We all want to be defined by something and to have meaning for our lives, but how do we avoid being pulled in the wrong directions as we seek value in life?
On the Joe Rogan Experience, journalist Abigail Shrier discussed her recent research and topic of her new book on the transgender craze. “We have a hundred-year diagnostic of gender dysphoria. We know what it is. It’s not guesswork. In this whole history, it typically presents in early childhood; ages two to four is when we see it starting, and it is overwhelmingly boys….
“Now we’re seeing an explosion of young women suddenly deciding that they’re trans with their friends, and they’re doing it in friend groups. They’re doing it after social media immersion. Transgender adults didn’t do it because of social media, and it certainly never won them friends.”
A visibly shocked Joe Rogan, trying to clarify the process, asked, “So you could be a confused 18 year old girl and walk into a Planned Parenthood, self-diagnosing with no therapy at all, and they’ll prescribe testosterone, and you can have your breasts removed?”
“Absolutely. You sign a form.”
Joe invoked the Lord’s name and muttered, “That’s a big decision, right? That’s a decision you can’t really come back from.”
Abigail nodded and added, “Unfortunately, very often, the mental health deteriorates. I talked to one young woman, Desmond, and she decided in high school that she was trans. She got celebrated everywhere, her teachers, her therapist…everywhere she went. She got on testosterone, and it caused uterine cramping — it’s one of the many bad side-effects of testosterone. She had to have a hysterectomy.
“So at twenty-one, she wakes up with hysterectomy, and she realized this whole thing had been a giant mistake…. All of a sudden, she didn’t know what to do. There was no one cheering her on anymore.”
Where We Keep Our Existential Bootstraps
The desperate search for value in life, if only through peer approval, is hardly a 21st century invention. How often this quest leads us into devastating choices or leaves us with lifelong pain is also nothing new. A desperate hunger for approval and meaning beckons us forward. That’s if we’re lucky. Terrible, soul-deep pain and fear might do the same, depending on our circumstances.
“The single greatest pursuit of every young person today is the pursuit of meaning. ‘What does my life really mean?’” Ravi Zacharias explained to show host Dave Rubin.
“I was talking to a young man yesterday, 18 years old, who got hooked onto pornography when he was eight. And he says, ‘I have hated everything that I have become. Now all I want to do is make an exit.’ You see, take something and warp it into something else, you empty the reality with something that’s hollow.”
Dave Rubin asked, “Do you think some people can ‘do it’ by themselves? Do you think some people can grab the existential bootstraps and not have a religious belief or something beyond themselves and still have a good and moral life, a meaningful life?”
Ravi answered, “I think so. I think they can. But it does not have ultimate grounding in a compelling way. It has only that, an existential transformation….the question has to be, David, is what you believe ultimately true or only individualistically true for you and for me? If that is the case, then you cannot absolutize it. You can only recommend it as pragmatically workable for the here and now, and then how do you dissuade somebody who has, by their existential bootstraps, come to the opposite conclusion?
“There’s no ontic referent. There’s no point of reference to find a solution to what is true and good and beautiful.”
If we’re created to work for and worship God, our fallen state leaves us unmoored until Christ redeems us. Even saved, we often find ourselves seeking validation or value in other people or achievements, and the Holy Spirit has to recalibrate our hearts. Those who haven’t sought God must find a grounding in some other belief or relationship, and those have little staying power in the middle of chaos or tragedy.
We will choose something to give us meaning. We will sacrifice everything for this value-giver, whatever and whoever it is, because that’s what we were made to do.
Finding and Following Our North Star
Those of us who have been badly wounded by others or even by our own misguided attempts to secure value for ourselves may hesitate at the idea of an invisible and often distant-seeming God giving us direction. Questions like “Where was he when I was hurt?” and “Does he actually care about me that much?” can loom over us.
David Wilkerson wrote, “Psalm 56 is meant for those who have been wounded — whether by family, friends, or the words and actions of the ungodly…. Some believers wake up every day under a cloud of fear and despair.
“Hear the blessed Word of God directed to you in your hour of need.” Then he points to Psalm 56.
“When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?” Psalm 56:3-4
In the same Psalm, verses 8-9,13 says,
“You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me….
For you have delivered my soul from death,
yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.”
“These are anointed words from the Spirit of God,” David exhorted those listening. “The Lord knows all about your struggles and pain. He knows every detail of your situation, and he hears even the unspoken cries of your broken heart…. even now he is doing his secret, behind-the-scenes work of deliverance. Until you see the answer, he will give you mercy and strength.”
This promise can be so hard to trust in when we’re in the middle of our pain. Sometimes, it feels like all we can do to put one foot in front of another as we walk away from a false form of validation.
We have a guide, though, with the Spirit who is fixed and true as the North Star.
A Life of Glory and Sacrifice
In response to a reader question “What’s the point of my life?”, John Piper pointed to the verse Isaiah 43:6-7, “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
He then wrote, “Here we see that God created you for his glory — created everything for his glory. This is the great overarching purpose for you and everything else.”
He also directed readers to another vital verse. “It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Philippians 1:20)
“Paul says that whether he lives or dies, he does everything for the goal of magnifying Jesus Christ, showing his supreme value over everything…. This is the great unifying vision of human life, and may the Lord make it clear to you and free you from any sins of wasting your life.”
The apostles and many other believers since have found an ultimate truth in Christ, a firm heading in this world that gives them meaning, even if it demands their time, their pleasures and perhaps even their lives.
They lived the fullest by giving their life to God. They went to death willingly as the Spirit drew them into a reverent echo of their Savior’s sacrifice.
They knew their worth. They knew to whom they belonged. Do we?