what if your 20's weren't what you expected?

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20s copy I'm a millennial...which comes with its fair territory of both privileges and biases.

The overarching theme of our generation is: "go live your dreams! change the world!" Then, we set up certain expectations for our lives; if we don't do something "big" with our life, we've failed in a sense.

But, what happens when you can't always live out your dreams?

I've had a lot of tough conversations lately with friends about harsh realities of life-- when life throws a major wrench in our plans: in my case, late-stage Lyme disease, Dystonia, & ME/CFS. Or, I have a dear friend that recently left medical school while recovering from brain cancer, another couple struggling with infertility...the list goes on. Instead of living our dreams, our ultimate goals and desires are shifted from changing the world to perhaps mere survival.

In these scenarios, we may have zero control over what's happening in our lives. But, I do really believe we have a choice on how we can react: we can become bitter, or we can choose to accept with joy and grow.

There's a wonderful article at The Gospel Coalition that really nails this whole concept:

"Although we consistently asked what would Jesus do, no one told us how important it was to learn how he dealt with suffering. While we may have escaped much of the suffering of the world and generations past, we weren’t equipped to deal with the realities of life. We had categories for the American dream and grand ministry experiences, but many of us didn’t have a framework to endure deaths of siblings, financial hardship, cancer, or family conflict. Here we are, 10 years later, trying to deal with hard things and coming to terms with our own sin, and the harsh fact that suffering isn’t ageist after all...

Instead, I'm calling us to suffer well, to realize we are not in ultimate control, although many of us have vast amounts of freedom and choices. We need to learn to grieve our shattered dreams, to understand and absorb sadness, to sit with unanswered questions and learn about trusting God in this space without sugar-coating the truth.

Although we may not be thinking about knee replacements right now, we need to know that we live in a broken world, and soon enough our bodies will break down too. We need to put to death our expectations of a perfect life, prepare for things to be hard, and realize the fall has affected every part of the world. We need to learn that there is nowhere we can escape from sin, because we can’t escape from ourselves. We need to learn to bring our regrets to Jesus, that he can meet us in our shame if we have wasted years of our lives."

So, fellow warriors: let's suffer well. Let's embrace the good, the bad, and the little victories in between. Let's grieve and mourn properly, but most of all, let's take it to the One who set the standard of faithfulness through trial and find joy through it all.

thoughtsElise Graham