In a piece I wrote some time ago, I made this contention:
The issue for college students now is not so much “Can I admit my needs?:” but, given these needs, “What do I do now?” If we borrow the language of a 12-step program, many students take the first step of freely admitting their powerlessness, that their lives have become unmanageable, even that they are faced with insanity. But few take the next step, the faith step, believing that a Power greater than myself can restore my sanity. (from “How, Then, Shall We Live?” by Tony Roberts)
This post sparked a thoughtful response from Howard Chang:
Tony, I read your piece. I liked how you highlighted the improvements that have taken placed in mental health care in college campuses since the 80s and posed the question, “What next?” to students after they have taken the first step. However, I think students who are unbelievers often don’t actually even take the first step. They recognize they have a problem, but they don’t admit that they are powerless to overcome it. In fact, I think their atheism commits them to the idea that they can resolve their problems if they get the right help from others… that there is no need for a Higher Power to help them; their hope is in this life only, and in what others can offer them and what they can offer themselves. Therefore they can’t believe they are powerless — they believe that their power comes from themselves and from others, and trust in this power to help them overcome their problems.
You make excellent points. I think you are spot-on from the vantage point of Truth. From the vantage point of Relativism, though there are many who would claim to have higher powers other than God. I went to an AA meeting not long ago and the leader actually said, “Your higher power can even be that doorknob over there, as long as you have one and it isn’t yourself.”
I do think there is a sense of powerlessness, a sort of spiritual malaise that has overcome not just college students, but our society as a whole. Witness the number of self-help books sold, the widespread growth of therapy, the expansion of the drug industry. People do feel powerless to control their own destinies and they are frustrated as hell. They turn to almost any solution.
The situation so many people who desperately desire to be healed makes me think of the story of a woman who came to Jesus for healing:
Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”
Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment. (Matthew 9:20-21)
The faith that healed the woman was not merely an act of her will. It was not misplaced desire in the latest healing fad that came along. This woman is healed because she had already received the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ who, by grace, fosters faith. This is the One and only Way to the Truth that brings us Life.
Save none other.