Millenial Angst: Adele, Getting Older, and Discontentment

Adele captures the consciousness of the millennial generation better than any other musical artist. Her latest album 25 reflects on themes of growing up, as her twenties fade and a new decade begins. As I've been listening to Adele's latest album, perhaps my favorite song is When We Were Young. She sings,

Let me photograph you in this light In case it is the last time That we might be exactly like we were Before we realized We were sad of getting old It made us restless I'm so mad I'm getting old It makes me reckless

As more millennials enter into their late twenties and early thirties they are bombarded by restlessness. We're getting older. Our twenties dawned with roaring optimism, filled with idealistic dreams of love and success, yet as the years wane that bitter reality has turned that roaring optimism into a reckless restlessness. Life did not end up the way we thought it would or rolled out the way that we planned. The last few years left us only with broken hearts and crushed dreams.

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Back during our freshmen year of college, we were brimming with hope. The world was our oyster, filled with endless possibilities. The idea of independence, freedom, and adulthood seemed like a dream too good to be true. We longed to grow up, but as we entered into adulthood we’ve discovered it rather mundane. Our lives have become rather monotonous: we wake up, go to work, parent toddlers, watch Netflix, and go to bed early. Rinse and repeat. The exhaustion of this never-ending routine leaves many longing for something more. The millennial angst and disillusionment leaves us scratching our heads and picking up our hearts, wondering if there might be anything to provide meaning and purpose to our daily lives.

It is in this angst, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ enters into our restlessness and balms our burning hearts with his grace. Only Christ gives meaning to the mundane,  joy to the broken hearted, and hope for those in a quarter-life-crises. Though our lives may not have panned out as we hoped, Jesus gives purpose to our disappointments. Perhaps we have not advanced to where we want to be in our career or have yet to find our perfect spouse. Even still, Jesus gives something that we millennials desperately need: contentment.

It is no secret that millennials are not a very religious bunch. Yet, I believe that as more and more millennials enter into their child-rearing years, our discontentment will grow for something more. I pray that the disillusionment that so many feel will morph into a spiritual brokenness. The puritan Jeremiah Burroughs highlights this truth in his work The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment,

God has broken your estate; Oh seek to him for the breaking of your heart likewise. Indeed, a broken estate and a whole heart, a hard heart, will not join together; there will be no contentment. But a broken estate and a broken heart will so suite one another, as that there will be more contentment than there was before.

So brokenness is the first step to true contentment. Millennial angst could very well give way to a spiritual revival among this generation. When we finally realize that the promises of advertisers are just a sham and that living for yourself only brings disappointment, then and only then can we find refreshment in the fount of Christ. He is the only source of lasting contentment.

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Burroughs goes on to say in the same book,

It is not by having his own desires satisfied, but by melting his way and desires into God's will. So that, in one sense, he comes to have his desires satisfied though he does not obtain the thing that he desired before; still he comes to be satisfied with this, because he makes his will to be at one with God's will.

As the idealistic plans of so many millennials melt away, I pray they will surrender their wills to God. As our wistful dreams crack and decay into the reality in which we live, may we freely give up our life and find true life, true contentment in Jesus himself. As Jesus said,“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 16:25).