Assistant Faith Editor
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” — from Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth: 1 Cor. 1:18 (NIV)
Was I really perishing, though? I mean, perishing sounds a bit over-dramatic in describing my life at 15.
I certainly wouldn’t have said I was perishing before I became a Christian.
I had all my necessities provided for by my parents and grandparents, and I led a mostly worry-free life as a kid. My parents woke my sister and I up at an early time, be- cause the church we were dragged to was just outside of town. We had a nice time with our friends there, playing games with pens and paper, writing notes back and forth, receiving a “hush” from mom or dad. We were hushed a lot.
Church was a regular part of my life until I was ten or so, but that whole time the spiritual realities meant nothing to me.
The Sunday service was just an event at a particular location every week. My little league football games on Saturdays were much more exciting to me and my parents, too.
For lack of better reasons, I went to church because I had to and because it was a rather nice time to see my friends.
I came into my teenage years apathetic about church, just as many others do.
My grandpa died in late 2012 and a month later my parents announced to my sister and I that they were getting a divorce.
It was unfathomable to me then that I would move more than ten times over the next four years.
This felt like perishing, or at least as close as my young mind could have imagined at that time, and I tried to solve this feeling.
The court-ordered therapist visits, the diagnosis of depression and the medications only made me feel worse most days.
I tried the strategies we are all taught to follow, but they all failed me.
This is the part where I share the rest of my life story, which I will not do now, but maybe we can all see where this is going.
And maybe that’s the point.
Life is hard. This is no secret. Just ask an artist. Many great artists and creators have created wonderful works while having incredibly tragic personal lives.
Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway is an absolutely beautiful picture of how hard modern life is for an individual.
She emphasized the ease with which anxiety and distraction and regret slip into daily life, and her life was filled with tragedy.
Virginia Woolf’s mother and father died and she was physically abused by her step brothers. Alongside her experiences, she probably had clinical depression among other psychological illnesses, which were still mostly mysteries to researchers in her time.
From Virginia Woolf to your neighbors to yourself, all humans have known despair and have suffered by it.
All humans know suffering.
Jesus was a human, too, and he knew despair. He even knew it in greater depths than we can. His life was riddled with betrayal and desertion from friends and being despised by family members.
He knew what it was to be mocked publicly and falsely accused and rejected by his people. He was stripped of his clothes and he was brutally beaten by Roman soldiers.
Then, Jesus knew death.
But Jesus rose from the dead three days after this, defeating death and offering eternal life to those who place their faith in him and follow him.
And I’m not arguing here that becoming a Christian ends or solves the difficulties of life.
Instead, I’m arguing that the strong desire for hope and the out- cry of humanity for a reason not to just commit suicide this instant is based on the fact that the savior, Jesus, rose from the dead.
He demonstrated the power of God over death, and ultimately over the troubles of life.
Our suffering undeniably involves an outcry for something bigger than us, for something — or someone — to give us a reason to keep going.
The life, death and resurrection of Jesus displays both the authority of God over despair and depression, dejection and betrayal, and the sacrificial love of God for humankind, even with all of our messiness.
Jesus died and then defeated death when he rose from his grave.
This is the hope we are looking for — A hope that will last beyond death.
This message of hope in Christ is the Gospel, and it is the overarching narrative of the Bible, from the creation account to the ending. It is God’s eternal plan to redeem humankind to himself.
The Apostle Paul states that “Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,” 1 Cor. 1:22-23 (NIV).
In our calamitous school-shoot- ing and sex-trafficking-filled world, the hope we place in ourselves and in our governments does not last long before we are thrown into personal crises.
Our trust in governments fail when its agents hurl tear gas at children at borders and when the vulnerable aren’t cared for.
And our hope in ourselves is broken when we belittle another person, or watch pornography, and then feel immense shame and disgust with our minds and bodies.
So, after those hopes are gone, what’s left?
It didn’t appear to me that I was perishing as a young teenager, but I knew it was hard to live most days. The reason I didn’t share the rest of my life story at the beginning is because you probably knew it was going to get worse.
We expect suffering, and we can sometimes prepare for it, but we cannot overcome it. It always goes deeper than we think it will. The only hope we can have that suffering does not have the final say is the only hope that will satisfy our hearts.
We must hope in the foolishness of Jesus.