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Graduate, Take Heart, and Overcome!

The world is a mess. It was a mess yesterday, it’s a mess today, and it will be a mess tomorrow. If anyone tells you differently, they’re selling something.

The world has been a mess ever since pride in the human heart decided it didn’t need God. That primal error has resulted in an unending chain of tragic events that have plagued all of human history. Without God, man’s inhumanity to man knows no bounds.

In your short time on planet earth, you have experienced plenty of misery.

You were born into a nation at war — and we have been at war your entire life. I wish you could have been born during a time of peace. You weren’t, and neither were most of us living today. Vietnam was the war of my childhood. Now it is Russia and Ukraine. Unending war has been the difficult backdrop of our lives. How different would life be without war? I guess we’ll never know.

When you were about four years old, our economy was rocked by a recession. The housing market crashed, and many people suffered terribly as their life savings were wiped out. You probably weren’t aware of it, but such financial distress is a part of your life story. I grew up in the 1970s in the midst of soaring inflation, high-interest rates, and gas rationing — and now it’s happening again. The writer of Ecclesiastes declared, “What has been will be again; what has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun.”

You grew up in a world of mass shootings and metal detectors. I grew up in a world where schools were marked as nuclear fallout shelters.

When you were seven, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee teamed up to devastate many communities in our valley. When I was eight, Hurricane Agnes did the same to us.

In 2020, when you were in the middle of 9th grade, our world was shut down by a global pandemic caused by a new disease called COVID-19. It upended your entire high school experience. In 1982, the year of my high school graduation, the world was upended by a new disease called HIV/AIDS.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Every generation faces adversity, and every generation believes their time is the worst time ever. Is it?

Well, for you, it is. This is your time, and it’s your turn to be the victim. A victim is a person whose life has been negatively impacted by adversity. Graduate, you are a victim, but be very careful with dwelling on that thought. If you do, you risk entering a destructive state of mind called victimhood.

People who live in victimhood blame everyone and everything else for their misery. Blame is how they justify laziness, destructive lifestyle choices, and bitterness. They say to themselves, “Had it not been for _________; they would have been happy and successful.” Living in a state of victimhood destroys their lives.

In John 16:33, Jesus told His disciples, “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus faced plenty of adversity, but He chose to be an overcomer. Graduate, He is calling on you to overcome adversity too. With His strength, you can do it.

Listen, your past has been filled with adversity, and the struggles you’re facing today are not entirely your fault, but where you go from here is completely up to you. You have a choice to make. You can choose to be a victim or an overcomer. That choice will determine the trajectory of the rest of your life.

Choose victimhood, and your life will always be defined by the pain of your past. Your offenders will keep you imprisoned in bitterness and self-pity. Your vast potential will never be realized because you’ll always be looking backward to some awful moment in the past. You will treat your body and your mind poorly. You will become bitter toward people who don’t understand just how hard you’ve had it. Your jealousy and bitterness will lead to lifelong dysfunction and loneliness — and you’ll blame everyone else for that too. Victimhood is a cycle that leads ever downward to destruction.

Choose overcoming, and your life will always be defined by your hope for a better future. You’ll view the adversity of the past as the preparation that gave you wisdom and strength for the challenges of today and tomorrow. You’ll treat your body well, and you’ll sharpen your mind with education and new experiences. Doing so will increase your potential and your sense of purpose. Adversity will still come your way, but as an overcomer, your determination will keep you moving forward. The past, for you, will always be a grand story of redemption and victory. Overcoming is a cycle that leads ever upward to increased purpose, hope, joy, and peace.

Graduate, you will always face adversity. The question is, what will you do with it?

The world is waiting for your answer. We’re counting on you to overcome. By God’s grace, you can do it!

“Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21

“For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” I John 5:4

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Corinthians 15:57

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5