishioner
Erik Strandness is a physician and Christian apologist who has practiced neonatal medicine for more than 20 years.