Why Modern Christianity has so Little Joy and so Much Depression

I was listening to a podcast from a professional therapist where he talked about his patients’ depression.

He said a main source of depression (it’s a complicated issue, there are many causes for it) in our day is that we’ve attempted to take away losing.

In any competitive endeavor (not just athletics but grades, finances, promotions, you know, life), there are winners and losers. Losers feel bad. The idea was: losing feels bad so obviously causes depression.

The answer must be: eliminate losing. So we stopped keeping score, we bailed out losing businesses and people, the safety net has all but erased losing.

The theory said this should lead to people walking around in happiness with all the non-losing going on. What a utopia!

Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the result. Suicide, drug use, and general depression appear to be higher than ever.

His theory is that losing was good feedback. It spurred many on to achieve more. Overcoming obstacles, defeating bad results, really feels good! So, yeah, eliminating losing made a little bit of good feeling, but overall it makes existence pointless. Why put forth effort or overcome obstacles when you don’t have to?

Depression is increasing among Christians as well. We are, too many of us, intricately wrapped up in the world system. Are any of us truly not conformed to this world? The world is a depressing place; we’re in the world, therefore, there’s a good chance we’ll be depressed.

But Christianity promises victory over the world. It grants things like love, joy and peace. Jesus supposedly gives us peace that passes understanding. New life in Christ allows us to live with hope that people in the world will ask about.

So, where is it? Why are so many Christians depressed?

(And, oh, by the way, the Joel Osteen happy-happy plastic smile is not the opposite of depressed. I think one of our issues is misunderstanding emotions. Giddiness is not the opposite of depression. I’d say contentment is the opposite of depression. Maybe I’m wrong there, but I know it’s not Joel Osteen white tooth happiness.)

Sin used to be a problem. Satan used to be an enemy. There was a fight of faith.

You wouldn’t know this by observing modern American Christianity.

Sin is no longer an issue. There’s grace, don’t ya know. We’re already forgiven, nothing really matters. If you establish rules or strategies to overcome sin, you’re legalistic. We’ve been told hundreds of times that we’re saved by faith, not by works, so doing something is bad. But if there’s no losing because everything is covered by grace, then there’s no joy from defeating sin.

Satan is presented in the Bible as being a personal enemy from Genesis to Revelation. But Christians no longer see it that way. Satan is a boogie man to scare kids, or perhaps an impersonal floaty, evil force. Paul says to take up the armor of God so you can stand against the attacks of the Devil, yet most modern Christians are quite confused why we need armor. “Jesus said it is finished, man; we just sit here and live it up.”

The fight of faith consists of laying hold of eternal life. Setting our affections on things above. Walking by faith, not by sight. Walking in the Spirit, the new life of Christ in us, rather than walking in the flesh. “The fight aint easy and you better armor up and use some zeal or you’re going down!” This used to be the battle cry of Christianity. Not any more though. We have no battle cry; that would remind us of the Crusades and imperialism and evil Catholics. Let’s binge Netflix and wait for Jesus to return instead.

There is no battle anymore. Encouraging Christians to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ (like Paul told Timothy) is now treated as psychotic, delusional fanaticism, the kind of thing that leads to suicide bombers. Chill, dude.

So we chill. We think happy thoughts. We trip around in sin, consoling ourselves that it’s ok, Jesus loves me.

Then we wonder why we have no joy or hope. Depression, pointlessness, and apathy mark the church today.

I know I’m a fanatic and probably slipping into legalism and taking a yoke of bondage on myself. Could be, but I doubt it. I doubt it mostly because winning feels pretty good. Defeating sin, doing battle with the flesh, Satan, and the world gives life meaning. It actually gives the Gospel meaning—if there’s no battle, who needs salvation and all the provision of Christ?

The other great thing about being in a battle is that it’s nice to commiserate with fellow battlers. Church takes on an energizing role. Yet social isolation and church skipping rule the land. How can people go so long without camaraderie and edification as a group? Because they aren’t being wounded, spent, or in danger in any battles.

I’m telling you, Christianity today is missing it big time. There’s more to it, and the more is where the joy is.

2 thoughts on “Why Modern Christianity has so Little Joy and so Much Depression”

  1. In the past two weeks I’ve been surprised how many Christians have confessed to my wife and I that they have never read all of the Bible. This includes long-standing believers, even some in leadership.

    All of these confessions came out of the blue. Yes they read the Bible frequently, but in a piecemeal fashion, reading a bit from here and a bit from there, gaining no firm understanding of where God’s agenda is heading, or how it has unfolded to this point in time.

    Without that how are they supposed to have an adequate understanding of God’s character, ways and purposes – and without that how could they have a genuine direction in their life as a believer?

  2. I agree. People have no idea what God actually said. They just hang on to children’s stories they heard years ago and happy Facebook meme cliches they see today. Judgment Day is going to be a doozy. Many will say to Him on that day . . .

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