When I taught Sunday school, I followed a routine each Sunday aimed at settling the students so we could have a conversation about Jesus and life. We had a snack, a beverage, watched a zany video (usually about people doing foolish things), and chatted about the world around us. We also placed our initials on a large scale that rated our week from bad to good.
While we munched on snacks, each student shared why they put their initial where they did. They told their week’s story while others listened and offered comments. The actual objective was to ensure they knew how to move away from a bad week, to good and how not to let something keep them down. One week, following a tragedy in the US, we placed our initials on the scale with a different question; “How did this make you feel.”
Although the oldest student was only 14, youth are not blind to what is happening around them. Some had experienced bullies, some knew of family discord and family love, and almost every one of them knew of someone who had taken their lives because of not being able to cope. They were not oblivious to the message that culture pushed down their throat – YOLO (you only live once). So, when they got to talk about life, they spoke. They knew what had happened. They watched the news. They watched people react. They were taught Jesus was with them when things seem to be at their worst. They have heard He is called the comforter and would take away their sorrows. They knew Jesus is the answer to the world’s problems, but just saying the name JESUS did not stop the bullying. Just saying JESUS did not make a father come home and just saying JESUS did not stop that tragic world event. They needed to know where Jesus was during this challenging time so that they could have hope. Jesus said he came so that we could have life to the fullest (John 10:10), and they needed to know that Jesus’ truth was possible.
The discussion was profound. The students noted how people helped each other during the tragedy even though they did not know what happened or whether it could worsen. They witnessed people loving one another. They reflected on the message they shared every week; love another and help a fallen buddy. The class was diverse, with students from North America, Europe, Africa, and Nepal, but not one child thought the tragedy was the fault of religion or a specific culture or God. All believed that many bad things happen around us because men and women have made choices that selfishly and purposefully hurt others. They also thought that they could help people in their time of need just by listening to them.
Our world has changed over the past year. Our movements have been restricted, our ability to connect with family and friends reduced, and there is uncertainty when it will end or what will follow. As the virus continues and the restrictions remain in place (conditions meant to help ourselves and others), more and more people get angry because they feel they cannot do what they want to do. We are in a time where we must think of our safety but not forget about those around us. During this time, I remember the conversations the students had that morning because it contained hope. It was “do not to let the bad things get you down; feel upset, feel angry, but help someone.” Trust Jesus and feel hopeful because YOLO and that once can be a time of doing the good God has prepared for you.