A recent study uniquely illustrates man’s need for fellowship with God and God’s people. The study is called, "Deaths of Despair and the Decline of American Religion." It compared the increase in death rate from drugs, alcohol and suicide of middle-aged Americans with the decline in church attendance in the late 20th century.
They found that people in some U.S. states had a higher interest in church attendance and as a result seemed to have a lower incident of these deaths of despair. Another study found that there was a similar correlation between these deaths of despair and lower education levels.
The researchers did not find a correlation between these deaths and lower income level. This has been a much broadcast assumption that most of man’s problems are lack of income. However, this is not surprising because it is obvious that many who are well off financially have some of the most notoriously mixed up lives.
The study also observed how unique the church is as a social or cultural institution. With the demise of the churches there has been no other institution that has arisen to match its value to society.
There are numerous other examples of a cloud of despair that has descended on a significant portion of America’s population. One person in three is reported to be suffering from depression and anxiety at some level. This shows up in homelessness and a significant portion of those who are incarcerated.
The researchers focused narrowly on deaths as a result of despair. But there are other high costs when a society walks away from its Creator. Broken marriages and dysfunctional schools have also contributed to that despair.
It is hard to avoid the dark picture painted by these studies. Our news media is saturated daily with the dreadful details. The study of history is not encouraging for cultures who continue down this path. But history also teaches us what leads to a thriving society.
The Old Testament illustrates clearly the destiny of rampant sin. But it also has a few stories of the prosperity and well-being of the people who live in obedience. The faithfulness of King David and Solomon led to such a flourishing culture that other heads of state, such as the Queen of Sheba, would travel from afar to come and see for themselves. But the arrogance of the subsequent generation destroyed that prosperity.
In modern times, America has also demonstrated the fruits of righteousness. By respecting the rule of law and a general concern for others, America’s technology and abundance has led the way in reducing poverty and hunger in the rest of the world.
Opportunity International reports that:
“Since the 1970s, global hunger has dramatically decreased. By 1980, the prevalence of undernourishment in developing countries had fallen to 26.5% [from 35%]; and by 2000, it was 18.3%. By 2010, less than 15% of people in developing countries were undernourished, and that number continued to drop to below 13% at the last reporting (Our World in Data). We have collectively made remarkable progress in the fight against hunger in the last five decades.”
These statistics match the wave of economic prosperity that America experienced during that time frame. However, more recent statistics indicate that the number of impoverished is increasing again in the last three years because of the international turmoil caused by escalating sin in America and worldwide.
Soul winners, history proves that the biblical lifestyle is unmatched by any other worldview available. We just need to let people know that God’s way is the best way. And gospel tracts are one of the most convenient ways to do that.