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Living in Neverland

I came across an article recently by Professor Carl Trueman in which he compared his grandfather’s generation with this present one. Here are some illuminating excerpts:

“If the poverty and hard work of my grandfather's era left men middle-aged at thirty, the ease and trivia of today's society seems to leave us trapped in a permanent Neverland where we all, like so many Peter Pans, live lives of eternal youth. The world of my grandfather was evil because it made him grow up too fast; the world of today is evil because it prevents many from ever growing up at all.

“The answer is not a naïve, nostalgic hankering for a return to an era of poverty and cruel hardship. Rather it is surely obvious: we need to put aside childish things and start acting like adults.

“Pascal put his finger on the problem of human life when he saw how entertainment had come to occupy a place, not as the necessary and momentary relief from a life of work, but as an end in itself. When entertainment becomes more than a pleasant and occasional distraction, when time and income become devoted to entertainment and to pleasure, when sports teams become more important to us than people—even the people to whom we are close—then something has gone badly wrong.

“The frothy entertainment culture in which we live is a narcotic: not only is it addictive, so that we always want more; it also eats away at us, skewing our priorities, rotting our values as surely as too much sugar rots our teeth.”

There is little doubt that we have had it easy over the last few years. We have become an entertainment-based culture with a proliferation of nite-clubs popping up all over the country, and ever more ingenious entertainment systems available for our homes. People have had more money to spend, and less inclination to save it.

Yet the shallowness of much of what is on TV, or escapism in its various forms or a live-for-the-moment mentality creates its own shallowness in our personality. Ed Welch in his book,
‘Depression: A Stubborn Darkness’, writes “While prosperity allows us to hide, hardship peels off masks we didn’t even know we were wearing.”

We have staved off hardship with a cocktail of money, drink, drugs and pleasure, and it has left us worse for the experience. A person may look 45 but still have the character of an adolescent. Where do we go?

We do not rejoice in hardship for hardship’s sake, but only because it shows us the futility of the things in which we are investing our lives in. Perhaps this current economic crisis will remind us that as long as we invest in that which is fleeting we will remain trapped in Neverland. The only way to grow up is to seek to invest our lives in one who will give us the strength to weather the storm, and who shows us what is ultimately valuable.

The ancient writer put it like this: “Why should I fear when evil days come? Man, despite his riches, does not endure. This is the fate of those who trust in themselves. Like sheep they are destined for the grave… But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself.” (Psalm 49)