In my 22 years of life, I’ve experienced some pretty painful things – from my parents’ divorce to a silent battle with depression, but nothing compares to the pain I’ve felt in the past six months. It’s been difficult to hold on to the truth.
That Past Year
On December 14, 2018, my grandfather passed away unexpectedly from a massive heart attack. None of us were prepared for it. He was in good health. My whole life he had talked about how he was going to live forever. In one day, so much of what I envisioned my life looking like changed. The idea that he wouldn’t be at my wedding or meet my children or see my first house broke me in a way I didn’t know was possible.
Then, in the past month, my life was rocked again. Three more people that are very important to me have passed. One of my students, a long-time mentor and my 17-year-old cousin all died in the span of 30 days. I won’t go into all the details, but just know that this has been the most emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausting month of my life.
Fortunately, I am well grounded in my faith. Even in the moments when I cried out in anger to God, I was able to recite what I knew to be true about God despite the fact that it didn’t feel true at the moment.
On Sunday night before Super Summer Alabama, Larry Hyche led us in a time of prayer where our first task was to praise God for who He is, and I was honest with God.
I told him that right now I was angry with him and that I didn’t feel like praising Him, but that I had to hold tight to the truth of His word. So I recited back to Him over and over: “God, You are good. God, You are love. God, You are sovereign” and let the tears flow. I didn’t finish that time of prayer feeling like sunshine and rainbows, but I did leave it feeling just a bit lighter knowing that I serve a God big enough to handle my anger, my confusion and my immense sadness.
Speak the Truth
I tell you all of this because I am eternally grateful for the youth pastors in my life, past and present, who have shared the hard parts of life with me. My youth pastor growing up didn’t shy away from telling us that life is the worst sometimes. When my parents got divorced, He reminded me constantly that God is good, loving and sovereign. The youth pastor who came after him has been so faithful to proclaim these same truths. If it weren’t for these faithful men of God pouring this truth into my life, even when I didn’t want it, I don’t think I’d have made it as far as I have without becoming bitter and stone-hearted towards God.
Don’t ever underestimate how large of an impact you have on your students even long after they’ve left your youth group. Have the hard conversations with them. Talk about death. Talk about suicide and tragedy. Share your own heartache and pain with them so that they can see you faithfully walk through it. And, most of all, don’t ever stop speaking the truth of God over them. There will be times that they don’t feel like it’s true. There will be times where they are sick of hearing it because the pain is too real, but keep proclaiming it with love and boldness. It will sink into their hearts and minds. Even on their deepest darkest days, they will be able to recite it back and cling to it.