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Hopelessness – Why Are Children Believing Our Future is Uncertain

Hopelessness – Why Are Children Believing Our Future is Uncertain

By Doug Siggins, ACBC Certified, Counselor/Pastor at Trinity Counseling and Training Center, Wyoming

 When we turn on the television or jump on social media, it does not take long to be inundated with cultural and political havoc: school shootings, gang violence, child abductions, sex trafficking, disintegration of the traditional family, ramped divorce, social revolution, violent demonstrations, climate change, identity politics, kneeling at the anthem debates, impeachment hearings, veteran suicide rates, impending World War III, bullying, and black/blue lives matter mantras. Parents despair for the future of their children while children become numb to the noise.

A 2018 Forbes article reports, "Well over half of Gen Z respondents reported significant stress over other issues in the news: the rise in suicide rates, climate change and global warming, separation and deportation of immigrants and migrant families and widespread sexual harassment and assault reports."[1] The New York Post labeled the Millennial generation as "Generation Hopeless."[2]

Hopelessness has practical consequences—delay in "adulting," floundering in career and work pursuit, remaining at home, increased age for marriage or the absence of it altogether, fewer people purchasing homes, and the fear of having children. A stressed out and hopeless generation is responding by withdrawing, isolating, and protecting. The fullest expression of this hopelessness is the suicide epidemic. The national suicide rate increased 30 percent from 2000 to 2016, and in 2016 it was the second leading cause of death in ages ten to thirty-four.[3]

Parents struggle to offer any optimistic projection for the future. How can they counter the tidal wave of weariness sweeping over the minds of their children? They too find themselves battling hopelessness and fear. In their attempts to safeguard their children, they exacerbate the fear as doors are locked and double locked, apps are installed to track children’s movement to ensure they aren’t abducted, and background checks are run on anyone who may supervise them.

Many parents are trapped in their own weight of weariness. After living through the optimism of the 90s, they came face-to-face with fear from 9–11, the remnants of the Cold War, and the economic collapse of 2008. Many have been fighting our nation’s wars for decades and have felt the trauma of war, separation from families, and the insecurity of both global and national unrest. Some are suiting up as first responders only to find the ones they serve are now hostile to their labors.

We can begin to arrive at better answers when we ask a more fundamental question: How did we end up in the world we live in? Genesis 3 answers this question. Ever since man’s fall into sin, man’s nature is to fear. Fear is part of our heritage—and with good reason. As Adam heard the proclamation of judgement for his sin, "You shall surely die," he began to experience for the first time the consequences of his failure. Accompanying his new knowledge of good and evil were the painful realities of destruction, desolation, disease, decay, devastation, and deception. Fear was necessary because harm was imminent. As Adam and Eve stood looking back toward the garden, now guarded by two cherubim with flaming swords, the reality of their situation began to set in. For the first time they must have experienced a deep and abiding sense of hopelessness. Where do we go? How do we survive in this foreign and hostile land?

As a result of Adam’s rebellion, every generation now asks similar questions. What is going on? How can we survive? Where do we go from here? Those questions are being asked today in shouts of uncertainty. Fear of the future is casting dark shadows of hopelessness over our culture, and our youth are being raised in the auditorium of anxiety. They see this as a new phenomenon but the reality is that every generation inherits the nature of Adam and the consequences of the curse.

Adam stood looking back at the garden. He had lost all security. He was isolated, exposed, vulnerable, and on alert—as he should have been. He had every reason to be hopeless. Every generation after Adam has experienced similar effects of the fall. Adam and Eve buried their son Abel. Noah closed the ark’s door to hear the deluge destroy the earth and all its inhabitants. Lot’s wife looked back on that city that was being destroyed. Moses listened to the hopeless grumbling of his thirsty people as they longed to return to Egypt. David stood in a cave looking at Saul. Israel looked back to Jerusalem from the bondage of their captivity. . . . Our heritage is one of hopeless situations, people looking for a refuge in the midst of chaos and instability. Our heritage is also one of God bringing true hope from seemingly hopeless situations.

Our ancestors have cried out to God in hopelessness. It is in the history of hopelessness that God most clearly reveals his redemptive story. Adam could not save himself. Moses, Joshua, David, and Israel could not save themselves. All of them had to look to another Adam, the greatest Prophet, Priest, and King. God had strategically removed the false or limited sources of strength, security, and solace so He would be the only source of hope and help—and the hope and help He offers is unlimited and real.

FALSE HOPE

Immediately after Adam sinned, the first source of false hope was sought. Genesis 3:7 (ESV) says, "The eyes of both were opened and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made for themselves loincloths." Their physical nakedness was not their greatest concern. For the first time they felt shame and guilt. They were exposed, vulnerable, and uncovered. Their sin and guilt needed covering. They needed protection. They covered their nakedness from one another and hid from God. They placed their hope in fig leaves, the work of their own hands, which could never provide a permanent and sufficient covering.

Today hope is still sought through types of fig leaves—covering for guilt sewn in self-righteousness, self-protection, self-covering. While we do not seek literal fig leaves, we still turn to the works of our own hands to cover ourselves. Covering is constructed by managing images, self-exaltation, grooming personal glory, and selecting the perfect selfie. Shame is sought to be covered and guilt assuaged in careers, entertainment, addictions, religion, or reputations. The United States provides ample opportunities to build strong towers and sure footings through wealth and strength. We are Adam, diligently sewing fig leaves we choose to cover our guilt and hopelessness.

