America’s post-COVID emotional reboot is not going well. In my work with thousands of young adults this year, I find unprecedented levels of purposelessness and anxiety.
Secular worldviews can’t help. The evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson bluntly asserted that humanity has no purpose “beyond the imperatives created by its genetic history.” And yet, we humans have this pesky belief that we were meant for something more. We long to discover truth that imparts lifelong meaning.
Why Do So Many People Feel So Lost?
In my book Truth Changes Everything I share two significant reasons for people’s lostness in today’s culture: the rejection of knowable truth and the rise of the belief that truth is inside of us. Ninety-one percent of Americans agree with the statement “The best way to find yourself is by looking within yourself.”
This inward focus is destroying us. Seventy-five percent of young adults say they do not have a sense of purpose that gives them meaning in life. Levels of gloomy self-hate are skyrocketing.
Two Biblical Tools for Finding Meaning
The way to truth is outside, not inside. We have a purpose as human beings, concluded philosopher Dallas Willard, and it is “to love and serve others, and to be loved and served by others.” Galatians 5:13 says, “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
Love and service don’t depend on how we feel inside. They are intentional, disciplined ways of moving outside of ourselves in our search for truth. Here’s what I mean.
Love. According to sociologist Christian Smith, love is “self-expenditure for the genuine good of others.” In every encounter we have with our fellow human beings, the mark of love is not whether we feel loving, but whether we give of ourselves for their good.
Service. To serve, according to the Robert K. Greenleaf Center on Servant Leadership, is to “focus on the growth and well-being of the people and communities to which they belong.” The mark of service is not whether we value our own contribution, but whether our actions enable others to grow.
How Can We Help Our Children Orient to Purpose?
In our Summit Ministries programs, we train 70,000 young people every year to develop a biblical worldview that focuses on what you do, not just what you know. Here are three practical keys to putting a biblical worldview into action.
Discipleship. True discipleship isn’t just about helping children feel closer to God. It is about helping them learn to see everything in the world from God’s perspective, as revealed in the Bible. This involves asking, at every moment of every day, “God, what do you see that you want me to see? What are you hearing that you want me to hear? Where are you going that you want me to go?”
Recently our ministry hosted a student with significant disabilities. At Summit she learned that she bears the image of a loving God who has filled her with purpose. This didn’t just change her view about herself; it changed her view of what she could do in the world. “People say I can’t do much,” she told me, “But I say, ‘Watch me!’”
Loving and serving transform the very process of education. My colleague Dr. Roger Erdvig says, “We aren’t just learning for ourselves, but for others. We should always be asking, ‘How will knowing this help me help others?”
Discernment. Thanks to artificial intelligence, knowledge is now essentially free. But wisdom—the ability to know and prefer the good and genuine over the bad and the counterfeit—is becoming more valuable than ever.
This is why I tell my students at Summit Ministries, “You need old people; and they need you.” Make a list of things you need to know, find people who know these things, and ask them questions. Proverbs 4 instructs us to seek wisdom, even though it costs everything we have.
Admittedly, seeking wisdom is risky. One student asked me, “What if I ask a wise person to help me and they say no?” I replied, “Sometimes you’ll be told no. But if you don’t ask, the answer is always no. Take a risk.”
For the same reason that it is important to surround ourselves with wise people, it is also important to surround ourselves with trustworthy books and news. If you want to be a leader, you’ve got to be a reader. Sources I trust are the Summit Ministries bookstore at www.summit.org and World Magazine’s news and book reviews at www.wng.org.
Dialogue. In polls Summit Ministries has conducted, we’ve found that half the people who believe in biblical truth never say anything out of fear of being cancelled or coming across as unintelligent.
You don’t have to be a know-it-all to talk about what you believe. Just get the conversation started. The best way to do that is through good questions.
In the Gospels, Jesus used questions to invite conversation, probe people’s motives, and challenge wrong beliefs. Based on Jesus’s example, my five favorite words have become, “Tell me more about that.” I follow that with questions like, “Help me understand. What do you mean? How do you know?”
Love and Service Help Us Find Truth
Secular research affirms that love and service not only make a better world, but they also help us find purpose. People who love and serve others manage stress better, live longer, have more confidence, reduce anxiety, and experience more life satisfaction.
The famed psychiatrist Karl Menninger was asked what a person should do when feeling a nervous breakdown coming on. He replied, “Lock up your house, go across the railroad tracks, and find someone in need and do something for him.”
The good life isn’t found inside by trying to muster heavenly feelings when things seem hellish. It’s found when we move outside ourselves to dislodge hell’s territory by bringing heaven to all we do.
*This article first appeared on the Christian Home Educators of Colorado website, here.
Your support can prepare and connect students to a community of believers committed to learning and living a biblical worldview! Giving is quick, easy, and secure and can be done here. Thank you!