Avoiding the Extremes

There have been a lot of unexpected celebrities and famous people’s deaths in recent time. Even though the news does not really talk much about some of the causes that brought many to their last moment in life, they are often associated with drug usages, depression, some types of psychological instability or substance dependency. As a matter of fact, the number of opioid abuses and addiction cases are on the rise each year. There are more cases and instances of people being more depressed and hating their lives. We often do not like to talk about these matters, but they are actually the growing diseases that slowly destroying our society. So, in the midst of all these things, how are we to overcome them?

Might I answer, with faith and hope? Please let me explain.

First, let us talk about what I think are the main cause of despair.

I believe despair springs from our own loss and confusion of who we really are. Even though the post-modern world promises and “empowers” us to freely choose to become or identify ourselves as we like, its lofty ideas are only nice-sounding but have not been able to deal with the rising number of suicides and depressions among young people. We are too focused on trying to put something nice over the blistering wounds and real problems of an identity crisis. As we become too objectified and defined by who we want to be or what we can do for the sake of “progress” and “freedom,” we have missed the fundamental question of who we really are meant to be. Since we never know who we are, we make ourselves feel good about what we can do with social and individual freedom and influences. We have become a society that talks much but only round about the elephant in the room. We think that if we ensure the social rights and freedom to be who we want to be, we will be happier, hence less depression, but those things only put a fake band-aid over the gangrene that is eating our true joy away.

We tend to give up when we feel that we are unable to fix things our way, control our environment, or feel too overwhelmed with whatever is going on around us. Once we have given up, we become hopeless, simply living from one momentary pleasure to the next, chasing after temporary hedonism, hoping that they will make us happy, but they only end up as ways for us to self-medicate, cover, ignore, or deny the emptiness and hidden pains deep from within. As we get objectified and objectify others, we excuse ourselves by saying that we are only trying to do what is most beneficial or being pragmatical. However, we forget that we remain and often end up being treated as objects in the worldly game of manipulation and its well-packaged lies. This vicious cycle binds people under its yoke of slavery and endless tortures of cynicism and falsehoods until we seek the higher and transcendental truths. This worldly despair and hopelessness that sprung from our loss of self-identity and knowledge can only be overcome with trust in the Lord.

When we decide to take the leap of faith, this immense trust in the Lord is not just a creation of some self-made psychological, sentimental, or intellectual projections and desires. Our faith is grounded in the firm and personal belief in Jesus Christ and the truth about Him, what He did for us, and the gift of hope He has given us as children of God. This faith, when personalized and understood in the final sense, leads us to love and desire to be in total union with Him. This love is grounded in faithful trust — not in something, but in SOMEONE — who loves us and our personal gift of self to others, sharing the divine life-changing love of God to others through perfect charity. This faithful hope is not fake nor can it disappoint because we ourselves will personally experience His love in our lives, so that even though we have to go through suffering, we trust, persevere, and abide with Him. All sufferings, when bore with the love of Christ for the sanctification of our souls, strengthen and produce character. (cf. Romans 5)

This reminds us not to give in to despair, cynicism, or negativities that naturally arise from the brokenness of our humanity, our society, and even our own lives. While it is very easy to give up hope, stop caring for others with the virtue of charity, and turn within to only care for ourselves, our faith reassures us that our present moment (even in all its brokenness and messiness) is touched and transformed by divine providence. Our faith teaches, our love guides, and our hope affirms of our destiny and where we shall be in the Lord. It is, therefore, important to allow that founded understanding of the end transforms and be at work in the present moment by allowing ourselves to be instrumental conduits of grace to those who are around us. We are called to testify and give witness to the power of divine providence and God’s loving grace at work in the present moment as He brings all things to fulfillment in His own timing, to bring into completion the salvific and redemptive end for all that has begun with the Paschal Mystery.

On the other hand, instead of building fences and locked ourselves in despair, we go to the other extreme by perverting love and telling ourselves to take advantage of God’s goodness. We tell ourselves that we can do anything or everything because He is always there to forgive. Nevertheless, this is an abuse of love. We will not put up with it if the same thing is given to us, yet it is so easy to make up the excuse when it comes to the faith-based relationship with the Lord. Abuses, presumptions, or misplaced understandings of God’s love for us comes from our deep, ingrained, self-centered unkindness and greediness to have what we want at all costs. Like despair, self-centered presumptions are based on our desires not to deal with reality as it is. Perhaps it is too hard, out of control, or beyond our reach to do anything substantial! Instead of choosing to complain, be angry, or bitter, we just ignore everything else and turn inward to only care about our needs. Like despair, we garner what is appealing, medicative, pleasurable, or satisfying for us by making excuses for ourselves, put up gates and fences around us — even God Himself.  Like despair, we depend too much on ourselves and not having enough faith to trust, be honest and genuine with Him. Instead of changing our lives and allowing ourselves to grow in love, we bring God down to a smaller, controllable, and docile level as to feel a sense of security for ourselves and our lifestyles. We make the King of the universe obedient to us, only to exist to serve the purpose of giving, supporting, and granting what we want for ourselves. Even though we can use God’s name and say that we believe, at the end of the day, we neither believe, trust, able to let go, or grow in the true love He has for us because we are too afraid of not having things our ways. The idolized, perverted, and docile version of God for those who only want Him “to be supportive” and “readily to accept me at all costs” is ultimately an incomplete version of a small-minded controlling and insecure person.

Nonetheless, lovingly putting our hope in Christ gives us the true sense of freedom from always being occupied by worldly anxieties and its followup dosage of despair and negativity. The more we rely on the Lord, the more we become free to truly live joyfully, give ourselves wholeheartedly, seek and trust in the truth, and to follow Him instead of empty promises. While the world may look at us as a sheepish bunch, people who build upon false hope or blindly following ridiculous religiosity, we live with a heartfelt conviction of what our natural senses cannot comprehend or what the world thinks as a stupid waste of time, our personal and intimate of God’s love gives us the strength to embrace the gifts given by faith. We dare to live in the truth and to practice what is asked of us out of love because we have received the love of God, for He is real and has done as He has promised throughout salvation history and in our lives. Therefore, we have no fear of laying down our lives and deny ourselves for the true love and joy found in Christ Jesus.

In Christ alone can we understand and make sense of what our world actually is: broken and redeemed — imperfect and saved — messy and filled with grace — loved into being but need to continue its course toward end meant for it. We trust that God has a plan for each one of us and of the whole world, and it is founded in His loving goodness. (cf. Romans 8:28) This is the same God of the universe who created it out of love, formed us into being, and given us life after His own image and likeness! It is this same Lover who will one day bring all things to fulfillment and make all things right.

We, therefore, have to trust, live, and practice in our own lives what has been rightly handed down and taught, else the world would become cynical, divisive, meaningless, and destructive because no one cares anymore, no greater meaning, no willingness to do what is right and shun what is wrong. Yet, in the midst of many existing creative tensions, many imperfections, hurts, sufferings, and brokenness, we are called to avoid the extremes. We can neither give into despair or overly presumed things because there is something greater than what this world promises. We have faith, believe, love, and put into practice the transcendental truths found in the personal, intimate, and life-giving love of God that will liberate us from the mundaneness of this confusing world. Therefore, let us have faith, put into practice trust, let our hope be enlivened, and charitable love be shared and given wholeheartedly and genuinely. Without a doubt, it is only Jesus Christ and His love that makes everything possible and bearable, for He is the surest reason for our faith, hope, and charity.