This week in the news, I read a story that showed me the gaping hole in the soul of our culture and made me appreciate even more the Word we believe and teach.
It’s so true: What we think about; what we meditate on; what we say: THAT’S what we’ll have multiplied in our lives and in our world. We should make sure it’s good and not evil.
So what did I read that has me so lit up?
It’s the story of Jessica, an English schoolgirl who killed herself 2 days before her 13th birthday. She and her friends had been watching the popular Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” which covers the subject of suicide. Before her graphic self-harm depicted in the finale, the character leaves behind a list of grievances against others who had hurt her.
How satisfied the character must have seemed to imagine the unwitting bullies bearing a life of guilt. And no judgment was placed on the poor victim, as if she had no power over her own choice. The allure was too great for real-life Jessica. Before she hung herself, she included a bully’s name, citing 6 “reasons why.”
Creators of this series say it was meant to “bring awareness” to the topic of suicide. Well it sure did bring awareness. Jessica is by no means the only copycat here. Even the NY Times acknowledged that suicide deaths by children aged 10-17 went up 30% during the time of its airing. These families are most certainly aware. Of the many motives driving the suicide trend, it’s clear we’re lacking purpose and fulfillment in finding God’s plan for our lives. He alone offers a future and a hope.
Jessica’s story hit close to home. A few months ago, my oldest girl, 13, picked the novel from which that series is based. She thought it would be a murder mystery. When she learned its suicide premise, it sparked a conversation between us of the selfish, vindictive spirit behind that character’s behavior, and the glittering lie of the enemy that steals life from kids who have everything to live for. Do we know what our kids are reading?
This incident lays bare 3 seemingly “nice” trends that offer a false cure for our pain. Sadly they run counter to the Word, so instead, they’re actually digging individuals deeper into emotional pain and spreading it others like an infectious disease. We can turn them back with the Word. I’ll explain:
Trend 1: Evil awareness
We can all agree that awareness campaigns are helpful in some situations, but why do we use them to glamorize evil behaviors? Let’s write books and songs about the evil! Let’s put the evil up on big screens and gawk at it! Hey- we’re just being honest, right? We have to have an “honest portrayal” about the evil so we can be respected by artists. So let’s show it, meditate on it, consider it from every angle. This is supposed to make us all more compassionate. But misplaced compassion is just enablement.
Of course we all know people dealing with emotional baggage of various kinds, we clearly we have reached a saturation point where the awareness campaign has backfired. The awareness culture caused Jessica to meditate on her problem and magnify the effect that the alleged bully had on her. She believed the lie, and gave that bully power to kill.
But thank God, we have a powerful remedy!
In meditating on God’s Word to us in the Bible, we give Him power to heal. This week, I caught Trina Hankins’ podcast Biblical Meditation- God’s Medication. In it she outlines how to meditate on the Bible as a cure, and her simple method works not just for the body but for the soul.
As we delight in Him, taking his word in by reading, mulling it over, imagining it, building it up- we make God’s wonderful plan more and more real in our lives. Like medicine, it’s healing and detoxifying our minds each time we do this. It’s reinforcing His love to us. This culture may tell you that you’re ignoring the problem. Actually, you’re just robbing the devil of his voice in your mind, while amplifying the voice of God. Of course it’s effective!
Trend 2: Blaming others
We all know that the awareness culture needs to cherry pick stories where the victim is innocent. Even mistakes (dare we say sins?) of the characters in these stories are shown to be somehow inevitable. The powerless victim had no control over his/her own actions. It was all predetermined by the evil bully, a force from the outside that bears all guilt.
Taylor Swift’s 2017 hit song is an anthem for this mindset: “Look what you made me do,” she chants, with other cues in the song hinting that she kills herself.
As parents, we want to teach our kids empowerment and personal responsibility. And on a higher plain, as people of faith, we know that we have resurrection power living on the inside! (Thanks Chris Tomlin, for your song by that name based on Romans 8:11).
We don’t magnify our pain, but we magnify God’s power to overcome it based on Ephesians 3:20- God is able to do so much more than we ask or think according to the power WORKING IN US. We will not be overpowered by evil, but we will overcome evil with good.
Trend 3: Sick role models
With the awareness machine constantly glorifying victims and absolving them of personal responsibility, now the victim is a hero to be emulated.
Sadly, our younger generation is most vulnerable to this mindset. 2 Timothy 3:1 warns in the last days deception would abound. Isaiah 5:20 says What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.
Truly it’s a sorrowful life to value victimhood over achievement; to be satisfied to stay in human weakness instead of receiving God’s victory. The Word gives us powerful role models. Just re-read Hebrews 11 for a great place to start. Each one of these heroes of faith overcomes human weakness by trusting in God. We can do the same in our own place in history.
All of this reminds me: what we visualize, we will become. That’s why the words of Philippians 4:8 are so valuable to us every day: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
In our art, in our music, in all forms of our media intake, and certainly in our innermost thoughts: let them pass the test of Philippians 4. “Brutally honest” doesn’t pass the test. “Brutally honest” just reinforces the evil, ugly and unfair.
Look beyond these temporary circumstances, and see the God’s outpouring of love of God over you.
Visualize the good!
Magnify and meditate on it.
Then you’ll see good multiplied across your life and across our world.