My alma mater asked its grads to write a note of encouragement for all the graduating seniors this year, whose semesters were cut short by COVID-19. Below is what I sent – something pertinent, I think, to everyone who feels loss in this season of the coronavirus.
Dear Graduating Senior,
My heart is grieving with you during this bizarre, sad time. So many things that you were looking forward to and anticipating have suddenly been taken away due to circumstances you never could’ve imagined. I lament with you that you didn’t really get to say goodbye to your friends, people you’ve been walking through life with in an incredibly special way for the past years who have sharpened you and influenced you to love Jesus, who have been with you as you’ve wrestled and wondered, and now you won’t get to walk across that stage together and have a celebratory finale to it all. I mourn for those things you were waiting to do until after spring break – meeting with that professor again, or enjoying the last few weeks of your favorite class, or exploring a new part of the city when the weather got warmer. The lack of closure makes for an anticlimactic, deflated feeling. The final months of your college career are supposed to be a certain way, and now they are not.
The loss of time, I’m learning, is devastating in its never-ness. We have all lost potentialities that we can never get back – no one can go back and redo March-May of 2020. I think us as believers feel this more deeply because we know the preciousness of time that our Creator endows upon us. It matters because life matters.
One of my prayers for you is one I’ve been praying a lot lately for myself and my friends. Whatever the specifics are of your grief, whatever is hurting the most – I pray that Jesus fills in those cracks of disappointment in an abundant way with Himself. May He overflow in those broken places with the gift of His Word, His people, and His presence that can only come from being connected to the Vine. The world is also mourning right now, but you and I have been blessed with Somewhere to go to fill in the broken pieces and begin healing our hearts from these hurts of loss. Praise God for that!
March-May 2020 stinks. It stinks. AND at the same time, praise God it isn’t the end. There is hope, even now with the coronavirus, that we can all cling to. Our hope does not discount any current pain or loss; rather, our hope in Christ helps us see the loss the way we are supposed to – a sign that this world is broken, our God is near, and He will make all things right in the end. Praise God our sufferings aren’t meaningless from our Lord’s perspective. I love Revelation 21, where the angel declares that God is going to dwell with His people, and it will all be good again. Because of Christ, we have so much goodness to look forward to and to cling to now. I’ve heard so many wonderful stories, too, of how He is already using these months for such good purposes and for His kingdom.
Maybe you’re worried about your finances, or how you’ll get a job when you officially finish your semester. Maybe your parents have been dealing with job stress of their own, or maybe you don’t even live with your family and you’re trying to manage this with limited support. May the Lord meet you in your stress and need, and I pray He makes His face shine upon you – that you may experience His grace in a fresh way in this season, and that your time spent in His Word is so encouraging, that His Word leaps off the pages and settle deeply into your heart. I pray that in this difficult time of uncertainty, you are reminded of God’s promises once again and that you are driven to pray, growing deeply in your walk with Him. I pray that you come out of this more refined and imitating Christ more than you ever have before, and that He increases your faith to trust Him on a deeper level than previously. I pray that you can be a good steward of the new opportunities before you, wherever you find yourself now instead of at school.
Dear friend, I pray that whatever happens with this season of your story, you cling tightly to Jesus and don’t wander off. The Good Shepherd is the best and only place to go when we are hurting and is the only Person who will actually give you what you need. I’ve only been out of school for three years, and I know of too many fellow alums who decided to look elsewhere for comfort with little success, abandoning their Good Shepherd when life became difficult or their sinful desires too powerful in their lives. Please, friend – keep being faithful. Pick up your Bible, pray even if you’re doubting, stay in touch with your friends, keep attending (or for right now, watching) worship services. Jesus loves you for exactly where you are right now, in the middle of the coronavirus, and He is leading you to His kingdom. Just please keep holding His hand. He is worth it, it’s all worth it, I promise.
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).
Many blessings to you, and may your heart be filled with His comfort,