Every worldview makes a truth claim and attempts to become a point of hope.  Much of this hope is declared from our institutions of "higher learning" and the most "informed minds."  They all claim to have their own truth and thus their own hope.  Steven Lawson, in a recent Ligonier Ministries article identifies some of the false truth sources being put forth to provide hope, "Humanism says man is the truth.  Pragmatism says whatever works is the truth.  Pluralism says everyone has a piece of the truth.  Relativism says each situation determines the truth.  Mysticism says intuition is the truth.   Skepticism says no one can know the truth.  Hedonism says whatever feels good is the truth.  Existentialism says self-determination is the truth.  Secularism says this present world is the truth.  Positivism says whatever man confesses is the truth."[4]  So, everyone has their own truth claim.  The advocates for such truth each derive a certain level of hope from that claim, but that hope is soon seen to have no power to help.  Without absolute truth we have no absolute hope.

We may turn to offers like these that are in reality only better fig leaves. Slogans of hope make tremendous bumper stickers but pathetic leaves of hope. "Live your best life now." "You be you." "You are worthy." "Be kind and courageous." These are all attempts to cover our shame, to convince us of our worth amidst our deep-seated feelings of guilt and helplessness.

Parents are often guilty of not only searching for new and improved fig leaves for their children but actively striving to efficiently stitch them together when the current leaves are shown to be inadequate. Endless activities are arranged while warding off anything that may upset their children’s delicate feelings. They long for their offspring to be covered, to be happy and hopeful, but are deceived into searching secular and worldly sources, all the while leaving their children exposed.

TRUE HOPE

God displayed true hope for Adam and Eve before they were driven from the garden. In a seemingly unimportant statement, we read in Genesis 3:21 (ESV), "And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them." Until this point they had been attempting to cover themselves and hide. But God, in an act of mercy and grace, sacrificed the life of an animal to provide them with a covering not of their own. They were driven from the garden with two very important things: a promise and a provision. The promise that "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring: he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" (v. 15). The provision of a covering from the death of a sacrifice (v. 21).

True hope can be found only in this very same promise and this very same provision. God has been unfolding the promise throughout history . . .  the fulfillment of the promise and the final and full covering. It is in Jesus Christ that the head of the serpent was bruised and the power of Satan destroyed. It was Jesus’s sacrifice that provided a full and final covering. Our High Priest fully, finally, and forever satisfied the law that we could never keep, paid the sin debt we could never pay, and defeated our greatest enemy— death. Our King is the victor over sin, Satan, and this hopeless world. Now all who repent and come to Jesus in faith are reconciled to God and covered in the robe of Christ’s righteousness. And those who do this have a better hope than this world can offer . . . a better world in the age to come, where there will be no more sorrow, pain, or death.

HOPE RESTORED

"For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" Romans 10:13. Hope is restored when a generation, one person at a time, turns from hope in their stifling circumstances and calls upon the Lord. God has no interest in creating a utopia on this earth so man can boast in his accomplishment and every generation will feel the futility of those efforts.

Repent and believe. Jesus’s first recorded message in Mark issues the same call that is necessary today. Repent and believe. Repent of sewing fig leaves. Repent of looking to the vanity of this world for hope. Repent of trying to rebuild ruin . . . and be reconciled to God. Believe in God’s provision and promise.

Look not to the façade of false hope but look to Jesus.  As you face life’s challenges, call upon the only fitting source of life and hope—the victorious King.  In His simple words uttered on the cross, "It is finished," Jesus declared the armistice between man and God.  Those who have put their faith in Jesus have peace with God through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).  We can have peace and hope no matter what is going on around us. No matter what is happening in our lives. Peace from knowing that God loves us unconditionally. No matter how bad things seems, when we put our trust in Him, all things will work together for good (Romans 8:28). Hope has been restored.  Hope has a name and His name is Jesus.

 HOPE HERALDED

"How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?" (Romans 10:14 ESV).

As the fools of the culture proclaim their messages of hopelessness, the theater of operations is being prepared for the advancement of the Kingdom. What a strategic time it is for organizations like the Fallen Soldier March to be mobilizing resources to strategically proclaim the message of hope and healing in Jesus. It is the message of hope that biblical counselors bring at points of trauma, crisis, and suffering. It is the clarity of the gospel which is the anthem of hope as the Fallen Soldier March advances into hostile territory.

May the Lord use hopelessness to reveal the futility of current philosophy and cause this conflicted generation to call upon Him.

"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God" (Psalm 20:7)

About Doug Siggins:

 

  • Counselor/Pastor at Trinity Counseling and Training Center, a ministry of Trinity Bible Church, Powell, Wyoming
  • ACBC Certified in 2019
  • Received counseling training through the Institute for Nouthetic Studies
  • Married 33 years, one son and five daughters
  • Thirty-one years in Wyoming Army National Guard as Traditional and Active Guard Reserve Soldier, retired as Master Sergeant in 2016
  • Owner/facilitator Training Tuesday Podcast, a source of support for Army National Guard Recruiters

 

[1] Prudy Gourguechon, "Gen Z Is Stressing Out: Finding Solutions for Hopelessness and Helplessness," Forbes, October 30, 2018. Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/prudygourguechon/2018/10/30/gen-z-is-stressing-out-finding-solutions-for-hopelessness-and-helplessness/#6e1570f03c98.

 

[2] Shannon Molloy, "Millennials might as well be ‘Generations Hopeless,’" New York Post, July 4, 2017. New York Post: https://nypost.com/2017/07/04/millennials-might-as-well-be-generation-hopeless/.

[3] Lea Winerman, "By the numbers: An alarming rise in suicide," January 01, 2019. American Psychological Association: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/01/numbers.

[4] Steven Lawson, "The Moment of Truth: Its Rejection," March 07, 2018. Ligonier Ministries: https://www.ligonier.org/blog/moment-truth-its-rejection/.

 


 
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