A Matter of Life and Death
"This is a matter of life and death," he says. If you missed my last post, I ended by saying that Heartache is only a symptom of the root issue. Something about a war, and there's some evil scheme afoot. Pretty vague stuff. Unfortunately for curiosity's sake, I felt the need here to expound on the idea of Heartache and what, exactly, it's a symptom of. I won't get to the epic war stuff in this article. However, assuming that that topic is as exciting to you as it is to me, let's jump right in to cover the prerequisites.
Heartache--the word I chose to refer to the feeling that something's missing--is not the end of the problem. Just like when a plant withers and dies for lack of water, when we start to hurt because it feels like we're lacking something, it's not the pain that's the issue. It's that we're lacking something. I believe this is important, because I know how easy it is to waste time looking for what's going to make the pain go away in the moment without looking for why it's showing up in the first place.
Finding the Root
I took an Intro to Psychology class recently, and at one point we were talking about the most common mental health issues for college students. Depression and anxiety were primary issues. In the study we were examining, the behaviors resulting from depression and anxiety included things like alcoholism and "risky sexual behavior". In my notes for that day, I wrote, "College is a coping culture."
College students are on the front lines against Heartache. Our heritage, we're told, is that we came from a few monkeys, who came from (at our current best guess) some pond scum that got lucky playing connect-the-dots with protein. This is as strong a statement about our future as it is about our past: with this heritage, on what grounds would anyone say their destiny holds anything better? It's no wonder we struggle with depression. Life is depressing in that story. And no one has any reason to think they have an important role to play. Doesn't it make you anxious to feel like you don't belong...anywhere? And it's no wonder we're drunk, high, distracted, running, shouting, overworking, overgaming, overeating, overtweeting, and sleeping around--we'll take anything we can get to drown out the Heartache.
We're missing meaning.
It's not just college students. We've all tried (or are trying) to find something to quench our thirst for meaning. Social media is a hugely popular candidate for this. Romantic relationships are also in the running. Along with those are a myriad other options to choose from: job satisfaction, wealth, being the funny one in your friend group, celebrity status, pornography addiction, humanitarian efforts, control of others...you name it. I wrote this list and then realized I can identify with every single one--and I know I'm not alone.
If we're being honest, in the face of this thirst for meaning, we can hardly blame those who prefer suicide. If we're being honest, it starts to make sense why we might seriously say, "I would rather die than get up this morning"--and why some choose that option.
We need a drink.
Don't Stop Looking for the Well
Here's what I'm getting at: understanding who we are matters. In fact, knowing the answer to this question spells the difference between life and death. If all we are is "dust in the wind", as Kansas said, the ultimate outcome is death.
And yet, are you satisfied with forfeiting your life? Sorry, there's no in between. You're either alive or you're dead. Yeah, that's not a tough question...it's not meant to be. We'll all fight to find out why we're here--or, why and how we should live--until one of two things happen: A) We find answers and start discovering what it means to be alive, or B) we become crusty cynics and skeptics railing on those who still have the courage to seek answers.
If you're like me, there's a thirsty voice inside of you that's just as strong as Heartache. You tell yourself, "Keep looking. Maybe you'll get answers. Maybe one day you'll find the guidebook or stumble across the ancient ruins that explain what it means to be alive. I know there's something more. There has to be." If you've stopped hearing this voice, now is a great time to start looking for it again. Don't stop looking for the well. Don't give up hope.
Conclusion / Teaser
It's a normal, human experience nowadays to feel dissatisfied by the way things are (and by "nowadays" I mean the past several thousand years). I believe this drive to find a source of meaning and fulfillment was hardwired into us because there is a source of life to be found. And it's readily available to you and me.
I would even go so far as to say it's right in front of our eyes. Next time, under the title "What Our Media Tells Us", I will attempt to explain a recurring theme I'm seeing in the successful movies, books, brands, and so forth of the cultures we find ourselves in today.
In the meantime, take courage. I wish I could just spit out what I see to be the answer, but I believe I needed to thoroughly set up the problem first. If you're looking for what makes life worth living, I want to encourage you: you're not alone. There are others who have gone before you who have found an incredible source of life. It is possible to live a life flowing over with meaning and worth, and the person offering this life is dying to give it to you. (More accurately, he already died to make it available to everyone who wants it and will accept it.)
The short answer (to many questions, but specifically the one I've been talking about) is Jesus. Here's what he said on the matter of life and death:
What an exciting thought! Abundant life. What does that even mean? But that's a topic for next time. Until then, I invite you to ask the God of the Bible this question with me: "Father, who do you say that I am? What do you think of me?" You might be surprised at the answers you get. They are full of meaning.
Thanks for reading, and I can't wait to continue.