Where there is no hope in the future, there is no power in the present.John Maxwell /
In many ways, hope is the great equalizer of all humanity. We all seek to place our hope in something. The challenge is not in hoping, rather it is finding the right things upon which to place our hope.
In author Tim Elmore’s recently published book “The Pandemic Population,” he details the realities of Generation Z (those born in the 2000’s, or today’s teenagers).
Here are just a few events that have shaped this group’s understanding of the world:
> The dot-com era bubble burst in 2001-2002
> 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001
> Large corporation scandals (Enron, Tyco, and World Com, just to name a few)
> Introduction of the smartphone (ubiquitous presence of social media)
> Great recession of 2008-2009
> Ongoing disputes over social injustice
> Normalization of student loan debt (surpassing credit card debt in the US)
> Increase in mass shootings (specifically school shootings)
> Political polarizations (Barack Obama to Donald Trump)
> Mental health issues (anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in the US)
> 2020 Coronavirus outbreak (introduction of quarantine life)
> Protests over racial injustice in 2020
Elmore aptly states that this generation feels “postponed and penalized.” In many ways, today’s generation of teenagers has lost hope because they have seen so much disappear or fall apart before their eyes.
For many in this generation, there is an absolute feeling of powerlessness in the present due to the lack of hope in the future. In his book, Elmore rightly identifies the need for adults to help this generation rediscover hope.
The last twenty years have clearly shown that this world will not, and was never meant to, satisfy humanity’s deep desire for hope. As adults, we have a key opportunity to help today’s generation find true and lasting hope.
In the book of Ecclesiastes Solomon describes the desire for something more by saying:
He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.Ecclesiastes 3:11
What Solomon meant in this verse is that part of being created in God’s image implies that we are relational beings and have an innate yearning for something beyond this world. Therefore, the things of this world will never fully satisfy our greatest desires.
As I interact with teenagers on a daily basis, I find that they are on a constant roller coaster. There seems to be a continual rise and fall of emotions based on the status of current circumstances.
When a student’s team wins the game, their performance excels, he or she gets an A on a paper, or his or her romantic interest is going well, life is great. However when he or she plays or performs poorly, or there is a break up, the world seems to be about to end.
This is the end result of putting hope in things that were never meant to give us hope. Athletic, academic and artistic success is great, and having healthy relationships is wonderful. However, these realities can disappear overnight.
Song writer Ross King described these earthly highs and lows in the following lyrics:
The highest mountain tops we climb are only just the bottom of the sky.Ross King
King’s point in his song was that the greatest highs this world has to offer pale in comparison with the grandeur of God.
The Bible gives a much bigger, more meaningful picture of hope. In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul says:
And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.Romans 5:2-5
Paul makes it clear that true hope is not circumstantial in nature. Throughout his writings he alludes to the reality that hope is most clearly seen in the midst of suffering. This seems to be counter-intuitive, but when one steps back and considers the Gospel of Jesus Christ it begins to make sense.
We find our greatest relational intimacy with Christ when we are most dependent upon Him. We are most dependent upon Christ when we are stripped of everything else. Christians are most alive when we come to the end of ourselves. Ironically, it often takes suffering and hard times to bring us to this point.
Now more than ever, parents must be thoughtful about how we interact with today’s generation. They are more anxious and depressed than any previous generation in American history.
We must be a generation of parents that models what it means to put our absolute hope in Christ alone (not in “Jesus + anything,” but in CHRIST ALONE)!
I see students seeking hope every day, and I realize more and more that now is our greatest opportunity to share what true hope means with them.
May God grant us all the grace to hope in Him alone, may our students be drawn to true hope in the midst of a generation that is desperately seeking something more, and may we rediscover hope together.