Thursday, March 7, 2013
Hope in an existential world.
“The life of each human being is a finite drama enacted in a hostile or indifferent universe... and no matter how close a person may feel toward another, each ultimately must face life alone.” - Randall (2001) speaking about existential philosophy.
“You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abided work of God, for: All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” - 1 Peter 1:22-25
Sometimes I feel lonely and broken. Sometimes I feel like no matter how hard I try to connect with others, I am still alone. Sometimes, I want to be known completely and wanted for who I am. Sometimes I feel like that is not possible in the cruel world that I live in.
Maybe I sometimes feel this way, because there is truth to it.
Existentialism is a philosophy that views the world as a broken, desolate, and dangerous place, that mankind is destined for death, and that the individual must search for his or her own meaning and placement in the world. Man is “always and ultimately alone”. Man must come to awareness about aloneness and death, come to accept death, and chose what to do with life on earth. Existentialism emphasizes that “to live is to suffer, to survive is to find meaning in the suffering” (Frankl, 1984).
Maybe existential thought has merit; maybe we feel that the world is broken and that we are alone because the world is broken and because we are alone. Maybe we feel this way because of someone else’s mistake: the sin of two people thousands of years ago. Because of their mistake, there is death. There is lack of true intimacy with others and with God. Because of their mistake, it is my tendency, my predisposition, to be broken, lonely, and to die. Before the mistake, there was connection: unbroken communion with God and one another. When sin entered the world, there was a great divide. The world is a broken place; I am a broken person, and I am destined for death. Intimacy was broken as well; thus, I am predisposed to desire intimacy with every fiber of my being. I am predisposed to be broken, and also to desire the fullness that was present before the fall.
This is why I feel disconnected. This is why I feel alone. Because I actually am. In many cases, this is why clients who come in for counseling are hurting. Because essentially, mankind desires the previous state of intimacy with God and man that was lost because of the fall.
But, there is hope to find true meaning in life in this broken world.
According to existentialism, it is the responsibility of man to discover meaning in a cruel world. Man has free choice to decide how to respond to life and death. According to the Word of God, we can chose ultimate meaning and life after death through the power of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In accepting salvation, we can mend the great divide of the fall. We can have an intimate relationship with God and with fellow man. Jesus mends our brokenness and reunites us with our Creator. God knows us completely, accepts us, loves us and offers us eternal life after death.
So, how can existentialism be helpful to Christian counselors? The goal of existential therapy is to help clients live an “authentic” life, accepting the ultimate concerns of being and the inevitability of our own deaths. The counselor helps the counselee to gain the courage to face isolation and death, and to embrace freedom and meaning. As Christian counselors, we should desire that our clients understand the effects of the fall, and understand that a life without Christ is a life characterized by brokenness, isolation, death, and lack of meaning. We should be able to present the hope of the gospel to clients, and explain that by the power of the cross, man can be intimate with God once again. We don’t have to feel alone and broken anymore, nor do we have to dwell on death; we are offered fullness and intimacy through Christ Jesus and He gives us eternal life.