Updated: Mar 12, 2022
Moments we thought we would never forget tend to sting the most in the posture of regret. All the more, the sting of sin persists.
Freedom does abound in the life of the committed. No road could provide the freedom of the narrow road of Christ. Fearing confinement, we chant freedom at the top of our lungs as our self-righteous empowerment fails to fulfill the very goal we set out to achieve: validation.
No, those moments of self-righteous indulgence and rebelliousness do not provide the validation we seek. We cry mental health and plead with anyone to sense our anguish as we fail to comprehend how deep we cut each gash. A scar never forms. We need the world to conform to our sinful nature so we never have to change, only allowing us to further slice into our nerve-filled wounds as blood drips down in sorrow. Fragility overwhelms our broken soul, for there is one thing that we know beyond the shallow depths of our progressive minds: We are dying.
We are dying. It is an odd topic that all people agree upon in a world of disagreement. No amount of science, reason or medication can change that truth. The philosopher, theologian, and scientist can sit around a table, all agreeing that each is indeed dying. What a terribly morbid unity.
This unity is not as universal as it may seem. We cannot seem to rationalize death any longer as rapid advances in every area of our life decrease our need to deal with this terrible truth. Scientifically, each day is one day closer to death. An awful anecdote, but one in which we all must agree. But why, in a world that claims we must trust science, do we have a generation of people that are so anxious and crippled by this undeniable truth?
Each post yearns for someone to validate our life in some capacity. Tag a friend that does not share your post on their story, and the millions of likes will feel meaningless because your friend did failed the needed reciprocation you crave. Post a picture of your first apartment only to find all your friends that graduated high school have homes. Each day you scroll, seeing diamonds and white dresses, wondering if that will ever happen to you or if at 22 you should fold up shop for the honeymoon period you longed to embrace has long passed you by.
Why do we yearn for a sense of validation? Surely 100 years ago, people struggled with a similar yearning. Let's not get into the unmitigated rhetoric that 100 years ago people believed in God, and now that God is "out of our schools," our morals have declined beyond saving. For if we look back only 100 years ago, purpose in life was very defined. Women were expected to marry and bear children. Men were expected to get a job and provide. There was little debate as to what was expected, and failure to do this quite simply meant death for the individual or the generation. But of course, we rebelled. Whether for good or worse is not the subject to be argued. Perhaps it will be discussed at a later time. However, without an opinion regarding the rebellion, it is a fact that we rebelled against old-fashioned mindsets that kept us from the freedom we felt we deserve.
It is unlikely those that came before the present generation ever knew what a wrench they would throw into our ability to define purpose. The former generation did not need to wrestle with the meaning of life and existential thoughts such as death. That is not to say those thoughts were not explored, just not at the rate they are pondered today by the commoner. For 100 years ago, merely surviving on a daily basis was in itself an accomplishment. An accomplishment that many current college students try to test every weekend, as they cannot seem to find a challenge in the mundane tasks of daily life.
The present generation has been freed from the terrible fear of catching a cold and dying days later. Even a worldwide pandemic has not done nearly the damage it would have done 100 years ago, despite the overwhelming commotion we see on Twitter. That, of course, is not an attempt to denigrate the severity of any illness but an attempt to put into perspective how rapidly the ease of living has evolved in only 100 years. Even 50 years ago, staying home to avoid getting sick would have been impossible. There was no ability to connect virtually or have basic needs delivered right to the door. The advances made even in the 26 years of my life have been unparalleled throughout history, and the rapid advances will not stop. The phones we can no longer live without did not exist 15 years ago.
Rapid growth certainly provides a wealth of benefits but failed to provide many generations with the tools to handle the reality of life. Each new generation is increasingly worse at dealing with death, communicating, and processing the various trials in life. Simply put, modern technology does not provide, nor will it ever, an ability to handle the one undeniable truth that we will all face. No matter how many advances we make, we will all end up in an overpriced box under six feet of dirt memorialized by a concrete headstone.
As the world seemingly advances at an unsustainable rate, our time is quickly fading to find some sense of validation that we have a purpose. Even our own self-validation is worthless as we fail to live up to our self-defined purpose. One cannot say they are achieving their self-defined purpose when they need only look at Instagram and find a person that is outdoing them in the very field they seek to conquer. Our ability to self-validate is as inconsequential as the mark we attempt to leave on the world will fade a few years after we depart. Even the most influential people throughout history fade into obscurity as the world devours attempts to build a lasting legacy.
There is one truth, however, we have yet to explore. One that, each new generation, better than any other generation, is best equipped to accept. We are not dying. We are already dead.
Consider for a moment your mortality. You go to the doctor, you get surgery, you get vaccinated, you wash your hands, and you cannot seem to stay perfectly healthy. Despite your body's physical health, you now notice that there is a problem with your mental health, one that surgery and even medication cannot correctly resolve. Although medicine provides a sense of relief, and in many cases is necessary, it does not resolve your mortal frame's underlying issue. You make every attempt to care for every part of your body and are still unable to remain perfectly healthy.
How is it possible that we are already dead when our lungs are filled with ever-decaying air? Assuming we accept the grim reality that we are already dead, what rationale inhibits our willingness to do unto our body what we already accept is the state of our spirit? Have we yearned for purpose with such gusto that the end of such pursuits yielded the misfortune of the knowledge that we have already perished? Even the thought of having already perished without ever finding a purpose freezes our minds while our muscles tense and our heart pounds and our knees on the very of collapse.
