When the news is bad
Jesus is always the answer during hard times—for us and for those we see as invincible, full-of-life college students.
Glenn L. Schwanke
Students are beginning to gather before one of our midweek campus ministry Bible studies when Mary nonchalantly checks her text messages. I think nothing of it, until I notice Mary staring hard at her cell phone’s screen. The tears start to roll down her cheeks. She looks up with eyes that betray a broken heart. She blurts out, “My uncle just died in a car accident!”
It’s after worship and fellowship time at church. I notice that Jon is hanging around, waiting for others to leave. Finally, after everyone else has left, Jon walks up to me. “Pastor, do you have a minute? I need to talk.” I respond, “Sure.” I invite Jon into my office. He takes a seat. The words start tumbling out, as Jon confesses a sin that has tripped him up yet again. He feels so dirty. His guilt is crushing him.
The church phone rings. It’s Cindy. She’d like to make an appointment to see me, so we schedule it for the next day. When Cindy comes in, I can tell that she hasn’t been sleeping well. Cindy just learned that her mother is dying. What complicates matters is that Cindy and her mother haven’t spoken in years—not since her parents were divorced. And even worse than that? Cindy knows that her mom hasn’t gone to church in a long time.
Those of us with gray hair and wrinkles may dream that college-age students are invincible. After all, they are so full of energy! So confident! So ready with expert answers on every subject under the sun—from politics, economics, the environment, ethics, and philosophy to pop culture and video games like Minecraft and NBA 2K14.
Death and dying? That’s nowhere on the radar screen. Failure? That’s not in their vocabulary. Until the phone rings. Until the doctor looks over the clipboard and says, “It’s cancer.” Until the morning brings haunting memories of the night before.
What do we say to invincible, full-of-life college students when the news is bad? When their eyes are dull, their cheeks are stained with tears, and their hearts are broken? We say what countless generations of Christians before us have said: “Jesus.”
When death stares up at us from the casket of a Christian grandparent, mom or dad, or very best friend, there is Jesus who guarantees, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25,26).
When we run all the stoplights of God’s law and careen off the cliff into sin and self-destruction only to be left a spiritual wreck, there is Jesus who says, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). Jesus did not push away the sinful woman who anointed his feet with oil. Rather, he assured her, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48). There is forgiveness for you too. Come and kneel at the rail. Take and eat. Take and drink. Leave the crushing weight of your sin on the shoulders of your Savior who carried it to Golgotha.
And what about Cindy, whose mom is dying? I suggested that Cindy write her mom a note to express her love. And I promised to contact the WELS pastor in her mom’s town, asking him to call on her. He has.
When the news is bad, there is good news. There is Jesus.
Glenn Schwanke, pastor at Peace, Houghton, Michigan, serves as campus pastor at Michigan Technological University.
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Author: Glenn L. Schwanke
Volume 102, Number 1
Issue: January 2015
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