I’ve read a number of articles talking about how, thanks to a recent history of global crises, millennials just can’t seem to get a break: 9/11 marred their childhood, the Great Recession demolished early career goals, and now the coronavirus pandemic has wiped out all chance of them ever flourishing. One such article in The Atlantic titled “Millennials Don’t Stand a Chance” paints a bleak picture:
“The Millennials entered the workforce during the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Saddled with debt, unable to accumulate wealth, and stuck in low-benefit, dead-end jobs, they never gained the financial security that their parents, grandparents, or even older siblings enjoyed. They are now entering their peak earning years in the midst of an economic cataclysm more severe than the Great Recession, near guaranteeing that they will be the first generation in modern American history to end up poorer than their parents.”
I was born at the end of Generation X, so I fall in that strange gap between Xers and the “digital generation.” While I don’t personally resonate with the author’s assessment, I can see how millennials — those currently age 24 to 39 — have some major obstacles to overcome. As a person of faith, I want to propose three ways Christians can respond when circumstances seem dire.
1. Remember what’s important.
If gaining more wealth than our parents is the mark of a worthwhile life, a lot of us are in big trouble. But for a believer, accumulating wealth isn’t the goal. In fact, King Solomon, a rich man, wrote about what a hassle it can be: “I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:18-19). Or as I’ve often heard my mom say, “You can’t take it with you.”
The things you can take with you are acts done on earth that last into eternity. The fellow believers you encouraged. The poor and needy you served. The people you told about the gospel. I love the words of 1 Peter 1:3-4: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”
2. Remember those who overcame adversity.
While sometimes the “bad news” can seem overwhelming, resilience in the face of trouble has brought about many beautiful things. I think of those who made it through world wars, escaped slavery, or survived the Holocaust and built beautiful, meaningful lives on the other side. At first glance, these events seemed to signal that their lives were ruined, and yet these individuals made great contributions through their families and their presence in society.
God’s people, the Israelites, were used to having the deck stacked against them. After hundreds of years of slavery in Egypt, they were brought out only to wander in the desert for 40 years before entering the Promised Land. (And that was far from the end of their struggles.) When you read through their journey at face value, generation after generation didn’t seem to have much going for them. And yet they had a powerful God who went before them and blessed them with His presence and protection. Through them — and a Jewish Messiah who would be born hundreds of years later — the whole world would be blessed.
3. Remember God is in control.
Outside of the realization that God is sovereign and has a plan, many things in life are scary and hard to understand. Why does one person die of cancer and another is healed? Why do evil people get away with unrighteous acts? Why do some generations seem to face greater obstacles than others? Without the knowledge that God is working behind the scenes to restore and reconcile His creation and the people He loves, the prognosis for this life would seem bleak.
Paul put it aptly in 2 Corinthians 4:16 when he said, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” As followers of Christ, we do not need to fear the future. Regardless of the forecast or projections, something greater determines our steps.
The Atlantic author ends her essay with this statement: “For Millennials, it feels like there is never any good news at all.” How remarkable that she uses the words “good news.” Because that is precisely what we do have in Christ — eternal life, a living hope, and an imperishable inheritance. No recession or pandemic can take that away.
Copyright 2020 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.