On Wednesday night, a student at my alma mater, Taylor University, was found dead in his dorm room.
His name was Josh Larkin. I didn’t really know him, but I did have a class with him once, and from the little interaction we had, I thought of him as a genuine, kind person. From observing him lead worship in chapel services and hearing what others who knew him had to say about him, I can say that Josh was a caring, Spirit-filled individual who positively impacted many people on Taylor’s campus and beyond.
Taylor is a small, Christian school— the kind that breeds tight-knit community, where everyone bleeds when part of that community is ripped apart. Right now, I wish I could be there with them. But though I can’t be there, I stand with them, praying for them and for Josh’s loved ones.
Tragedy binds tight-knit communities even tighter. And Taylor has seen its fair share of tragedy. I still remember when Amy Nose, a custodian for my dorm, was killed my junior year. I saw her nearly every day, always with a smile on her face. And no one will forget the crash that happened before my time at Taylor, in 2006, that claimed the lives of four Taylor students and an employee… and resulted in a much-publicized case of mistaken identity.
Tragedy is no respecter of persons or institutions. It comes to Christians and non-Christians alike. But tragedy does not define us. How we respond to tragedy, on the other hand, does point to who we are.
As Christians, our response should be different. It must be different. There is grief, yes. There is questioning, yes. There is despair, yes. But ultimately there is hope: hope that does not disappoint, hope that goes hand in hand with trust— because our hope is not a wish; it is a certainty.
When Christians respond to tragedies such as this, there are two truths we can hold to above all else: Life is precious, and eternal life is more precious. We do not try to deny or avoid the pain, but we dare not try to deny or avoid the joy of the promise that the pain of today is not the end. There is a future. Jeremiah 29:11 doesn’t stop for Josh now. It has just become his reality.
God is not a crutch for the weak in times of pain. He is the life, the heartbeat that causes the blood pumping through our legs to keep us moving, walking, trusting, and hoping. The only times we hobble are when we start trusting ourselves more than him, when we start questioning our hope. Thank God, his love never fails— even when our faith does.
When we hope in the midst of tragedy, we point to the source of our hope as being more powerful than that tragedy, even when that tragedy is death. We do mourn, and rightly so, at the loss of someone so largely a part of the Taylor community. But we do not give up hope.
Don’t give up hope, Taylor. The universe-shifting moment we celebrate this very Sunday proves our hope is not in vain. There is one who has overcome the grave. He turned the greatest tragedy of all time into the greatest cause for celebration… ever.
O death, where is your sting? O death, where is your victory?
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. — 1 Corinthians 15:55-57, NLT
I must express how deeply humbled and honestly overwhelmed I am by the response to this post. I know my words could never do justice to this situation, but I prayed that they could help, somehow— by God’s grace, ease the pain, and most of all, offer hope. For anyone close to Josh, I cannot begin to know what you’re going through, but I am praying for you.