Summary: Christians are to preach Christ's peace and the hope He brings to a hopeless, despairing world.

“Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’” [1]

Ancient Christians were recognised for their courage; they had a reputation of running toward the plague. Today, there is a new plague that demands a response from Christians. Life expectancy in the United States witnessed a steady upward trend for decades, only to be suddenly reversed. [2] Between 1959 and 2016, life expectancy increased from 69.9 years to 78.9 years. However, life expectancy has decreased for three consecutive years between 2014 and 2017. The last time life expectancy decreased for three years in a row was during the First World War compounded by the Spanish Flu Epidemic. During that period of time, total deaths for the nation were 675,000, which would be the equivalent of 2.5 million Americans today. [3]

In fairness, since beginning work on this message, I note a more recent report which indicates that life expectancy in the United States has increased for the first time in four years. Life expectancy has gone up by one month! [4] This slight increase is the result of a decline in drug overdose deaths. While a nationwide crack-down on physicians prescribing opioids and the wide distribution of the anti-overdose drug Narcan is having an impact, deaths from fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamines increased. There were concomitant drops in death rates from heart disease, chronic respiratory diseases, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease which helped to lower the overall death rate for the nation.

The disturbing fact remains that although elderly Americans are living longer due to improved medical care, greater numbers of young people are dying; and the causes of death are things like “suicide, drug overdoses, liver disease and dozens of other causes.” These causes are summed up in the phrase “death from despair,” coined by researchers Anne Case and Angus Deaton. [5] Youth question whether they have a future.

As is true in the United States, Canada is also facing an epidemic of young people who are giving up on life, sometimes before life even really starts for them. Public health experts contend that people are feeling worse about themselves and their futures, and that’s leading them to do things that are self-destructive and not promoting health. Our youth are giving up at a younger and younger age. Measurement of “happiness” is at the lowest level since such measurements were made. Only fourteen percent of people claim to be “very happy,” compared to thirty-one percent just two years previous. [6] Researchers tracking the happiness or sadness of those posting on social media, observe that we have reached what may be the saddest period since such studies began. [7] The same hopelessness leading to the uptick in “deaths from despair” also drives what some call “acts of desperation,” including such events as mass violence, abuse, and the increasing numbers of young people willing to self-mutilate in a pursuit of their identities.

Perhaps one evidence of the despair of youth is provided in the spectacle of a young woman from Sweden named Greta Thunbrerg. This girl has been convinced that her world is being destroyed by her parent’s generation and that only youth can save it. “How dare you!” has become her trademark accusation levelled at those responsible for government. We’ve witnessed numerous young women and young men screaming maniacally at political loss in the United States and Canada. The despair of those young people seen on videos screaming at conservatives on college campuses is evident. What are such tragic displays of seeing rage if not panic? After all, these youth have been told the world will end in twelve years if we don’t sign some papers, told that youth are mere days away from being enslaved, that the President of the United States is literally Hitler. How can a young person be raised to sensible adulthood when every adult they look up to is telling them their future will be short? How can youth not be freaked out?

The western world is confronted by a plague that threatens society as we know it. While people look to government to address the problem, conscientious Christians know that government is the problem! We know that the answer to the problems confronting us will not be found in government. If there is to be a respite from the dire conditions driving youth to despair, it will be provided by the people of God responding as Christ has directed His people to act. In order to discover a proper response to the threats posed by this fallen world, join me in study of Christ and how He witnessed the world.

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