By Joel A. Hess –
Il n’y a qu’un problème philosophique vraiment sérieux : c’est le suicide
– Albert Camus
It would seem that we have witnessed more celebrity suicides than ever, though I don’t know if that’s true. It would seem that the celebrity world is only predisposed to suicide as the skin begins to wrinkle, the applause fades, and the mirror can no longer lie. Suicide has increased overall, however, according to a variety of statistics.
First, many people I know, Jesus-trusting sinners like me, suffer from a deep, irrational depression. They know right and wrong, but their bodies, like this world, are broken. They likely need medical care as well as God’s Word. They need someone to walk beside them like any mental illness.
Still, our culture does not help those suffering depression from circumstantial situations. We glorify happiness. America’s Declaration of Independence, our raison d’etre, declares that we have right to pursue happiness. We have grasped that with both hands as we applaud people who do anything to themselves, their relationships, their little fiefdoms, that will reach this goal. Not happy in marriage? Get a divorce. Not happy with your body? Get plastic surgery, no matter how extreme. Not happy with your community? Block them on social media. Surround yourself with people who support you no matter what. Leave your commitments, your job, your family, your body, and of course, your life, if it doesn’t make you happy. You deserve to happy! You only live once, right?
Many Christian churches have unwittingly embraced this Declaration of Independence by saying explicitly or implicitly, “God wants you to be happy!” Join so and so and you will be happy. Christian web pages and social media are cluttered with only happy people in their sanctuaries, Sunday schools, and various programs.
They gravely mislead their consumers. Imagine Jesus running their marketing. Whoever wants to follow me must pick up their cross… If you are looking to save your life, you will lose it! How ugly would the man of sorrows and his beaten, broken minions look on our Facebook pages?
Jordan Peterson declares rightly in his book 12 Rules for Life, not from revelation but from simple observation: Life is suffering. Therefore he contends the pursuit of happiness is a pointless goal. Get over it and stop whining about it. That’s just common sense.
More authoritatively, the many writers of Holy Scripture agree. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans that all creation groans (Romans 8). The world is messed up. Things don’t work right. No matter what we do with technology, medicine, politics, it doesn’t get fixed though it may keep some symptoms at bay temporarily.
What about Christians? Jesus makes clear and the blood of the martyrs confirms that life in this world does not get easier just because you are washed in the blood of Christ! Do we do a disservice to the world and to fellow sufferers in our pews by allowing them to think Christians are always smiling?
More significantly, suffering is not just a necessary evil in this world, but accompanied by God’s Word, it provides the greatest and deepest of blessings as we learn to not hold tightly to temporary things and grasp firmly to Christ’s promises and the glorious age that is coming!
There is an 800-pound gorilla in this world and in our pews. Suffering, sin, depression, failure, fear, gut-wrenching hopelessness. We don’t need to put lipstick on a pig. Instead, O church, call it what it is. Name it. Preach to it. Call it out. And baptize it in the name of Jesus. Wash it in the blood of Christ with words from the pulpit and supper from the altar.
For there is a happiness, a joy, disconnected from success or failure in this world: Jesus. He became the man of sorrows for us. His blood washes away every disgusting deed, thought, or word. His resurrected flesh give real hope that a day is coming when there will be no suffering, no pain, no sin, no dysfunction or disease, no Satan and no suicide.
Outside of this real happiness in Christ, resting on Him and His promises, all other happinesses will let you down. C’est la vie.