Does religion help in tough times?

The answer to the above question is a resounding “No.” No, religion does not help us in tough times. It never has and it never will because religion (not based on the Bible) has no idea why “tough times” exist in the first place. 

Tough times exist, according to the Bible, because we are “in bondage to decay,” Romans 8:21. We are stuck in a world that’s falling apart and we can’t stop it. Why? Because God made it that way, verse 20, “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it.” And our history conclusively proves the truth of that statement. No matter how hard we try to solve our pressing global problems, our efforts always end up in frustration. 

Religion, however, does not accept that we are incapable of solving our problems. Buddhism is a classic example. It recognizes we have a serious problem as humans, that we have these cravings for things that can never satisfy, and all our suffering can be traced back to that – BUT, Buddhism tells us – we have the power within ourselves to solve it, by subduing our cravings. How? By having a right mind, right speech, right intentions, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right meditation. In other words, we can solve our problems and stop all suffering by making ourselves into better people. We have the ability within ourselves to do this. Buddhism would never admit we are helpless. 

Nor would Islam. Tough times in Islam are interpreted as a means of cleaning up sin, or making us into better people – but never as proof of our helplessness. Never would Islam or Buddhism accept that we have minds controlled by a sinful nature so powerful that only the Spirit of Christ living in us can control it. Instead, religions think human nature can be controlled and improved by laws, techniques, energy forces (like karma) and suffering. How, then, can these religions be of any help in tough times, when they have no clue that tough times are meant to illustrate our helplessness, not to make us better?

But it’s recognizing our helplessness that leads us to God’s solution. When Paul cried out in frustration, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death (7:24)?” that’s when he discovered there’s a Spirit who “helps us in our weakness (8:26).” It was when he accepted his helplessness that he realized God had provided him with power that he didn’t have naturally. It wasn’t religion that helped Paul in tough times – it was the Spirit.

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