There is an existential crisis among our youth. That is not to say that such a crisis is sudden, or even new, to this young generation. In many ways, this crisis is at the root of the many challenges and fears facing our country today. Beyond the political and cultural crises—even deeper than the genetic code of the coronavirus—there is a deep yearning to have a purpose in a world that seems to suggest there is none. The world might suggest such a reality, but nothing is further from the truth. Paul says that God has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing … even as He chose us in Him before the foundation” of the cosmos to be “holy and blameless before Him” (Ephesians 1:3–4).
A lot is packed into those brief words, but I want to invite you to stop and consider their importance for a moment. Let’s start with the big picture. When we consider the vastness of the universe, it’s easy to allow our importance to be dwarfed. What are our lives when compared to the lifetime of a star? What are our algebra grades compared with the mind-numbing mathematics that seek to explain the origin of the universe? If our lives are but a drop in the sea of humanity, how much effect do we really have on the tides of human history? Of what possible importance is my life in comparison to the One who formed the very cosmos simply by the power of His verbal command?
If we spend too much time pondering such questions, most of us would be driven to despair—stricken with the reality of how cosmically insignificant our lives seem in the grand scheme of things. But listen carefully again: He knew us before the foundation of the cosmos. He knew YOU before the foundation of the cosmos! It is fundamentally impossible that you are insignificant by virtue of the fact that the Creator of everything had you in mind specifically before He threw the stars onto the blank canvas of the universe. You are so much more than simply a cosmic accident. The same is true of the youth you serve.
Do I Even Have a Purpose?
Many of us have been called “accidents.” It’s well-meaning enough; our parents are simply acknowledging that our conceptions were unplanned. One thoughtful student once challenged that term though, asking, “Doesn’t that mean my parents did everything they could to prevent my birth, short of killing me?” While that’s a bleak way of putting it, and casts many parents in an undeserved negative light, it raises powerful questions: If I am an accident, do I have any significance besides that which I chose for myself? If I was unplanned, do I even have a purpose? Some philosophies in this world answer those questions with the shrug of the shoulder or an abrupt no. They are the philosophies that demean humanity to nothing more than a cosmic accident, and they undergird much of the turmoil that makes up the news. They are the philosophies that drive some to treat others inhumanely and others to such despair that they act out as though they have nothing to lose.
Specifically Designed Plan
Over my years of ministry, I’ve encountered numbers of youth who hear Christ’s love proclaimed Sunday after Sunday but fall into the same inner despair and turmoil as their unbelieving peers. It’s in the cultural air they breathe. That’s why it is so important to point our young charges back to St. Paul’s words, to look them in the eyes and boldly proclaim, “God knew you from before not only your birth but before the birth of the universe! He did so with a purpose and a plan! He picked you out and specifically planned and designed you to be adopted as His heir through Jesus Christ. It was in God’s plan for you to be adopted as His child in Christ. Before your first kick in your mother’s womb, before your first breath, the God who holds the stars in their celestial places already had a plan and a purpose for you. That purpose was to be His beloved child. He fashioned you into a unique and cosmically significant person, molded in His own image.”
We know sin entered the world and still seeks to corrupt that purpose. But God had the upper hand there as well. Before the foundations of the universe, when He was planning us, He was already planning to die to regain us. He knew there would be fallenness and corruption, but so great was His love, that planning a horrid death on the cross was His purpose. And we are worth it in His sight! Remind your youth that they are so important that God brought them into being knowing that doing so would necessitate His own death! And He joyfully did it anyway.
Hebrews reminds us, “For the joy that was set before Him, [Jesus] endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2). The joy that overpowered the pain of death was the love that God has for us. The thing about God’s love is that it transforms us; God’s love doesn’t just stop with us. In that purpose, to be His beloved children, we find even more purpose. The role we play in His grand scheme is still unfolding, and we may not see the depth of our importance to His plan until the trumpets sound and Christ returns, but that does not diminish our significance.