As I write this letter on the evening of Feb. 13, 2023, some of our peers in the world of academia are experiencing polar opposite phenomena. On the one hand, Asbury University, 337 miles south, is rejoicing in a great revival sweeping its campus. On the other hand, there is a mass shooting taking place 155 miles north, at Michigan State University.
Revival and murder.
Life and death.
I don’t know if anything else can so perfectly capture the extremes of this corrupted world we live in, of this world where the only option for eternal hope is through Christ. Sometimes, it feels almost impossible to maintain faith in that hope, especially in the midst of pain and tragedy. It feels impossible to keep “eternity’s values in view,” as an old hymn says, when “eternity” seems like a far-off concept that provides little comfort in present reality. It is one thing to discuss the concept of “eternity” in church and to logically acknowledge its existence and another thing entirely to experience life through that perspective.
Perhaps one area where revival and tragedy overlap is in their emphasis on the brevity of life. It is likely easier to grasp, in some small way, how short our time on Earth is when we are actively engaged in spiritual renewal. This same concept is shoved down our throats when a life is ended sooner than it should have been.
It is almost certain that you or someone you know has lost a loved one to something that “shouldn’t” have happened; whether it be a fatal disease or an act of violence, the harsh truth is that we are surrounded by death. Even on a global scale, death has been in the spotlight the past few weeks. From military attacks in Ukraine to the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, life is being extinguished at an alarming rate.
Is there a place for hope, even amid so much grief and suffering?
Is there a place for grief and suffering, even amid the hope and joy of revival?
The answer to both of these questions may be an obvious “yes” on the surface, but the practical execution of such sentiments is more difficult. Finding balance in life is a battle all its own, one that can drive us crazy if we let it. Strange as it sounds, people don’t always want to leave room for hope when they’re experiencing the pain of loss; anger can be much more satisfying in the moment. Conversely, it may be awkward or feel invasive to allow space for pain when the “fires of revival” are burning all around you.
So, what’s the answer? How do we find balance? Where is the steady footing in the middle of the storm?
I don’t know.
And that’s okay.
Although some things will forever be certain, although Christ is a firm foundation and longs to be our “shelter in the time of storm” (to quote another old hymn), the certainties are overwhelmingly outweighed by the uncertainties from my faulty mortal perspective. Maybe some of you feel more grounded and assured about difficult things, and that’s okay too.
But I want to encourage each and every one of us (myself included) to remember that it isn’t sinful to doubt or stupid to feel weak. Remember the words Christ spoke to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Will this be hard to believe sometimes? Absolutely. It can be healthy to read through the cursing psalms of David or to be reminded of the hopelessness portrayed in Psalm 88. God wants us to express all our emotions to Him. He provides us with certainty while giving us space for extremes.
And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.
“To God be the glory, great things He hath done.”
Brianna Rae Densmore