These days, it seems like every other person is “struggling”. It’s so the thing to do, to tell your friends that you are skeptical of something, that you just can’t seem to see something that your parents or church want you to do, that you’re feeling lost and don’t know how to process life. (Let’s face it: if you tell your friends that you’re really struggling, you’ll more likely to get a lot more sympathy and hugs and chocolate bars, then if you tell them that you love God and are enjoying His Word!) A lot of that is okay. I want to be the first to be there for my friends who really do need help and need someone to listen and help. But let’s not fool ourselves: this is not the way it has always been. The cult of self-victimization is trendy. The cult tells us that we are all victims of something, that someone is hijacking our story and making us unable to do what we want to do. That someone is messing up our story in an unfathomable way, and the best we can do is to complain and get counseling.
Think about it. How many people do you know who seem stuck in bitterness over something that someone did to them a while back and just can’t seem to break free and live a new life? Or think about all the people you know who can’t get past some simple thing that their parents want them to do or not to do, because they don’t understand why or think their parents are being unreasonable. It’s an epidemic. The main idea is that “I’m the big deal, and someone is in the way to my success, and they’re the problem. They are keeping me from being who I know I’m supposed to be.”
BTW, to those of you who have experienced emotional or sexual abuse and have been devastated by it, I’m sorry. I really have no idea what that must be like, and I don’t pretend that I do.
Don’t ignore your painful past. Don’t stuff it under and try to forget. Talk through it, cry through it, pray through it, and do it in a gospel-centered way that puts you and your story under Christ and his way of forgiveness and love and honor.
But even many youth who have not been awfully abused live in continual “I’m struggling” mode. And I think that’s tragic. You don’t have to be continually defeated by bitterness, anger, or lust because people in your life haven’t treated you the way you think they should’ve.
I see a better path forward for us Christian youth of today. We can be that sign pointing forward to a better way of living which leaves all of the other ways forever behind.
It’s found in the gospel. To me, the Good News of the Bible is everything. Living what people call “the Christian life” is not about all kinds of stuff you do – it’s about a Person, and how that Person came as a servant into the world: that Person who said that he was Life Himself and brought hope and life into the deadness of this world. And that fact is what literally changes every area of the things I do.
But the center of it all is that Person. He was Life in human form, and as he taught people the new way of Life found in himself, the answer to our basic problem (of rebellion against his goodness) has been made clear.
Jesus said with the utter simplicity that only the ultimate doctor could have: “Whoever refuses to give up his family and even himself, he can’t be with me and do what I do.” “Sell all you have and give it to poor people, and then come and be with me and do what I do.” “If you try to keep yourself for you, you’re gonna lose it. But if you let go of your life for Me, you’ll find your life” [My paraphrase of Luke 14:26 and Matt. 19:21 and 16:25].
When people who were bound to their own ideas about the way they feel life must be for them; when they connect with and accept that crazy gospel that tells them to shut up and give up everything for the sake of knowing him who is ultimate Goodness, Beauty, and Life embodied, their world completely changes.
We have this wild tendency to hang on to our own ways of doing life, even though we know that we have perennially failed at running our lives better than God. The good news of the gospel is this: you can give it up for the sake of knowing Christ.
Guys, you don’t have to live as though you’re all that matters: God is the center of everything. You don’t have to live as though anyone who tries to curb the lifestyle of ‘the incredible you’ is some kind of monster. You’ve got to stop blaming everyone else for your struggles, take responsibility for your failures, forgive others’ failures that hurt you, and then move on to love and know God.
The gospel is our hope. When we keep Jesus and his ways supreme in our lives, we can conquer the problems of our particular generation. We won’t be lost in thinking of ourselves as victims, because we know that (although people have hurt us badly) we don’t own our lives and we’re not trying to keep it.
So, we give it up for the sake of knowing Christ. We don’t forever live in ‘I’m-struggling-mode’, we live in victory.