Lutz Campus

18333 Exciting Idlewild Blvd.
Lutz, FL 33548

Idlewild at The Springs

8209 N 19th St
Tampa, FL 33604

Iglesia Bautista Idlewild

Main Campus, Student Building, Hall 2
 

A Letter to the Class of 2020

A Letter to the Class of 2020

To the Idlewild Students Class of 2020,

I’ve sat down to write this more times than I can count. 

The first time was just a few days into the COVID-19 hysteria. During that week I had countless conversations with many of you and your parents, so I wanted to sit down and write something eloquent that could answer the questions I kept getting asked. 

Questions like…

“Why is this happening during my senior year?”

“Why do our kids have to go through this?”

“Why couldn’t this have happened after graduation?”

“Will I ever play another baseball game or am I just done?”

So I sat down at a blank computer screen and began to type. And here I am, 6 weeks later…still typing. 

I’m still typing because, like you, I’m still searching for answers.

I still don’t know why COVID-19 is ravaging life as we know it. I still don’t know why you may not get to attend your senior prom or walk across the stage at graduation. I still don’t know why you didn’t get to experience your last Wednesday night service or your last Camp Idlewild.

As someone who is sort of expected to have answers in moments like this, the land of unanswered questions has been a scary place to journey. But I’m learning that it’s okay to be in this place…and I want to invite you to be okay with this place as well.

You see, I think for many of us, we seek explanations when our world is turned upside down. 

Is God punishing us?

Is God warning us?

Is this some sort of sign?

Now maybe one (or all) of these do explain what has happened over the past few months. Maybe there is an answer to our questions. But here’s a thought for you:

Would knowing why this is happening really help?

Would an explanation for COVID-19 actually settle the storm of frustration that has been raging inside you? Maybe an explanation would be enough for you. I don’t know if it is for me. The point is that we are seeking comfort in this moment; but information is a path that doesn’t always lead us to comfort. 

I believe that there is a path, however, that can bring us the comfort we desire. That path isn’t paved with the accumulation of more facts and explanations. That path is paved with the presence of Jesus. Why?

Because presence is the only guaranteed path to comfort.

Let me explain.

When I was 3 I was burned terribly from hot grease. I was rushed to the hospital and spent 14 days undergoing excruciatingly painful treatment. In the midst of all of it I only wanted one thing: my dad. I didn’t need explanations for why this treatment was important for me. I didn’t need information about the severity of my burns. I needed my dad and I needed him close. I needed his presence because his presence reminded me I wasn’t alone. In his presence was the comfort I longed for, and I believe the same is true for us in this moment.

We are all hurting right now, but you and your families are hurting a particular way. It’s into this hurt that I want to extend an invitation.

It’s not an invitation to search, but an invitation to sit. 

It’s not an invitation to investigate, it’s an invitation to invite.

I want to invite you to sit in God’s presence. Sit with all of your unanswered questions. All of your frustrations. All of your hurt. All of your anger. All of your bitterness. All of it. Bring it into his presence and sit there. 

As you sit, invite God into your pain. Invite him into this moment of lament. 

Don’t invite him so that he can answer every question that you have (Jesus never promised to do that, by the way). Invite him because lament isn’t foreign to him. Pain, grief, and sadness are not emotions he’s never experienced. 

In all of our pomp and attempts to be reverent, we often forget the humanity of Jesus. As the writer of Hebrews reminds us, Jesus “understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same tests we do” (Heb 4:15). One of the great mysteries of Scripture is that we are invited to lament because God also laments. He is not above pain. He is not above heartbreak. He is not above suffering. He is not unaffected by brokenness. 

God was grieved to his very core when he saw the evil that his creation had become (Gen 6:6). His heart was broken when his own people turned away from him (Jer 2:1-13). In response to sin God orchestrates a plan of redemption, but even his plan did not involve immunity to pain. 

The only position that opens us up to God’s presence in moments of uncertainty is the position of lament because lament is what happens when the people of Jesus ask, “Why?” and don’t get an answer. It’s the result of us being honest and vulnerable with God because honesty and vulnerability are the only things that can open us up to God’s presence in these moments.

Here’s the point: it should not surprise us in these seasons when questions go unanswered. Jesus has never promised to explain what’s happening and why. He hasn’t promised answers to every question; instead he has promised his presence in every moment (Matt 28:20).

His presence is what we need because comfort is what we long for. We want joy in the midst of tragedy and his presence and joy are inseparable (Ps 16:11). 

So to the Idlewild Students Class of 2020, what began as an attempt to offer you answers has evolved into an invitation. It’s an invitation to sit in God’s presence and invite him to lament with you. As you do, the Spirit of God laments alongside you (Rom 8:26) and, whether you realize it or not, your life becomes holy ground where the presence of Jesus and his healing love can not only dwell with you but flow from you into a world that is desperate to be healed.

Love you guys and still believing the best is yet to come.

In Christ,

Chris