By Fr Jason Smith
I recall standing in line at a Starbucks waiting for a double shot of espresso, when a young man behind me asked if I was a priest. I told him yes and he proceeded then and there to pour out his life’s story, how he had tried everything (not referring to the menu) and it had all left him empty. I asked him if he had ever sincerely tried living the faith. He had not.
This young man’s story is not unique. I run into this feeling of emptiness in so many of the youth I work with.
What I find perplexing and even shocking is that, on the one hand, young people have more things that should fill them than anyone their age throughout history: Opportunity, education, technology, medicine, social networks, travel, freedom, and the list goes on; yet, on the other, many feel so empty they will do almost anything to escape, even resorting to cutting and suicidal thoughts or attempts. One could opine this is nothing new, but I am finding it be increasing in frequency every year that I’ve been directly involved in youth work.
Perhaps it is unfair to tag the emptiness so many feel only upon our post-Christian, materialistic, and relativistic culture. I know there are many other sources of depression. But still, even if I’m being over simplistic, one must admit that most people today have everything except a real relationship with Jesus Christ. I believe that to be the root of the problem.
I can’t help but compare the emptiness of so many with the fullness that Christ promises in the Gospel and the fullness many have experienced when they open their hearts to the Lord.
I think here of six young people I know and have worked with who were contemplating ending it all–not because of a medical depression–and now, having found Christ and rejecting the emptiness of the culture, are transformed.
We all sense deep down that the world cannot, will not fill us. Yet today everyone seems to have bought into the lie that it can, and when it doesn’t and it leaves us torn apart, what’s left?
The Lord’s teaching is the opposite. We must die to the world but in doing so we find true life and are “filled with the utter fullness of God.” Eph. 3:19
I wish everyone would try that.