One of the things that is often said about Grinnell is that it is a “dark place.” And when people say this, they aren’t talking about the spiritual climate at Grinnell. They’re generally talking about the mental and emotional experience. I’ve seen it myself – many students at Grinnell struggle with depression, anxiety, hopelessness, and extreme self-critique. These students work hard and have high expectations, and they are often under a great deal of pressure, some external and some internal. One of my greatest prayers for Grinnell-ians is to be transformed in all areas of their life, that Jesus would really enter in and break the cycle of depression and hopelessness or self-hatred. And trust me, it is a work of the Lord to accomplish this transformation!
Last night, a senior named Kodi spoke at Community Worship (CW), which is our weekly fellowship gathering. Kodi has been involved in GCCF from the very beginning, and he’s sacrificed a lot of time and energy to love his peers. At the same time, he’s personally struggled quite a bit to battle against the despair, frustration, and hopelessness many Grinnellians face. He shared a bit of his own story, some of the scripture verses that encouraged him and challenged him, and stood boldly before his friends to exhort them to to turn to Jesus.
This year has definitely been tough. Last spring, a student death and several painful hate crimes on campus left students reeling at the end of the semester. In the fall, while God was really blessing GCCF with growth numerically, it started to become apparent to many that there was something imminent coming – the graduation of quite a few seniors that have invested a LOT into the group. At the same time, personally, I faced a lot of my own doubts and fears – was God continuing to call me to this ministry? Am I any good at it? Why are there so many downfalls along the way?
What’s been amazing is to walk alongside both Kodi and other students as WE have daily chosen Jesus instead of despair, fear, or doubt. Praying with them, encouraging them with scripture, sharing my own struggles with growing weary.
One of the scripture verses that has encouraged me greatly since November is from Isaiah 40, and was also shared last night:
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
In the end, God is victorious. God is good. And when we choose Him, there are promises given us. The Lord gives us strength, and when we choose to put him at the center, we are most definitely on the path to eternity. So, last night when Kodi challenged students to respond in 3 different ways, I rejoiced alongside these students who are choosing faith and choosing Jesus.
Several students stood to say that they will no longer put their hope in other things (“broken cisterns” – Jeremiah 2), several stood to choose hope and believe God can help us overcome, and several others stood to choose to follow Jesus for the first time!
God is good :-)