As the news headlines drifted into the room amidst the usual noise and mayhem of a Monday morning, I couldn’t help but notice that not only was there talk about the Prime Minister’s provision for mental health care, but, there were also various findings that have just been released relating to the thoughts of young people aged 16 – 25 who were surveyed in conjunction with The Prince’s Trust.
What did the survey results reveal? Well, that ‘more than a quarter of young people (28%) don’t feel in control of their lives, with concerns about job prospects, self-confidence and recent political events playing on young minds.’ In addition, ‘ many young people are feeling trapped by their circumstances, with almost a fifth (18%) saying they don’t believe they can change their circumstances if they want to.’ The research also reveals that 16% think their life will amount to nothing, no matter how hard they try.’ And as if that wasn’t enough, ‘one in ten young people (12%) claim they don’t know anyone who ‘really cares’ about them, 45% feel stressed about body image and 37% feel stressed about how to cope at work or school. Of those young people who don’t feel in control, 61% feel a lack of self-confidence holds them back..’
The results of the survey explain how recent political developments as well as decisions regarding life choices which many believe will be difficult, are all reasons why so many young people feel the way they do. (You can read the whole article here)
Now, although this survey targets those in the 16 – 25 age category, I don’t think the findings would be that different if we were to look at the thoughts and concerns of those older and indeed, to some extent, younger as well.
I am in no doubt that issues like these have been prevalent throughout history, if even in a different context of time and pressures, and that there have always been fears and worries – feelings of failure and low self-worth, right from Adam and Eve left Eden – I do believe that our current fascination with social media, what everyone else seems to be up to and, how they see you are all factors. But I don’t believe all blame can be placed on social media or rather, how we use it. I believe there is more.
This world is uncertain – that’s something I am fairly certain we can all agree on. Even the most ‘together’ and prepared and organised amongst us would, I daresay, admit that they have moments of concern/ panic/ anxiety/ terror at some stage or other. But, much like we can’t always depend on reaching a certain number of likes on social media to make us feel that we matter, or that the right people won’t always be where we need them to say just the right thing at just the right time, so we can’t depend on success and achievement in this world to fix everything and make it all o.k. for us either.
Over the course of last year I started to see, with a slightly clearer vision, the importance of not depending on ‘things’ or even people to make us happy. Now, I 100% believe that we can do things that make us happy and that help to lift our mood or cheer us up. Things that make us feel good about ourselves, help us to feel we’ve done something worth smiling about, make us feel that we have a real sense of purpose. But, here’s the thing that struck me in the past few months: even what makes us happy can disappoint, can let us down, can leave us feeling a bit deflated. We can enjoy all those things that make us feel good and put a smile on our face but, when we start to depend on them to make us feel deep-down happy and fulfilled, that’s where we set ourselves up for a fall – one that will undoubtedly cause a few aches, pains and bruises – most likely to our poor, disillusioned egos!
So, in this world of uncertainty where happiness and contentment seem such foreign concepts, what on earth can we do to make this life less daunting, hopeless and, quite frankly, a bit less overwhelming? For me, it’s a simple concept, even if not always an easy one to live out: we need to have hope.
I can hope that the family will enjoy the new recipe I’m trying out tonight. If I were to place all my hope there though, I fear there is a good chance that all hope will be lost (Hopefully not ;o) ). I can hope that I will get fit and drop a dress size in the next fortnight. I can hope – but hope alone will not get me there. I need to put in the effort if I want to reach the desired outcome and, even then, there is no guarantee that my hopes will not be dashed.
There’s no real harm ‘hoping’ for things, but it’s what we put our hope ‘in’ that really matters. For me, the hymn, ‘Will Your Anchor Hold?’ is one that sums it up best. Taken from Hebrews 6 verse 19, this hymn presents us with the very clear message of where that hope should be: ‘We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…’ The sea has been something I’ve grown up with and, despite the fact that geography alone isn’t enough to make us experts, I do know that no fisherman or sailor or seaman of any kind would leave port without an anchor, something that they know will keep them secure and immovable, no matter what the sea itself may throw at them. It’s their security in the midst of any uncertainty that may arise. And, even if the anchor is there simply to hold them steady, to stop them drifting, if the waters are calm, they still need to know it’s there. To face the journey without it would be foolish.
As we journey in this ever-changing world where we cannot even have confidence in ourselves, there is no question about what, or rather Who we can put our hope in that will never let us down. The words of the hymn challenge us to consider: ‘Will your anchor hold in the storms of life…’? Not just in the good times or the easy times. In all the times I’ve thought of both this hymn and the verse from Hebrews, I think I’d always nicely edited out the latter part of the verse and into the next, almost doing it here again, possibly because it’s slightly less poetic but, there is incredible power in the words which follow: ‘… It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a High Priest forever.’ The Matthew Henry commentary tells us: ‘The anchor is not cast in the shifting sands of this world but takes hold in the heavenly sanctuary. Since our hope is the anchor, the meaning is that our hope is secured in God’s very Presence behind the veil. Just as the anchor is there, we shall be there also.’
Before the curtain in the temple was torn at the crucifixion and Jesus became our Mediator, no longer needing an earthly go-between, the High Priest was the only one who could go behind the ‘veil’ or curtain into the the Holiest place. Now though, as the verse reminds us, Jesus has already entered for us, doing what we never could and never would be able to do on our own.
The Anchor, the Hope in which we need to put our trust to feel secure, even when the storms and trials of life toss us about and leave us feeling ‘all at sea’, whether just ripples in the water or full-blown storms, we need to know that we never have been and never will be expected to face whatever the situation may be in our own strength or hope only in ourselves or earthly things.
I love how ‘The Message’ puts it: ‘We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus running on ahead of us, has taken up His permanent post as high priest for us.’
No matter how much hope I put in achieving fitness, I’ll never get any closer to reaching that goal without actually doing something. That’s what’s so amazing about putting our hope God – Jesus has gone ahead, He has already done the hard part. In the midst of uncertainty, unhappiness and the loss of self-worth, we are reminded that ‘we’ are not what it’s all about. We don’t need to focus on what we can or can’t do. We simply need to put our faith, trust and hope in the One who has already done what we couldn’t do for ourselves when He went ahead, not just giving His life on the cross but rising again, victorious over death itself – proof that where earthly hope fails, heavenly hope prevails.
Whatever your storm, whether big or small, whether known to others or just to you, or whether you simply seek the sense of security in knowing that you can be held secure, there is an Anchor to hold you firm and steadfast, holding you ‘fastened to the Rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love.’