COVID-19 Community Update – May 26, 2020
Dear Northwest University community member,
It has been about three weeks since I last communicated to you that we will be "open for business" in the fall, as scheduled, for residential education. Returning students have registered in amazing numbers for fall and we look forward to welcoming them back, along with our new first-year and transfer students. We have worked with diligence and creativity to figure out housing arrangements that will comply with guidance from the health authorities and Governor Inslee, and we have created a variety of options to deal with known and unknown "what-ifs." It's too early to share the details, as we don't want to get ahead of the facts, but I can say that there are some fun ideas in the mix. I know we will experience an incredible joy together as a community when we reconvene, and I can't wait.
In the meantime, last week we celebrated Ascension Day, on which the Church has historically remembered Christ's ascension to the right hand of the Father, where he continually makes intercession for us. Before he left his disciples, he said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."
Those words ring true to us as we "prepare rooms" to end our separation from dearly loved friends. As a Christian who longs for the return of Jesus, I can't help wondering why Jesus had to return to Heaven. Why didn't he just establish the Kingdom of God once and for all here on earth and stay with us and govern the nations with a rod of iron?
My answer is that he let the world continue as it is because our life here—our struggle—has value in God's sight:
- Sickness, even pandemics
- Personal development, mental health trials
- Work and financial challenges
- Suffering betrayal from others
- Experiencing injustice or racial or ethnic prejudice
- Losing someone to death
Jesus experienced all these things and more, suffering in every way as we do, and the Book of Hebrews says that our savior was made perfect through suffering. In the same way, our life on earth, lived in faith toward God—our struggle against all kinds of things—works perfection in us. God actually helps us by not making us perfect by just decreeing it. We need the deepening effect that comes from actually striving, actually suffering—an effect we cannot achieve in any other way. An example comes from marriage. When I married my wife Kathleen in 1983, I didn't see how it would be possible to love her more. But as the years go by, our shared experiences of joy and struggle have made my love for her grow deeper and deeper. Today's love greatly exceeds what we felt on our wedding day.
Here and now, in the midst of struggle, in the grip of a global pandemic, we might wonder if it is worth it all. In fact, if we are doing it ourselves—not leaning on God and learning to have greater faith and trust in him—it won't be worth it in the end. Trusting Christ as our Savior means that we are building a relationship with God that will last forever in eternity. That makes any level of suffering worthwhile, because it has eternal significance. What we are becoming will last forever.
Giving our hearts and lives to God does more than just "save our souls." It redeems our suffering and will make everything worthwhile.
It will be worth it all when we see Jesus. And coming back to school in the fall will be worth all of the struggle and effort and uncertainty and, yes, pain that it took us to get there. We look forward to seeing you and being together again.
Joseph Castleberry, Ed.D.
President, Northwest University