When panic begins, our instinct is to become self-reliant. If the world will not validate us, perhaps there is some level of self-assertion that will result in some sense of unshakable meaning. Maybe the mind in its shattered weakness can find some ability to construct a fortress of self-assurance that even the harshest criticism cannot penetrate. Nevertheless, such a system is intrinsically flawed as the fortress will always be susceptible to our own attacks.
Consider this when determining if we can genuinely validate our self-worth. Two men have an apple, one a plastic apple and another a natural apple. Both men believe the apples to be equally nutritious. Both fixate on the look of the apple and believe that eating the apple will provide long-lasting nutritional value. The man with the actual apple says to the man with the plastic, "I believe you have a fake apple. Do not eat your apple, for you will surely perish." The man with the plastic responds, "Fret not, for I determine what is and is not nutritious." Both men eat, and the man with the plastic apple dies due to ingesting such a toxic foreign substance. The man with the real apple, of course, is nourished and continues living.
Though the man with the plastic apple was challenged and admonished by an outsider, he stuck to his own ability to define truth and determine what is best for him. Not shockingly, he perished in the process because he could not take something that is plastic and make it real. Similarly, we cannot take our fleeting lives and define our life's purpose by our own principles. It is poison to our souls, leads us down a destructive path, and inevitably leads to our death.
What if I told you that in our lifetime, we have eaten thousands of plastic apples? Each bite is slowly killing us. No matter how hard we try to rationalize that what we are doing gives us meaning, we cannot shake the feeling we have no purpose.
Our plastic apples come from a variety of things. We seek approval in school, at our job, in our family, and from our friends. To better our chances of gaining acceptance, we become different people to win affection and validate our worth. Assuming that all exterior approvals fail, we turn within, hoping that the reflection in the mirror will be enough to create stability in our broken souls. But even we cannot deny that the low expectations we create for ourselves are left unmet each day we live.
Let's say we eat the plastic apple of exterior approval or self-validation. Do you not wonder why you feel empty? You either find no validation, starving your soul of some sense of love that all humans need, or ingest such an empty sense of worth that you are equally as starved without the self-awareness to realize the very thing you feed upon is killing you. It is an utterly pointless cycle. We eat the very fruit that kills us, but we will not accept we are already dead.
Where is the hope in death? Well, where is the hope in the system of validation we constantly change? What today is considered the standard is tomorrow deemed an underachievement, if indeed it is an achievement at all, and becomes a pathway to destruction or our being canceled. We have tried defining some semblance of purpose in our lives, and our minds wither as anxiety paralyzes us daily.
For the tree to grow, the seed must die. This idea that we can give our life meaning is in itself meaningless, for it is inevitable that one definition will be canceled by another. We cannot define our truth, for in doing so we must accept the idea that the only sense of truth is what we define, rendering truth itself meaningless as someone else accepts the opposite position to our generated truth as their truth. Grasping for hope, we learn the world has none to offer. We are dead. So what do we do?
To be raised from death to life is a concept that the living does not find the need to consider. For why, if we are already alive, would we need resurrection? There must be a way for us to sustain our lives without yielding to the idea we are already dead. In attempting this broken cycle, we again find ourselves at a point where we feel empty, devoid of meaning, and wondering if we are indeed alive at all. In every case, it appears that we do not need to discover some path to a self-validated life, but we need to accept our inability to generate our meaning and that our pursuits lead us to death. We can, of course, continue to pursue such grave means, but we will end up where we can already claim to be: dead.
But, what if, in a moment, we could be raised to life with a validation that can never be lost? What if, in our death, we find a love that can never be broken? My friends, what a gift it is in the paralysis of our anxious minds to know Jesus.
For in Jesus, we find the one sense of validation that cannot be broken by the will of the world. Through His death, we see that the Son of God came to earth to hang on a cross, despite our rejection, that we might live free. While not knowing Him, He knows us. Despite rejecting Him, He died for us. His hands were pierced by our transgressions, the nails of the cross covered in the blood of our salvation. He is the truth, the only truth, and the only validation weaved throughout the fabric of time. His radical love for a rebellious creation and creature sparks a change in our hearts that cannot be understood on the exterior or cultivated through self-righteousness in our interior. What a gift it is to know Jesus.
For Jesus, in His great love, did not come to condemn that world. But how could we ever find validation when Jesus lived a perfect life, and we are marred by sin? Oh, what it is to know Jesus. He became sin who knew no sin to fulfill all God commands of us by living the life we could not and dying the death we should to set us free. He paid off our unpayable debt and, in His love, provides hope beyond our mortal bodies. We yearn for some sense of validation hoping our lives mean more than the temporary existence we are given. We can be assured that in Jesus, our lives are worth the Son of the Most High despite our unworthiness for such a gift. My friends, in Jesus, in His love, in His death, in His resurrection from death, I assure you, there is hope. Our lives will extend far beyond our impending mortal death, and Jesus, our advocate, will prepare a place for us in a kingdom we could not deserve. We need only believe that Jesus, yes Jesus of the Bible who knew no sin, gave His life upon a cross and arose from the grave three days later, defeating death and ascending to the right hand of the Father. He paid our debt, and by His blood, we are cleansed. Oh, how it changes our lives to know that we are loved so infinitely that Jesus went into the grave, the perfect Son of God, to rescue us from our sins so we will be resurrected in Him if we only believe.
In your anxious moments, when no sense of validation can come from any avenue, I ask you to ponder this question: Do you believe in Jesus? For if you do, I assure you that though the world offers no hope and the sting of death still attacks our mortal bones, we will find peace. Truly it is such a wonderful gift to be infinitely loved by Jesus despite our multitude of sins. For even in our most anxious moments, I assure you that even if you do not love Him, He most graciously loves you.