Here’s trend #1, which I’m not going to spend much time on: We (society) are pretty focused on “rights” and “doing whatever makes you happy”. This probably isn’t new. But there are more memes on Pinterest about just forgetting responsibility and duty and doing what feels good. Letting go. Being free. There’s usually a picture of a beach or a misty lake behind the quote. They’re pretty.
I won’t go on. I’ll sound like an ornery old man.
Here’s trend #2, which is beautiful when understood in the context of the whole gospel: We (as God’s children) are understandably pretty focused on, enabled by, empowered by, and inspired by our opportunity to repent. Who doesn’t feel a sense of relief and hope at the thought of God’s willingness to forgive us when we really strive to change? I am very grateful for this blessing.
But with the world shouting at us to just live in a way that feels good combined with our focus on the chance we have to repent (which, again, I am grateful for beyond words), we may be not as focused as we could be on one other truth: With God’s help, we can withstand temptation. We can qualify for an incredible heaven-sent power by not giving in to temptation in the first place. Rather than revving up our engines only when the time to repent comes, we can start putting forth our efforts when the temptation is first noticed. The gift of repentance is there, mercifully. But the Atonement of Jesus Christ also helps us withstand sin, not just repent of it.
Is summary, try on this thought from C. S. Lewis. I think you’ll like how this feels:
“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.” (Mere Christianity, 126)