Find Me Somebody to Love: Despair in today’s youth

Posted by Travis Threats on

In the Epistle of Jude, he starts off stating that he planned to write a letter about the good news and salvation but looking at the condition of the church around him he had to write a letter about not following God’s word. Similarly, my blogs previously have been about uplifting, about the power and beauty of God around us. When I profiled people or individual songs, they have all been positive exemplars of faith.

However, truth is that since “Gospel” means “Good News” there must obviously be bad news. I will be discussing mainly the United States in this blog because I have access to more information about it. I also concentrate on it because it is the “richest” country in the world, probably the richest country that has ever existed.

There is a growing number of “deaths of despair” in this country. In an article recently published by the Wall Street Journal -

"For decades, advances in healthcare and safety steadily drove down death rates among American children. In an alarming reversal, rates have now risen to the highest level in nearly 15 years, particularly driven by homicides, drug overdoses, car accidents and suicides."

"The uptick among younger Americans accelerated in 2020. Though Covid-19 itself wasn’t a major cause of death for young people, researchers say social disruption caused by the pandemic exacerbated public- health problems, including worsening anxiety and depression. Greater access to firearms, dangerous driving and more lethal narcotics also helped push up death rates."

"Between 2019 and 2020, the overall mortality rate for ages 1 to 19 rose by 10.7%, and increased by an additional 8.3% the following year, according to an analysis of federal death statistics led by Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, published in JAMA in March. That’s the highest increase for two consecutive years in the half-century that the government has publicly tracked such figures, according to Woolf’s analysis."

"We have made great advances in protecting children’s health in some areas as shown by these quotes- Penicillin and other antibiotics drove down deaths from bacterial infections in the years following World War II, and vaccines controlled lethal viruses such as polio and influenza. Safer automobiles, seat belts and car seats made driving less deadly. Bicycle helmets, smoke detectors and swimming lessons reduced fatal accidents and drownings. Medical advancements that save premature babies and treat leukemia and other cancers helped more children survive once-lethal diagnoses."

“All of those gains are now being offset by essentially four causes of death,” Woolf said.

"When the pandemic started, deaths of young people due to suicide and homicide climbed higher. Deaths caused by drug overdoses and transportation fatalities—mainly motor-vehicle accidents—rose significantly, too."

"Physicians and public-health researchers say that school closures, canceled sports and youth activities and limitations on in-person socializing all worsened a burgeoning mental-health epidemic among young people in the U.S. Social media, they say, has helped fuel it by replacing successful relationships with a craving for online social attention that leaves young people unfulfilled, and exposes them to sites that glamorize unhealthy behaviors such as eating disorders and cutting themselves."

“We are seeing younger and younger patients coming in with mental-health crises, and even those 8 to 10 years old coming in with suicidal ideation,” said Lois Lee, a pediatric emergency physician at Boston Children’s Hospital who chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention."

Unfortunately, we see these facts and statistics in the aggregate and thus we do not fully register in our hearts, not enough to make us grieve for the state of young people. Unless this has been in your family, the truth seems distant.

As you know, I am fond of quoting “lofty” scientific sources that it is seem to have great difficulty stating anything positive about believing in God and Christianity. In terms of mental health, too often religious belief is considered a contributor to stress, guilt, and fear.

This is from an article entitled Religion and Depression in Adolescence by Jane Cooley Fruehwirth, Sriya Iyer, and Anwen Zhang in the Journal of Political Economy in 2019

"We consider potential mechanisms for why religiosity may affect depression. We show that the benefits of religiosity do not appear to derive from a more religious or less-depressed social context in the school. Furthermore, alternative forms of school social support, such as clubs, sports and the number of friends, do not appear to substitute for religiosity. We also do not find evidence that religiosity reduces exposure to stressors. We find instead that religiosity helps to buffer against some types of stressors, including poor health, the suicide of a friend or family member, or coming from a single parent home. We find that while the hypothesis of religiosity operating through improved self-esteem and coping skills is supported by OLS, our instrumented estimates show larger but statistically insignificant effects of religiosity on these potential mediators, raising questions about their role."

"Overall, our findings have important implications for policies related to improving mental health in adolescence. Given that clinically the effect of antidepressants on reducing depression is successful in about one-fifth of cases (IHN, 2015), our research suggests that counselors would be remiss to dismiss the potential beneficial effect of religiosity in treating clients, contributing to a vigorous debate initiated by Freud (1927). Future work would benefit from more detailed information on churches and other places of worship that adolescents attend to determine further the mechanisms driving these effects."

Here is an article that puts it more succinctly, one  by Jim Hinch in November of 2022.

"Recent studies at Stanford and Brigham Young universities found that religiously involved teens suffered lower rates of depression, anxiety, suicide, family instability, and school setbacks during the pandemic. A major survey of mental health research conducted before and during the pandemic by scholars at Harvard University came to similar conclusions. Frequent attendance at religious services, the survey found, correlates with elevated levels of personal well-being, happiness, and quality of life, and lower levels of depression and suicide. For adolescents specifically, religious service attendance correlates with lower rates of smoking, drinking, drug use, and risky sexual behavior."


