4. David Kinnaman at Biola University
Kinnaman is an author and the president of Barna Group.
Kinnaman starts off his speech: “My sweet wife, Jill, got very sick.” He went on to share stories of the past year when his wife underwent a series of surgeries and treatments for brain cancer. He said Jill is doing much better now and the family is grateful for the miracle of her recovery.
“We experienced great tragedy as a family, and we all really suffered. Now why am I telling this story on a happy day like graduation? I want you to understand some of what we we have gone through as a family so that you might be better prepared. As graduates, you’re prepared for success, but are you prepared for suffering? Every college graduate in America is ready to face the world, but few are prepared to face the worst that life has to offer. And yet, that’s an important part of our human experience, especially for Christians. We have to respond to these intensely difficult times in a different way – in a way that Jesus intends.
There were points in our journey when Jill’s health was really on the rocks. But as a result, the Scriptures say, we stop relying on ourselves and learn to rely only on God. This is about coming to the end of ourselves. It’s very different from the narrative that you get in your generation, which is about being self-sufficient, having all the answers, and posting the very best version of yourself on social media. Jesus followers face all of life – the good, the bad, and everything in between – with a different ethic. We admit that we aren’t self-sufficient. We acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers. We believe God walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death. And we face challenges together.
How will you walk through suffering? And how will you be there for your friends and your peers when they go through tough times? We are going to face challenges that we don’t’ expect, anticipate, or want.
I can tell you from personal experience that Jesus is close at hand. Paul wrote that you come to the end of yourself, but Jesus is there for you, sustaining you. I don’t understand, friends, all about suffering – why God allows it. I had a really hard time seeing my sweet wife suffer.
You’re prepared for success, and now be prepared for this gritty truth: God is close to us when we suffer, especially when we are broken-hearted. And when we turn to him, God does not waste our suffering. It sounds weird to say but suffering with Christ is one of the greatest joys we have in this world.”
Watch Kinnaman’s speech here on Facebook Live (minutes 36:00 – 55:00).
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Muhammad Rizwan