Two university students facing uncertainty with hope

Written by Winnie Lui

One theme in my journey is being okay with the unknown,” says Laura Kim. A South Korean now living in British Colombia, she graduated from university this past spring, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Laura grew up in Southeast Asia, where her parents have been missionaries since 2006. She served alongside her parents evangelizing in rural areas and supporting home churches in local villages. After completing high school in Thailand, she spent a year studying in Europe and then transferred to study in Canada.

On top of the many global unknowns, this year marks the fifth anniversary of her sister’s death. That year was a pivotal one for Laura. It left her family reeling. “We didn’t know how to respond,” she recalls.

Loss, shock, disbelief, and wonder—these are themes reverberating around the world this year. “There are millions of people who face the same thing,” Laura says. “When their loved ones pass away, they question the goodness of God and the purpose of taking [these people] so early.”

Laura’s journey of seeking is still ongoing. “I’m not going to lie,” she said. “There are still unanswered questions.”

Faith and questioning are not mutually exclusive, however. Laura’s questions have not prevented her from believing. After years of seeking, listening, wrestling, and reflecting, she has reached a new place in her faith.

She finds hope in the truth expressed in Job 1:21. “I don’t know how to explain it,” she says. “But I know God gave us everything, and He takes everything back. He is the one who gives and the one who takes back.”

Trusting in God’s power to work out all things can be hard at any time, but even more so when we’re reminded of life’s uncertainties. “When I read the Bible, I’m reminded that these are all temporary things,” Laura says. “There is something so much bigger than what we see.”

Joshua Onwugbonu is a Nigerian-Canadian from Toronto who graduated last May. He describes his post-college journey. “The past year has been just trying to figure out and re-model my life,” he says. “Of course, everything is affected by COVID. I think my walk with Jesus this past year has been the most intense, for very good reasons.”

For Joshua, the examples of other young adults have been inspirational. He’s found it encouraging to see his peers using their creativity to make an impact, especially online.

Currently, Joshua manages multimedia for the student life department at his alma mater. “This year is opening up my mind to what I can do as an influencer in this medium to make a difference and to share a message of faith…of encouragement.”

It’s challenging for new grads to maintain their faith while adapting to new contexts. That struggle is made more evident by the limited ways Christians can gather while following health guidelines.

Rev. Dr. James Ellis III recognizes that growing up in a media-saturated society can, and often does, give younger generations a misshapen view of the world. This is partly because it allows for hyper-commercialized comparisons unlike what previous generations experienced.

“Everybody’s presenting these idealized lives on social media, so you’re comparing yourselves to people who live in a totally different country, whom you don’t even know. You’re all playing in this game of voyeurism,” says James, who is the university chaplain at Trinity Western University.

A worldview through the lens of social media can lead to false expectations. False expectations that life ought to meet a certain standard, that life owes us something, or that it should be easy.

As Christians, we can take that a step further and assume God is supposed to make that life a reality.

For young adults in particular, James believes that vulnerable mentorship is crucial. This kind of mentorship involves sharing daily life, joining in with the tears and the celebrations, and speaking hard truths when needed.

James encourages leaders to actively participate in the faith formation of young adults. Share your “life story,” he says, “This is how God showed me. This is how God was with me through the pain of it all.”

And for the struggle with the unknown? Well, that’s a challenge for everyone. The mystery of God and our inability to comprehend the order and purpose of events are age-old issues.

But mysteries and unknowns don’t have to hold us back from pursuing faith and obedience. “Parents and adults—we don’t have to be perfect because that’s not going to happen,” says James. “Only Jesus is perfect. But we do need to hold ourselves accountable to be responsible stewards and examples of the faith.”

Winnie Lui is the director of public relations at Trinity Western University.