In his address to the U.S. Congress several weeks ago, Pope Francis noted that young people do not have a positive outlook for the future.
“We live in a culture,” he said, “which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future.”
Although it sounds like His Holiness is exaggerating, research affirms this observation. Young people have very little hope for the future: They marry later, bear fewer children, and feel that they work longer hours for less wages.
For the first time in recent history, adults no longer feel their children will be better off in years to come, according to a Pew Research survey. That middle class income has remained stagnant or in decline the last three decades has not helped anyone’s outlook.
Movers and shakers in our culture have not provided any solutions to turn the tide, and our faith in politicians shaping a better future has collapsed in congressional malaise.
Some offer the common lament, “If only we can do things like we did when I was young”; others provide avenues for nostalgia in order to combat our woes. Just think of how many movies reboot previous films and genres.
Yet, nostalgia and longing for the impossible will not provide hope for the future. Optimism will continue to elude those who are searching for answers from yesteryear.
The church, the very people of God, walk to the beat of a different drum. We Christians need not fear the future or face it in despair, for we know the future that stands before us.
God asks that we be a community of hope and boundless aspiration, a people who tell what God’s future entails and embody the values that adhere to a future utterly bound up in God’s plan for all history.
We Christians maintain the belief that we are saved in Christ. In turn, we are only residing in the waiting room of life, but it is a waiting room that we are to tend and keep beautiful, to make safe and welcoming for others who need hope for the future.
Christians stand in the shadow of a transformative past and a Holy Spirit who empowers us in the present, but our faith always looks ahead to a future in which Christ is pulling all things closer to that day when the Kingdom of God is fully realized. Ours is a future-looking faith.
Our worldview does not share in the pessimism of others. We do not fear the future as others do, for we know God is in charge and that the arc of history (as Martin Luther King Jr. once stated) bends toward justice and grace.
Without fear entangling us, we can turn our attention to a meaningful life that is freed from paranoia and anxiety. We can focus on justice by paying attention to the poor, caring for our environment and being agents of reconciliation by combating violence in all its forms.
We also need to affirm that we are people with aspirations for all creation — and we must encourage our young people to aspire just the same. This means working hard no matter the salary because we work with the joy of the Lord as our strength and the strength of the Lord as our refuge of peace.
Trust, gratitude and compassion result from a life lived in the anticipation that God will someday make all things right, that our temporary state of dysfunction and brokenness is but a small bump in the road of God’s grand scheme of eternal life.
I think it’s about time that we Christians boldly step out in front of the rest of the world and declare, “Follow us, we know the way because we follow Jesus into the future; we follow a Savior who is the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).