What is happening in us is as important as what is happening to us during this relentless season of pain and loss. We can emerge from the pandemic with greater endurance and less fragility if we recognise and embrace the work it is doing in us.

There’s a video on YouTube that has been viewed more than 12 million times in which author Simon Sinek describes the conditions in society that have led to today’s young adults being labelled as entitled, narcissistic, unfocussed and lazy. These characteristics have been highlighted repeatedly, to the extent that one of Collins English Dictionary’s words of the year in 2016 was the term, snowflake generation.’ I have strong contentions with much of what is said and want to fight for the reputation of my age group. However, I reluctantly also see some truth in Sinek’s perspective and the associated term. But let us go further, and consider the impact of the events of the last year on a generation accused of having no resilience.

What happens when the snowflakes’ meet the pressure cooker? Of all the images associated with the coronavirus pandemic, few have resonated more than the pressure cooker. The combination of social distancing, lockdown regulation, financial struggle and Zoom fatigue, not to mention the reality of death feeling a step or two less removed, has cranked up the heat and intensity over our lives. Cracks have emerged, deepened and widened in families and friendships. Anxieties and insecurities have been exposed. Almost everyone I speak to feels more fragile.


But is something else going on?

Might we look back on these days and see that through the struggle and strain of the storm, God was doing something in us that was impossible in the sunshine and stillness of calm waters? To a church in the middle of a tempest of its own, Paul writes these words:

We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:34)

It seems that in the created order, and God’s economy, there is something that only trials and toil can achieve in us. Just as exercise gently tears muscle before it can grow back stronger and a violin string needs to be stretched to breaking point to make a pitch-perfect sound, so suffering develops character and resilience in us.

One of the evocative images that will remain an iconic emblem of these times is that of Captain Tom and his 100 slow laps of his garden raising over £32 million for the NHS. Commentators frequently observed in him a fortitude and grit developed over years of adventure and adversity, conflict and contest. Younger generations are criticised for their lack of Captain-Tom-like resilience, but perhaps a reason they have been lacking in this area is that they have never found themselves in the circumstances for it to be cultivated in them.

As we slowly rebuild and recover from this period of seismic change, the aftershocks will be felt far and wide. Anxiety and suicidal thoughts have been on the rise. The economic realities are yet to fully materialise. Many of us are reeling from bereavement and loss. But let us also recognise that, if what the Bible tells us is true, these painful and tragic days are doing something in us that will result in a deeper perseverance, a more Christlike character and a hopeful generation. I am lamenting these days, but I share the hope that all of us, and maybe most of all the snowflake generation’, might emerge with a deeper faith and a gritty resilience.

Let’s be real about the present. But let us also look forward and know that we will get through and will be stronger as a result. We can say with the same hope of that old soldier that when it comes, Tomorrow will be a good day.’ Or even better, Paul’s words to the Corinthians, Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.’ (2 Corinthians 4:17)

"Might we look back on these days and see that through the struggle and strain of the storm, God was doing something in us that was impossible in the sunshine and stillness of calm waters?"