July 6, 2020 - The Death Thing

Elizabeth Wurtzel took the literary world by storm with her 1994 memoir, Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America, about, well, being young and depressed in America and, ultimately, how the prescription antidepressant Prozac helped her. A powerful read; it’s one of those that could help others realize that the words “Come on, just suck it up” to those suffering from clinical depression are like telling someone with Multiple Melanoma to take two aspirins and call back in the morning.

In the book, she wrote these lines about her time in camp before attempting suicide. “ I couldn’t imagine why I was being coerced into all those activities anyway—the rote motion of kickball, soccer, the breaststroke, making lanyards, all this regimented activity that seemed meant only to pass a little more time as we headed, inexorably, toward death. Even then, I was pretty certain, in my almost-twelve-year-old mind, that life was one long distraction from the inevitable.”

You don’t need to be young and depressed in America to see the powerful logic of her words. More than one person has wondered about the meaning and purpose of lives, fully of pain, suffering, toil, trouble, that always and without exception end in death. King Solomon, musing on the meaning of life in and of itself, came up with famous phrase, “Vanity of vanity, all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2), with the word “vanity” meaning, “vapor,” or “a breath,” indicative of meaninglessness. Centuries later the apostle Paul, echoing another part of Ecclesiastes wrote, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” (1 Corinthians 15: 32), though he did so in the context of there being no resurrection of the dead.

Of course, Paul’s point was that, yes, because of Christ’s resurrection we do, indeed, have the hope of ours, the hope of eternal life, the only hope that can give any really meaning and purpose to our existence here. Otherwise, what? We keep ourselves busy to forget that we die, and death is the end, the final and ultimate and irreversible end of all that comes before. A dreadful prospect, which, thanks to Jesus and His death and resurrection, is, fortunately, wrong.

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