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When Your Twenties Are Darker Than You Expected

3. Dissatisfaction

Are you dissatisfied? Good. The world is full of feasts that satiate the flesh in the moment, but starve the soul (Ecclesiastes 7:2). We are both more hopeless, and have more reason to hope, than we would ever imagine. God endorses your dissatisfaction with the world’s self-concept package: “Large, with a side of self-doubt and a sprinkle of guilt—hold the Jesus.” How predictably joyless.

Self-hatred is self-perpetuating—it is not an isolated thought; it is a downward and accelerating cycle. We judge our desires: incomplete, unaccomplished, base, stupid, unrealistic. Don’t try to preempt your disappointment and abandonment with self-condemnation and self-abandonment. It is a cycle into a numb and catatonic existence. Find the fire. Our twenties can be an anesthesia—they can numb us to pain and motivation. If we can stop the morphine drip of despondency, we will find that our unbearable existential angst is not a prophet of doom—it is the pain of depressurization, rising out of the depths. “I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand” (Psalm 73.22–23″ data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Psalm 73:22–23). Dissatisfaction is what God uses to separate us from the beasts.

4. Dependence

God is a loving Father. Full stop. Part of that package: God cares about your parental issues. If you had an abusive, disappointing, harmful, traumatizing or maladaptive relationship with your parents, that is a tragedy and a burden. And yet, God—your perfect Father—cares for you, and cares about your story. David Powlison explains, “Dynamic psychology [turns] the antique relationship with parents into a magic wand to explain all of life. The Bible offers … a more concrete and life-transforming explanation” (“What If Your Father Didn’t Love You?”).

God knows us and loves us and is working patiently in and with us.

God does not expect you to be a Wall Street executive. God does not wish you were making six figures. God does not wish you had a happy-go-lucky personality. God does not wish you would just “Get yourself together already!” We are not on our own. We are not broken beyond repair. We are not doomed to be our parents (2 Kings 21:21). You can depend on him for love, affirmation, affection, correction, a guiding hand and his never-forsaking care. Breathe.

5. Devotion

God is devoted to us. That may sound strange—aren’t we devoted to God? Isn’t “devoted” an inferior activity? No. God is devoted to Christ and we are one with Christ: “Do not be afraid or tremble … God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

This may sound trite. That’s OK. God doesn’t promise that his truths will always carry the wit of that guy in your creative writing MFA that’s putting you $25,000 in debt. God says trite things—God repeats one single, unoriginal, overstated, overplayed truth again and again because we forget it just as often: “Work, for I am with you” (Haggai 2:4).

God is with the lonely and the heartbroken. “Where? Where is he?” He is … he is there. Sometimes there is more to say, and sometimes there is not. You object: “Reproaches have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none” (Psalm 69:20).  

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Paul Maxwell (@paulcmaxwell) is a PhD student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and philosophy professor at Moody Bible Institute. He writes more at his blog, paulcmaxwell.com, and pretends to like coffee.