Let's Hope Together
An invitation from our University chaplain to encourage and build each other up as a campus community
Just over a year ago, our Center for Faith Engagement (CFE) took a team of student leaders to a religious conference in Boulder, Colorado. The focus of that gathering was “The Great Disruption: Jesus’ Unprecedented Confrontation with Politics, Theology, and Belonging.” One conference participant during a group discussion shared a sense of personal fatigue about compassion and advocacy. In their words, “With so much going wrong in the world, in our nation, and communities, can we really do it all?”
Earlier this week, ten people were senselessly killed in a supermarket in that same city, Boulder, Colorado. Last week, eight people were killed at work in the Atlanta, Georgia, area, and our vice president for Diversity & Inclusion, Michael Nixon, shared some important reflections on those Atlanta killings and hatred and racism against our Asian brothers and sisters in his Divino blog; you can read that post here. Since Feb. 1, 2021, the military coup in Myanmar has led to a growing death toll in that country, with over 230 individuals killed so far. Admittedly, this brief and incomplete inventory of recent tragedies presents a fraction of the violent acts committed by one human to another human, all in places around the world that members of our University community call home.
As I reflect on these tragedies, you may remember that the Bible speaks about our world only becoming increasingly more violent. And Jesus himself is very clear when he said: “In this world, you will have trouble” (John 16:33).
So, it’s a great and urgent question: If even the prophetic imagination of the gospel writers includes global, persistent acts of violence and loss of life and communities in socio-political upheaval, is there anything we can do?
It’s a question with a great answer: Yes, there is something you and I can do!
First, I believe that we can find significance, encouragement and peace simply by being hopeful. I personally find my hope by trusting in God. The stories and promises shared throughout the Bible show that God is consistently faithful. In my life, and the life stories many others have shared with me, we are all witnesses to God actively journeying with us to get us through difficult moments in our own lives and throughout the world. I find hope in the remaining words in Jesus’ quote that I shared earlier: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
I also find hope when I carry my suffering in solidarity with others. The Bible does contain prophecies that foretell violent and uncertain times. But in the same collection of stories we find individuals and communities encouraging and building each other up to overcome those awful circumstances.
For example, there is the story of Esther, a woman who was the member of a persecuted and marginalized group, advocating in the king’s court on behalf of her people. Another Bible story tells of a widower on the verge of losing her children to slavery simply so she could pay her debts, but she is instead delivered by the charity and commerce of her local community. Or, there’s the story of when God works through a young boy with a small lunch to feed thousands. We also read of a moment when even the Son of God is helped by Simon of Cyrene who carries Jesus’ cross the rest of the way.
That last story is an important affirmation: God works with and through us to carry the burdens of others. That means something pretty incredible—we can do something! The apostle Paul shares this hope: “That there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:25, 26).
For the followers of God, solidarity is an important aspect of justice and even an essential condition for unity. As an Andrews University community, as a people of faith, we can individually and together stand opposed to violent acts against all humans. And we can ultimately experience unity through solidarity in each other’s suffering.
This last Monday, a number of our students, faculty and staff gathered together in person (and online) to reflect on the hatred and racism experienced by our Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students and members of the AAPI community around the world. During that powerful, and often heartbreaking, evening together, one student shared this thought: “We have been quiet all this time … and we've just been waiting to talk like this … why do we feel like strangers here at Andrews … why don't we feel like home ...? I hope Andrews can make us feel like home again ..."
That’s a challenging statement to hear, but I truly believe that we can be the embodiment of this student’s hope and can be the fulfillment of God’s promise, “Fear not, for I am with you” (Isaiah 40:10).
Amidst a world that is all too frequently touched by disappointment, hatred and violence, let’s seek each other out to simply and consistently offer our presence and a shoulder to help carry each other’s burdens (sometimes, even before it’s obviously needed!).
If you’re personally struggling with these issues, I encourage you to reach out to our chaplains in the Center for Faith Engagement or to our counselors in the Counseling & Testing Center if you need someone to listen, care and pray.
I pray that we each lean into these challenging moments by leaning on each other. Let’s be a community—a beloved community—that is hopeful and a community that is ultimately a home for all of us, even and especially when we hurt.
Love is Life,
Center for Faith Engagement