The human body starts dying at age 25. Our twenties slap us with the expiration date of sin’s curse (Genesis 6:3): slowly, in our ligaments; tightly, in our muscle fibers; subtly, checking for bumps; decimally, with a rising BMI. We feel death in our twenties, emotionally and relationally, in ugly and odious ways. Death latches its chain to our frame, slowly pulling us deep into an answer to the question “Death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). Our twenties bring so many answers to that question—transition, failure, desperation, dependence, accusation, responsibility, moral failure, stagnation, unfulfillment. “Sting” isn’t sufficient. Our twenties can be a dark time.
Aspects of Quarter-Life Crisis
There are (at least) five feelings that overwhelm and disillusion the wandering young saints, day after day.
“I thought things would be better.”
“I thought I would be better.”
“I thought friendships would stay together.”
We show up at the doorstep of our twenties and mid-twenties hoping to meet our childhood dreams. It turns out that we oversold ourselves on our future. No astronaut missions. No presidencies. No spouse and kids. No house. “Wait, does life suck?” Expectations aren’t shown to be false—only shown to be miniature scales of what we’re actually hoping for; financially in dire straights, emotionally unfulfilled, professionally unimpressive and spiritually stagnant. “I thought I would have grown out of this sin by now.” Shared, white-walled apartment spaces drag our nerves with doom: “This can’t be it. This can’t be all there is.” The doors of childhood are closed behind. Life, it seems, indicates that things will only be getting worse from here.
“I’m just not as happy as I used to be.”
“I feel fundamentally unable to see the bright side of life.”
“My ability to feel joy is just broken.”
Each day—another day, and another—erodes the soul. Each day, a little less meaningful, a little more hazy; a few less moments of true beauty, a few more innocent pleasures to make it through. Unrelenting haze. Emotional nebula. Spiritual indolence. Slowly—down, sinking—down, twisting—down. Lethargic weight, myopic gaze. “Darkness” is not a sufficient word. Heavy. Weary. Vapid. Unaroused. Despondent.
“Nothing I do matters.”
“I’m going to be stuck here forever.”
“My parents are so disappointed.”
“All of my friends are doing so much better than I am.”
“Life just feels like a rat race.”
Despair is the emotional muscle of “Oh God, this will never end.” Pay up. You’re bulldozed. Despair is the overdrawn bank account—“Insufficient hope. Please deposit more faith to make a withdrawal.” And we have nothing. Rejection letters, romantic break ups, deaths of parents and siblings, bad news tailor fit to our most arresting anxieties. They’ve embarrassed us with empty hands. They are thieves of hope. Ruthless pillagers of dreams. Our circumstances, emotions and relationships—we are fooling ourselves if we don’t think they are interwoven in the fabric of our beliefs. And when they die, despair comes alive.
“The church doesn’t understand or address the issues I’m struggling with.”
“I feel judged by God all the time.”
“I’m not sure that God exists. And if he does, I don’t care.”
Doubt has been consecrated and crowned by the millennial generation of twenty somethings—hail, our new priest and king: incredulity. “God, if your people are so loving, then why …” “God, if you’re so great, then why …” “God, if you’re not a sadistic, disinterested deity, then why …” As we sink deeper into despondency, we lock arms with doubt. Our faith turns from “He will come again” to “That one time when …”—from “I believe” to “I once believed.”
“I haven’t felt God in a really long time.”
“Friends are fake.”
“I don’t have a place that feels like home.”
Desolation—“Anguished misery or loneliness; a state of complete emptiness or destruction”—from the Latin desolare, “to abandon.” Loneliness can be the most crushing force in the universe. The heartache of leaving home requires more than wisdom and a coffee table—it can take and contort and dismember the soul. To lose for the first time the holding hand, the loving concern, the caring eye, the steady help—it can be grievous. Alone; therefore, alone forever; therefore, helpless. To be desolated is to be broken by the void. And we are being broken.
God and the Darkness of Our Twenties
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SOURCE: Church Leaders – Paul Maxwell