A Cold, Dark Winter

In college ministry it’s easy to overlook the frailty and brevity of life and issues of suffering and death. Youth, health, beauty, strength and energy are all on display as you walk around the campus of the University. Our culture idolizes youth and long life so the thought of death is pushed away and covered over in activity and noise. College students often think they are invincible and if they just believe in themselves and work hard anything is possible. Only the experience of trials, failure, pain and death can shake them into seeing the reality that the Scripture teaches.

The Psalmist writes in Psalm 90: “You return man to dust and say, Return, O Children of man! For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning; in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers…the years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away…So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

This past month has been a reality check for students at UMD as a grad student turned a gun on his roommates killing one, injuring another and then turned the gun on himself in suicide. The grief and confusion felt at the campus vigil was tangible as students met to weep, pray, hug and console one another.

Even closer to home, I have lost family members and heard of the loss of some of my friends’ family members. One of my former students and ministry team leaders notified me a week before Christmas that his younger brother was tragically killed in an automobile accident. He was just 22 years old, healthy, musically talented and had just completed his training with the National Guard. He was full of energy with his whole life ahead of him and yet the Lord took him home. Not more than 24 hours later this same student called again. I thought he was calling to tell me how he was processing the tragedy, to seek prayer or give me information about the memorial service. Instead, he said his grandfather who had been going through cancer treatment had suddenly died.

As I meet with students and preach the gospel each week at our Large Group meeting I have been given a great and crucial task to set before students a major “reality check.” Although it seems you are invincible and your energy will last forever…the reality is that life is short. How will we use our time and “number our days?” When this flesh is deteriorating away and we are on our deathbed will we have the hope of a Savior who died and is risen and will take us to himself and one day make all things new? This is the task before us as we minister the Gospel of grace to students who put these issues behind the optimism and energy of youth. Biblical reality and the sharp pain of death challenges us to think again. I covet your prayers as we set the Biblical reality of life and death before students at UMD with the Good News of hope and life in the midst of pain and death.

Chris Garriott, Campus Minister at Maryland
February 25, 2013
Northeast@ruf.org • 610-691-0988 • 631 Fourth Avenue, Bethlehem, PA 18018