Friday, October 14, 2011

Have You Had Your Existential Crisis Yet?

If you read the accompanying cartoon and the recent article linked here, you might conclude that pondering the meaning of life is nothing more than the source of a good chuckle or an interesting way to pass an evening with a friend. The world around us seems to be flooded with people crying out from meaningless existences. Pay attention to the lyrics of pop songs, look deeper at the implications behind the sitcom's humor, and study the root causes for some of today's addictions. You'll find much of it links back to the overarching existential mindset adopted by so many today. The writer of the cartoon uses wit to possibly get us to consider our own reasons for the things we do. (Did you notice just how fat the dog was in relation to the reference to food?) The article introduces us to some typical folks dealing some typical modern complexities. How do I get ahead in this world? What really matters? Where do I find meaning? The writer has spent some time reading what others have said about all of this. And she's clear about the sum of it all- the whole universe (and by implication, our very existence) is meaningless, so let's just smile, sit here on a bench, and pet a white cat for a while. The article has little to offer anyone trying to fight their way through the existential quagmire. (Although I think I heard some of the more psychologically-focused in the group trying to decide how much Prozac to start her friend on:) Simple musings of one lost person attempting to lead another through the maze of meaninglessness are all she has to offer. It seems that in virtually every realm of society today, there are some very big questions being asked with very few people seeming to have any answers that make any difference.

In class recently, we discussed that in his original plan, God desired close relationships with and among his "image bearers". Since Adam (and the rest of us) have chosen our own rebellious way, that close relationship has been broken. A logical view of man's current reality apart from this deep relationship with God and others could easily lead one to espouse existentialism. Although difficult to absolutely define, the ideas of personal isolation, ultimate meaninglessness, pointless freedom, and impending death are some general characteristics of modern existentialism. If you take the ideas of religion (most specifically, Christianity) out of the picture, how can you resist looking at life this way? If the atheists and evolutionists are correct, then there truly is no point to our lives and nothing has any ultimate value. Thankfully, it is abundantly clear to me that those mislead theorists have it all wrong.

I have not been familiar with the meaning and assumptions associated with the word existentialism for very long. I had heard some educated people throw it around occasionally, but embarrassingly have only recently come to better understand the actual implications of it. I must simply state, the utter hopelessness, meaninglessness, and dark overtones of it are almost tangibly scary and unbearably depressing to me. My heart truly breaks for people looking at life that way. And it's not too hard for me to relate to them, for it seems only a short while ago, I was one of them. Although it's been almost two decades now, it seems only a very brief time ago that I surrendered my life to Christ and accepted his incredible offer of true freedom. I was one of those rational people looking around and wondering how any of this messed-up world made any sense. At that time, my life was externally going pretty good: I was in excellent physical condition, had money to spend, was succeeding and being rewarded in my chosen profession, had an extended family that loved me and a girlfriend and buddies to have fun with, lived in a tropical paradise with no reason to think life would continue in any other than glorious directions. I was even living out my dream of serving my country in some rather coveted positions. I was a key member of a SWAT team, completed sniper training, protecting VIPs as a bodyguard, and supporting counter-narcotics operations, among numerous other duties most young people would jump at. Even with all of this, I started wondering what any of it was for and why I was even bothering. Thankfully, around this time, God placed many key people in my life to clearly communicate and live out the gospel right in front of me.

I share all of this to make it clear how endlessly grateful I am that God didn't let me lose my mind (or life!) looking for the answers to it all. He reached down one night, adopted me as his son, forgave me for all the horrible things I'd ever done, and is cleaning me up and using me to bring praise to him and to further his kingdom. I actually have the incredible honor of knowing and being known by the God of everything! I have made it my goal to consistently reach out to the deceived and hopeless people God has put in my path, to try to lovingly share the immeasurable gift offers to us all through Christ. It's my goal now to try to better learn how to help people live out the victorious life God has purchased for us and to learn how to overcome the "sins that so easily beset us" and other problems we all face. I'm so thankful we don't have to give in to the despair of existentialism or any of the other Godless theories abounding. We can have confidence that through Christ, those looming questions can be answered and we can live out a fulfilling, joyful life. Not because we have it all figured out, but because we have an all-sufficient God who has made it his responsibility to take care of us. So, when those in our sphere of influence experience their Existential Crisis, will we be ready to humbly offer them the hope that is only found in Christ?


  1. I think it's so important for us as believers and as counselors to remember that apart from Christ, life is meaningless and hopeless. And but for the grace of God, we would be in the same position as so many around us, wandering through life without purpose. This a humbling thought but it will enable us to identify with others and to then offer the grace and hope that we have received through Jesus Christ.

  2. Well said, Eric, existentialism is very dark and hopeless apart from Christ. There are two things I do like about existentialism. You and the class mentioned the first: the great contrast it helps create when compared to Christianity. Delving into existentialism is like going into a poverty-stricken town. When you get back home, your house seems to look twice as big, and hot running water looks like a miracle from God. The second thing I like about existentialism is that it is honest. There is a real sense of honesty to this approach that I appreciate. Existentialists are not afraid to question and wrestle with the hardest questions they can. I think they have been rewarded with a very well-defined worldview all be it quite hopeless.

    I never want to stop questioning what I believe. There are questions everywhere in Scripture, and I want to push and press for answers. What is so easy to do is push the "have faith" eject button from questions. There are some unanswerable questions, but I think we should earn the right to say "we just need to trust God". The oldest work of existentialism that I know of is Biblical. The author of Ecclesiastes is terribly concerned with the meaning of life. Ecclesiastes is such a good book if you want to see that contrast previously mentioned. Ecclesiastes not only gives us a contrast from the viewpoint of an atheist, but the viewpoint of a person who believed in God, but did not have Christ. Let us work out our salvation like the existentialists works out their demise. Let us be prepared to give an answer.

  3. I was thinking that very same thing Aris. In Ecclesiastes 1:2 it starts out strong with the words, "Meaningless! Meaningless! Says the teacher. Utterly Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!" I love this verse and this book because it is written by a king, most likely king Solomon, who has the entire world at his fingertips which is what the world says should bring happiness and fulfillment but he sees it all as meaninglessness! What a powerful message. This was a great post to remind us that apart from Christ and experiencing that original blueprint relationship with God, everything else is meaningless.


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