Jesus can Help You Escape the Malaise

On July 15, 1979, President Jimmy Carter delivered an address live from the oval office that would soon become known as “The Malaise Speech.” Here is an excerpt from that address:

“It’s clear that the true problems of our Nation are much deeper—deeper than gasoline lines or energy shortages, deeper even than inflation or recession… In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.”

Carter is certainly not alone in his observation that “The American Dream” of nice big houses and cars has been unable to fill the holes in our hearts. Addiction specialist Johann Hari puts it this way: “We’ve traded floorspace for friends, we’ve traded stuff for connections, and the result is we are one of the loneliest societies that has ever been.”

So what are we supposed to do, when nothing that we try works? What if I buy new gadgets, and I still feel… bored? What if I binge-watch Netflix, but my own life still feels empty? What if I go to work day after day, but I can’t help but wander if what I do really matters to anyone, anyways?

A new year is beginning. Do you find yourself hopeful that this year, things will be different? Maybe that feeling of emptiness that so many of us feel is telling us that we are missing out on something vastly important.

I cannot tell you how many times I have resolved to make changes in my life. “From now on, I am going to do the dishes every day. I am going to eat healthy. I am going to pray for an hour each morning. I am going to live a life with purpose, making the most of every moment.”

But then that “malaise” that Jimmy Carter warned about comes creeping back in. I find myself turning to “stuff” instead of to meaningful human connection, against the advice of Johann Hari.

But as cheesy at it may sound in a society so traditionally steeped in religious tradition, Jesus has answers.

He told us that He came to give us a new kind of water that would not simply leave us thirsty again. He told us that He came to teach us how to live abundantly. He modeled a life of intentionality and passion.

In Ephesians 5:26-27, we are told that Jesus died for the church “so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory.”

To be sanctified is to be set apart as something that is special and different. Do you want to get out of the rat race and start living a different kind of life, one with true meaning? To be washed in holy water is to have a fresh start in life, day after day, as His blood continually cleanses us. Do you think you could use a new start now and then? To be presented to God “in all of your glory” is to unlock that potential that always seems to get snuffed out by “the malaise.” Do you want God’s help to live abundantly?

Jesus says those things happen in the church. Yes, as cheesy as it sounds in a nation as traditionally religious as ours. Yes, even though the church is made up of human beings who, by their very nature as human beings, often seem pretty insensitive and dimwitted. Yes. Jesus says those things happen in the church. Will you join us?

The Renewed Mind

Ephesians 2:2 refers to Satan as “the prince of the power of the air.”

Indeed, spiritual decay is in the very air we breathe.  It can feel like there are a thousand forces working against our desire to know God and delight to do His will.  So many ideas have so permeated our cultural environment that it feels impossible to escape their effects.

  • Individualism separates us from our neighbors by teaching us that we should all just focus on ourselves instead of others.  Even in our own families and churches we are often so unaccustomed to opening up to one another that we cannot get the help that we need from each other.
  • Consumerism tells us that the way to happiness is through electronic gadgets, sophisticated machines, and expensive imported goods, and materialism provides us with an endless supply of such consumer goods to purchase or covet.
  • Electronic entertainment numbs our minds as it literally puts our brains in an alpha brain wave state, and hypersexualization teaches us that personal fulfillment is impossible without constant sexual gratification.
  • Industrialization means that many of us spend most of our time indoors, away from the beauty of God’s creation.  It also means that time is money, and thus we are always busy maintaining our standard of living, which makes finding time for God more difficult.

Even though I can identify these and other hindrances, correctly responding to them is another matter.  It is important to know that the Biblical answer to our dilemma is about more than changing our actions.  The Biblical solution is a mind renewed by God (Romans 12:2).

This world is a place of spiritual darkness, but it is where we are constrained to live out our days for the time being. Thus Jesus prayed for us: “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” (Matthew 17:15-17)

By the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, “you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” (2 Peter 1:4)

Our minds must be renewed by the sanctifying knowledge of God and Jesus Christ contained in God’s word so that it can be said of us: “He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” (Colossians 1:13)

Spring Meadow