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On the day I was ordained, I remember vividly what my aunt said to me. “Father, (she only called me father once, on that day) life is hard. Go easy on us.” My aunt was a very faith-filled woman. It was not the case that she did not want to be challenged in her faith. Rather, she wanted me to remember the people, like her, who found life hard.
We live in a world of brokenness. We know it in ourselves. We know it with even a quick look at other people. There is a lot of brokenness. It is no secret that even before the pandemic, mental health was a problem. It is even more so today. Consider these sobering facts.
Almost 70% of 13-25 year-olds say they have three or fewer meaningful interactions a day. 40% believe they have no one to talk to and that no one really knows them well. Another 1 in 4 in addition to that say they have one or fewer people to talk to in their life. 1 in 4 of 13-17 year-olds report they fell all alone, and almost 40% of 18-39 year-olds report feeling very alone.
Moreover, serious mental health issues are on the rise. Suicide rates are growing exponentially. There is greater connectivity (social media and the like) but less connectedness. We live in a broken world. And things do seem to be getting worse, not better.
So what is the solution? Well, there are not really any easy solutions, for the causes and the problems themselves are complex. But there is research that suggests that being connected to mentors and others serves a very helpful purpose in finding meaning in life.
These connections are not to be confused with technology. For 13-25 year-olds with no mentors, almost 1 in 4 believe their life never has meaning or purpose. But if they have one trusted adult mentor, that percentage drops to 6%. That is not surprising.
I think one challenge for youth is the difficulty in finding hope. On some level, it used to be that institutions and religion provided that sense of hope. The decline in religious practice has been well-documented. But without a sense of a higher purpose and finding meaning in suffering, connections can be hard to make.
So then it should be clear that brokenness can be made whole in the power of relationship. It is clear that when relationships become broken, than it can be harder to find meaning. Fredrich Nietzsche observed that he who has a why can live through almost any how. Viktor Frankl wrote beautifully that remembering that we always have the freedom to decide how we react to a difficult time is important. He also indicated that this could be found in work and in relationship.
Because We Need Not Be Alone
What should be very clear is the fact that we need not be alone. There are two powerful reasons for this. The first is that God loves you more than you can ever understand. And the second is that when people of faith understand this, they work to create the types of connections that help us to thrive.
This is why it is so important for us to realize that we are the Body of Christ. But this is not just about a thought in our heads, but the types of actions that can help others to know of prayerful support. Certainly it is the case that we can pray for each other. You can ask for prayers and pray for others here at thefriar.org.
Twice a day I pray at least this for others. “For those I have promised to pray for, for those in need of my prayers, and for those who ask for my prayers.” Why? Because I believe deeply in the power of prayer to allow others to know how deeply God cares for each person.
Even Biblical Heroes Can cause Brokenness
King David was not a good father to his son Absalom. I believe that the only time he says “my son” when describing Absalom is at his death. And of course, Absalom died when he was trying to kill his father. David was not a good dad. Still he was a man of faith. Even though he did not do all he could, his heart was filled with a desire to please God.
It is so much the case that again and again we see that we are complicated. We can do great things. But we can also fail. We can be heroic in the faith, while at the same time we can be responsible for hurt and harm by our sins.
And so if you worry because you are not perfect, then bring that to God. God understands. Genuine repentance leads to a renewed relationship with God. God’s mercy can help us to grow as a person far more than we could imagine.
Trust in God
You can trust in God. Or, if you find that hard, you can at least ask God to help you to trust in him. Take a look at the cross. That is the powerful testimony that God’s love is greater than anyone can ever know. God loves you more than you can ever know or understand. Even in your brokenness, god loves you more than you can imagine.
Obviously the challenge is to actually believe this is true. For people who suffer, there is a real challenge that there could be ANY good reason for this to be happening to me. If we have been victims of suffering caused by others, it can feel impossible to believe that you are valuable and loved by God and others.
But it can be the case that we can ask God to help us to know and experience his love. It is ok to ask God for greater trust. It is ok to tell God that we are not sure he even answers prayers. And it is also ok to ask others to pray for us, to reach out to us.