Among younger people, it often plays out as frenetic activity – filling every waking moment with earthly purpose from work and socializing to cleaning the house and pursuing every possible form of entertainment. These activities give them a sense of purpose, goals to work toward, others to compare their achievements to. And, importantly, it eliminates the need to be alone with their thoughts.
This approach to “God avoidance” can continue into old age. Such individuals may find new outlets for their busy-ness – playing cards or shopping, becoming certifiable health nuts or filling their calendars with doctors’ appointments and lunch dates, to cite just a few examples -- but there's a common denominator: calendars and To Do lists filled to overflowing.
But at some point, this sort of life can take a sharp turn into doing as little as possible – sometimes by necessity, as health issues begin to pile up. And then comes a plunge into bitterness, fed by sitting alone and thinking about how everyone they know has let them down over the years. After all, none of this could possibly be their fault!
It's really no surprise. As Jim Berg wrote in his wonderful book Created for His Glory (BJU Press, 2003), “The grim reality is that the emptiness of life without God at the center pushes itself to the consciousness once again when the music stops, the drugs wear off, the eroticism fails, the fashions grow old, the relationships disappoint, the accomplishments fade, and the thrills subside.”
And emptiness almost invariably breeds bitterness.
You can usually tell within a few minutes’ conversation what a new acquaintance’s relationship with the Lord is, or is not, based solely on how he or she spends his or her time. When there’s no relationship – and when a few gentle comments confirm that this person has absolutely no interest in the things of God – the solution is obvious: These people need to understand who God is and who they are, to grasp His holiness and their sinfulness, to learn about the repentance and trust in Christ that are the keys to eternal life.
Only when they embrace these truths will they be free to shed their bitterness and embrace the promise of eternal joy. Isn’t it wonderful to know that, if you’re a Christian, you may be the one who helps them to see the light?
There are many ways to point a conversation in the right direction, and to present the gospel. I personally think that the Way of the Master’s approach is the easiest to deliver, and to understand, but you may have a better way to share the good news of Jesus Christ.
But don’t put it off – there are too many people suffering from bitterness these days, and the Lord has equipped all His children with the cure.