A relentless focus on feelings is, according to addiction specialist Gillian Bridge, the major factor in the current crisis among young people in the West. We probably all know of at least one young person affected by mental health issues. Yes, there are factors such as lockdown which haven’t helped. But, Bridge argues, many young people lack resilience. They have been betrayed by adults who have taught them to prioritise emotions, self-indulgence, and sentiment above reality. Many of them believe that no one else has the right to deny their feelings. If they ‘feel’ offended, they must have been genuinely harmed.
In her recent book Sweet Distress: How our Love Affair with Feelings has fuelled the current Mental Health Crisis (and what we can do about it)Bridge offers some sensible ideas about how to push back on the fixation on personal fulfilment. But the current crisis demands more than sensible ideas! We are seeing the catastrophic impact of a spiritual crisis: a denial of ultimate meaning and ultimate truth.
Many young people grow up believing that there’s no Creator God: we just evolved by chance. There won’t be a judgement, so there’s no ‘absolute’ morality. We make our own rules. There’s no ultimate truth. We construct our own truth – even our own identity.
No surprise, then, that many sense a lack of ultimate purpose. No surprise that many suffer profound insecurity.
Young people need a sense of meaning. We have good news to share at such a time as this. We are not just here on this earth to ‘feel good’. We have been created by the infinitely glorious God to know him, enjoy him, and serve him. The truth that each of us has been created in God’s image, whatever our individual limitations or weaknesses, is the basis for human dignity. We have been created in God’s image with his moral law on our hearts. We are personally responsible for what we do. We all stand condemned, even by our own conscience, but God offers forgiveness, a new start, and power to live a new life.
Upcoming Conferences: Seeking A Godly Generation
How can we equip the next generation to have confidence in God and His truth? That is the theme of a conference to be held on Tuesday 20 September at All Saints Presbyterian Church, Newcastle, to be repeated on Tuesday 11 October at Grove Chapel, London. Pastors, youth workers, parents, and all those concerned for passing on God’s truth to children and young people are welcome. Paul Yeulett (Grove Chapel London), Matthew Seymour (Emmanuel Church, Leamington Spa), Ian Fry (visiting lecturer London Seminary), John Denning and Sharon James (both of The Christian Institute) will speak on topics including: The need of the hour; The foundational importance of biblical creation; Confronting the lies; Engaging with schools; and The key role of parents and the church in biblical formation. Places can be booked via Eventbrite (admission, £20 to include refreshments and lunch.
Sharon James works for The Christian Institute. She has written a number of books, including The Lies we are Told: The Truth we must Hold and TRACK: A Student’s Guide to Worldview (both Christian Focus Publications, 2021). She is married to Bill, the Principal of London Seminary.