It is not enough simply to be at home and available to our children, however. We must use the opportunities of these few short years to teach them our values and beliefs. Millions of young people who have grown up in the relative opulence of North America have not had that training. They are terribly confused about transcendent values. We have given them more material blessings than any generation in history. They have had opportunities never dreamed of by their ancestors. Most have never heard the pounding of artillery shells or the explosion of grenades. More money has been spent on their education, medical care, entertainment, and travel than any who have gone before. Yet we have failed them in the most important of all parental responsibilities: We have not taught them who they are as children of God or what they have been placed here to do.
The late philosopher and author Dr. Francis Schaeffer wrote, "The dilemma of modern man is simple: He does not know why man has any meaning. ... This is the damnation of our generation, the heart of modern man's problem."2
Although Dr. Schaeffer's penetrating statement was written almost three decades ago, it is even more relevant to today's teenagers and young adults. Its validity became apparent when I was writing my book for young people called Life on the Edge. To assist me in that project, Word Publishers assembled focus groups in various cities to determine the stress points and needs of the younger generation. True to our thesis, the most common concern to emerge was the absence of meaning in life. These kids, most of whom professed to be Christians, were confused about the substance and purpose in living.
Let me share a brief section of the above-mentioned book. I believe it applies not only to those for whom it was written (ages sixteen to twenty-six) but to all of us in this materialistic society that emphasizes the false values of money, power, position, and other empty symbols of significance. This is what I wrote:
It is so important to pause and think through some basic issues while you are young, before the pressures of job and family become distracting. There are several eternal questions everyonemust deal with eventually. You will benefit, I think, from doing that work now. Whether you are an atheist, a Muslim, aBuddhist, a Jew, an agnostic, or a Christian, the questions confronting the human family are the same. Only the answers willdiffer. They are:
Who am I as a person?
How did I get here?
Is there a right or wrong way to believe and act?
Is there a God, and if so, what does He expect of me?
Is there life after death?
How do I achieve eternal life, if it exists?
Will I someday be held accountable for the way I have lived onearth?
What is the meaning of life and death?3
The sad observation from our study is that most of the young people with whom we talked found it difficult to answer questions such as these. They had only a vague notion of what we might call "first truths." No wonder they lacked a sense of meaning and purpose. Life loses its significance for a person who has no understanding of his origin or destination.
Human beings tend to struggle with troubling questions they can't answer. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so the intellect acts to fill the void. Or to state it differently, it seeks to repair a hole in its system of beliefs. That is why so many young people today chase after twisted and alien "theologies," such as New Age nonsense, the pursuit of pleasure, substance abuse, and illicit sex. They are searching vainly for something that will satisfy their "soul hunger." They are unlikely to find it. Not even great achievement and superior education will put the pieces together. Meaning in life comes only by answering the eternal questions listed above, and they are adequately addressed only in the Christian faith. No other religion can tell us who we are, how we got here, and where we are going after death. And no other belief system teaches that we are known and loved individually by the God of the universe and by His only Son, Jesus Christ.Book: Bringing Up Boys
By Dr. James Dobson