"Other recent studies have found that religious involvement helps lower-income boys succeed in school and endows teens of all backgrounds with what Columbia University researcher Lisa Miller calls a “spiritual wholeness” that guards against an array of mental health challenges."

“Kids who are religiously involved are doing way better than non-religious kids,” Notre Dame’s Smith told me. Smith and other experts attribute religion’s unique benefits to the combination of a larger spiritual perspective with the community support of regular service attendance. Spirituality alone or membership in a secular community organization don’t provide the same protective “spiritual wholeness.”

I am now going to discuss a celebrity, not because they are more important or more tragic, but because he has left behind a work of art that tells of his despair. He may have specific causes, but the alienation from God can produce such despair across many circumstances. Now, to be clear, Christians also feel despair, that nothing is going well for them, and may even doubt if God is listening or caring about them to take care of their problems. These Christians often need to seek professional health services, in addition to spiritual guidance. With faith, there is a way to help in these darkest days.

The celebrity is Freddie Mercury of the rock band Queen. Queen is among the bestselling rock bands of all time and their music has stood the test of time. Now, some might find it odd to be talking about him in a Christian blog. Why am I doing so? Because he was loved by God.

Mercury was very gifted and talented in music. He was also a tortured soul. He died at the age of 45. To tie this in with the subject of this blog, I am including one of his more famous songs “Find me somebody to love.” One striking aspect about this song is that he is not lamenting a lost love or expressing that he wants to be loved. He is stating that he wants someone to love. There is palpable pain in this song. It relates to the isolation that so many people, especially young people, feel today – to not love and feel loved. Drugs and car accidents are often just a means of suicide, even homicide when people purposedly put themselves in danger. To die from suicide is the ultimate act of despair, and it is not an attack on your circumstance but a view of your overall worth, that your life is not worth maintaining. God is love, and taking in God’s love and grace makes you feel valued, even in difficult circumstances. It is said that you can not pour from an empty cup, thus if feel no love inside you then you cannot give it to someone else. To fill a cup is to replenish it. We replenish our souls by connecting with God. It gives you the cup to be able to give to others. The outpouring of love from God gives us the ability to share it with others. We cannot naturally love our neighbors; it is not natural because some of our neighbors are not always likeable or good people. It is only possible from God.

Thus Freddie Mercury is expressing this emptiness. Lest you think I am attributing spirituality to a song that he never intended to have any spiritual meaning, listen and read the lyrics. He is expressing his attempts to talk to God, to ask why things are the way for him. In addition, he purposedly choose a
gospel inspired arraignment for this song. Now, it is true that he seems to be questioning God’s care for him. God is big enough to have humans question Him. In the Book of Habakkuk, Habakkuk complains to God was to why He is letting such evil flourish.

2 How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? 3 Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. 4 Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.” (NIV)

God does answer Habakkuk and then Habakkuk persist.

13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? 14 You have made people like the fish in the sea, like the sea creatures that have no ruler. 15 The wicked foe pulls all of them up with hooks, he catches them in his net, he gathers them up in his dragnet; and so he rejoices and is glad. 16 Therefore he sacrifices to his net and burns incense to his dragnet, for by his net he lives in luxury and enjoys the choicest food. 17 Is he to keep on emptying his net, destroying nations without mercy? (NIV)

Now Mercury is not lamenting the world, but his own state. This was also demonstrated in the Book of Job. My point is that he seems to be trying to reach out. He knows but does not act accordingly. This is true for many of us. We know God but we are not practicing God’s word.

No one knows what he experienced later in life, after he left the stage for good and became very ill. He was diagnosed with AIDS in 1987 and died in November of 1991, with his final public appearance being in 1990. What we do know is what he picked to have played at his funeral when his body was brought in- Aretha Franklin’s version of “Take my Hand, Precious Lord.”

See below the singing and words of this song “Find Me Somebody to Love” Hear the obvious pain in his voice, the choosing of a gospel style, the calling out to God. In the public part of his life, he never seemed to gain that peace. He describes his life as a “prison cell” in this song. I think his problem is he is praying for earthly love as the solution to his problems. He is missing what he needs for this peace, this belonging, which is God’s love fully accepted and returned. I think he senses what is missing or he would not have written this song. Many of us know the correct thing to do but still do not do it. Many teens might similarly pray for acceptance, to feel better about themselves, to not have a dysfunctional family, so many areas of their life. God can help with these things, but life is going to have pain. It is belief which gets us through this pain. As you listen, think about all the people who turn to dangerous use of drugs, live a violent life, end their life by suicide, who think their life is not worth living. That they are not loved, and find it hard to give love, their lives in stark contrast to what Jesus said in Matthew 22: 36-40 36

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ [a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ [b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (NIV).

I hope that he found that peace, that love before his death.

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