The Struggle is Real
As a meme, “the struggle is real” grows more stale by the day, but it made this 2015 list by Inc. Magazine of potentially confusing phrases used by millennials. I still hear about “the struggle” every now and again. The phrase is used to refer to frustrating circumstances, at times ironically (like in the instance of “first world problems”), but can also refer to a real hardship or difficulty. Millennials are no strangers to tough times, and often confess among their peers that the world is full of challenges.
These challenges reach beyond paying the bills and staying on top the laundry. They involve relationship difficulties, frustrations at work, loneliness, financial worry, and even spiritual concerns.
I have found that members of younger generations expect to be perfect, and after being thrust into adulthood, they have brought with them an expectation of having life fully figured out.
This even extends to Christian faith, as members of younger generations want to grow spiritually and live according to the way of Jesus, but become frustrated when they fail.
Within the service of worship you might have time set aside for confession. Even if you do not, a sermon is likely given. Do you talk about struggles and failures? Do you lift up ways that life is hard? Do you help people to see that the church is filled with those who are in need of grace, or do you maintain the illusion that everyone in the congregation lives a perfect, happy life?
I am in no way suggesting a technique, saying that if we just confess our sins more frequently and admit that we don’t get it right, younger generations will find a home in church. But I am challenging us to examine ourselves and to closely evaluate our discourse, seeing if we are both naming our aspirations and celebrating successes while also being real about hardships and honest about our brokenness and failures.
A word of caution: talking about our shortcomings can most definitely be overdone. Drew Dyck once humorously noted that talk of brokenness can be overdone to the point of meaninglessness. Nevertheless, we are broken, sinful, and hurting. We might as well speak truthfully about our circumstances.
We’ve written that millennials and gen-Zers are looking for authenticity, but how often do they find it in church? Be real about the struggles facing yourself and others within the congregation. Empathize with those who are hurting. Then, serve the people as a shepherd, helping them along the difficult pathways and toward still waters and green pastures.
The struggle is real. But so is the Savior. Admit our weaknesses. And help congregants learn to rely on his strength.