Grief Without Despair: What Seattle Pacific University Students Taught Me

young woman comforts friend

Earlier this month, a young male started shooting a gun at Seattle Pacific University, a Christian school. Before he stopped to reload his weapon, he had killed one and injured three others.

A 22-year old student, Jon Meis, put himself in harm’s way to stop the gunman from inflicting further harm. Meis used pepper spray to incapacitate the shooter before knocking him down. At that point, other students jumped in and helped subdue the shooter.

Bucking the narrative

Sadly, these stories of public shootings follow a familiar storyline by now. The nation is first gripped by shock after initial news reports. Details then begin to emerge about the shooter, and soon the person is assailed by the media and the public.

Open Bible w/pages shaped into heartHowever, the students at Seattle Pacific University have managed to buck the narrative with their response.

An article in The Seattle Times is an inspiring read that acknowledges the difference in this shooting. The headline says it all: “At faith-based Seattle Pacific University, grief without despair.” The piece goes on to explain the way these young Christian men and women lived out their beliefs with authenticity, prayer and hope.

There’s no denying the response was nothing short of supernatural. We saw college kids wrestling through their pain and questions. Speaking with eloquence about their faith. Lingering in the presence of God, content to trust in Him even when they didn’t have all the answers.

No wonder a professor called this “our darkest day and our finest hour.”

That spirit was also evident in campus hero Meis’ statement to the public. Part of it reads,

I would encourage that hate be met with love. When I came face to face with the attacker, God gave me the eyes to see that he was not a faceless monster, but a very sad and troubled young man. While I cannot at this time find it within me to forgive his crime, I truly desire that he will find the grace of God and the forgiveness of our community…

In these next few days, weeks, and months, please continue to pray for everyone in the Seattle Pacific community. We serve a truly awesome God and I firmly believe that it is through Him alone that we will find the strength to heal from this tragedy.

What a combination of humility, honesty and hope.

How would you respond?

When something like this happens, I can’t help but ask myself what I would’ve done if faced with the same situation.

In Ephesians 6:10-13 we read,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Two things stand out. First, we will face an “evil day.” There’s no “ifs” about it – it’s a promise. Secondly, to be able to stand firm, we must be prepared for it – and that preparation takes time.

Thanks to God’s grace, the students at Seattle Pacific University were able to “be strong in the Lord.” They’ve been able to look evil in the eye and see the spiritual realities behind it.

And because of it, the world has seen their good works and God has been glorified (Matthew 5:16).

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John Burke More than 1 year ago
This is the Church in Action....