You’ve heard of “snowflakes,” the pejorative label for young people who seem so fragile these days? But silly name-calling aside, what is it that’s causing so many young adults to express deep-seated angst, feelings evident in their music, their self-destructive behavior, and their despair, and what can we do to help them?
Hi, I’m Rex Rogers and this is episode #20 of Discerning What Is Best, a podcast applying unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world, and a Christian worldview to current issues and everyday life.
American youth are in emotional free fall. This crisis is built upon apocalyptic fears, resulting in what pundits are calling a teen mental health crisis.
Even celebrities--the young, the beautiful, the wealthy, the sometimes educated and sometimes talented—even they speak of “crippling anxieties,” a fear of tomorrow, a fear of life and living.
“From 2009 to 2021, the share of American high-school students who say they feel “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness” rose from 26 percent to 44 percent, according to a new CDC study…Almost every measure of mental health is getting worse, for every teenage demographic, and it’s happening all across the country.”
Social commentator Kristen Soltis Anderson said, “Teens are sad about the world, not only because the world contains sadness, but also because young people have 24/7 access to sites that are constantly telling them they should be depressed about it…Social media is making it ever more possible for today's youth to marinate in despair.”
American teens are told their bodies aren’t good enough and can’t possibly measure up to Instagram models…that is, unless they buy that model’s products.
Youth are told they cannot trust their parents – and this seems plausible to many because their parents are indeed untrustworthy – giving their children broken homes, lack of love or acceptance, or worse, ignoring them.
Youth are told as early as elementary school in some states that the doctors just guessed at their sex, that they cannot really know for sure they’re a boy or girl just by looking at their anatomy in the mirror, so they should question their biology and recreate their own gender identity. To say this teacher-induced confusion is child abuse is an understatement.
American youth are bombarded with compounding fears: the pandemic, personal security vis-à-vis crime and a host of both real and media-hyped crises, unstable finances including inflation, low level prospects of a job, climate change with dire predictions the world will end in 12 years, typical teenage yearnings for social approval and belonging, loneliness, feelings of inadequacy, then add international aggression like the Ukraine-Russia War…there’s no end to fear and stress in a world turned upside down.
American teens and many young adults have lost a sense of purpose and this vacuum is filled with disorientation, disillusionment, despair. Young people drown in a sea of ennui and dread, then they think there’s nothing left for them but nihilism, the idea life is meaningless.
This podcast is about Discerning What Is Best. If you find this thought-provoking and helpful, follow us on your favorite podcast platform. Download an episode for your friends.
Youth, and many adults too, get addicted to "doomscrolling," endlessly reading Internet negativity.
All day, every day, media pound out a steady drumbeat of what they claim are intractable threats to the survival of the human race – the unlimited and unfettered doomsaying of Big Media and Big Tech social media.
“The world is overwhelming, and an inescapably negative news cycle creates an atmosphere of existential gloom, not just for teens but also for their moms and dads.”
According to a host of secular psychologists, the solution to the teen mental health crisis is to reduce screen time, encourage self-awareness, accept and affirm who you are or want to be.
The problem with these approaches is they don’t really offer recipes for change, just more pressure on the young person to somehow reach inside and change themselves, something they cannot do.
Now no question we’re living today not only in a time of cascading, layered crises. But it’s also a time when sources of protection, perspective, and promise have been ignored, rejected, or lost.
The biggest problem facing youth today is not screentime per se, though 7 hours average per day is not good for anyone.
The biggest problem facing youth today is not mental or emotional but spiritual health.
The real problem is that youth have not been given anything solid to believe in. They have no backstop, no safety net, in actuality no truth they can trust.
One huge, ignored issue is that youth and young adults are not going to church. They are not being taught the Bible. They do not know the Scripture and thus do not understand and cannot apply Christian teaching to their everyday lives. More to the point, they do not know the God who is there, the God who is not silent.
According to George Barna’s research, just 6% of American adults possess and live with what Barna carefully identifies as a truly, biblically based Christian worldview. The number of American adults holding a biblical worldview has declined by 50% over the past quarter century. Regarding the youngest adult generation, among millennials it’s 2%, and among teens even fewer understand a Christian worldview. Since most youth and young adults do not possess a biblically Christian worldview, they do not look to Scripture to help them understand reality, identity, or purpose.
Without belief in God there is nothing to give life higher meaning.
Os Guinness recently observed that society has abandoned a shared moral universe. Instead, we celebrate rebellion in the name of absolute freedom.
We offer our youth uncivilized chaos, wickedness and barbarism, the rude, the crude, and the lewd.
Youth and young adults who experience a tsunami of threatening developments, social or personal, have no fall back.
First, what youth and young adults need today is not therapy, not another surrogate comfort like promiscuity or alcohol abuse but what they need is a relationship with the Lord.
Personal salvation in Christ, the Gospel, is the greatest transformative power in history. Salvation in Christ transforms the old person into the new person. Salvation in Christ brings love, forgiveness, a washing white as snow, deliverance from the chains of sin and despair, new purpose, and that fantastic four-letter word = HOPE.
Second, youth and young people desperately need an everyday application of a Christian philosophy of life, one that enables believers to understand and trust in God’s perspective on this troubled world:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things,” Phil. 4:6-8.
I remember a song from my youth:
“My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”
“On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand,
all other ground is sinking sand.
In every rough and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the vale.
When all around my soul gives way,
he then is all my hope and stay.” [Refrain]
Young adults beset by anxiety need only come to understand there is indeed a solid rock of hope, as the Psalmist said, “Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken,” Psalm 62:6.
Well, we’ll see you again soon. For more Christian commentary, be sure to subscribe to this podcast, Discerning What Is Best, or check my website, r-e-x-m as in Martin, that’s rexmrogers.com. And remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2022
*This podcast blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.