Fourth Friday of Advent: Out of the Depths

By Madison List

Advent Devotional | December 23, 2022

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
    Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
    to my cry for mercy.

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
    Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
    so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
    for with the Lord is unfailing love
    and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
    from all their sins.

—Psalm 130

I am well into my second year in Lithuania—living, working, and ministering to college students from over 50 different countries at LCC International University

A majority of our students are from Ukraine, many are from Afghanistan, and a good number are from Armenia.

The trauma of war in their countries this past year has affected our campus community deeply.

Additionally, our students from Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Belarus struggle because their homes don't feel like home anymore in the midst of war. 

Back in May, after a year of living at LCC among a traumatized population of young adults, my hope was shattered. I had seen the atrocities and evils of war so closely, and I cried out again and again, “God where are you? How can you let this continue? Why don’t you do something?” 

Over the summer, I took time to grieve and process through the pain of my first year of ministry at LCC. By August, God had begun to lift the heaviness off of me, and was inviting me to hope again.

My heart was cautious to hope, but God reminded me again and again that He is worthy of our hope. 

One of the areas where I’ve been able to hold onto hope recently has been in “conduct meetings” with students. It’s one of the more interesting aspects of my job as a Resident Director, as I respond to incidents on campus and later meet with the students who have gotten into trouble. In these moments I often feel the compassion of Jesus for the students as I witness their fear and shame during troublesome, dangerous, or rebellious situations. 

One such case happened a few weeks ago. Late one Friday night, I walked into a dorm room with drunk students, lots of alcohol bottles, and loud music. Yury was the host of the party, and when we met a few days later to talk about the situation, he started by saying, "I want to apologize to you." As we sat down to talk, he continued, “I shouldn’t have hosted the party and I’m sorry I put everyone in that situation.”

I’d heard Yury had been going to church and Bible studies recently, and now he was sincerely apologizing to me.

I had expected to hear defensiveness and excuses, but this student who had a reputation as a troublemaker was surprisingly apologetic. 

I thanked Yury for apologizing and forgave him, and then decided to change the direction of the conversation. “Yury, I know Armenia is a Christian nation, and I’ve heard you’ve been going to church and Bible studies lately. Can I ask how faith has been a part of your life since this incident happened on campus, and with the war going on back at home in Armenia?”

His demeanor changed and a vulnerable somberness came over him. 

“War is unlike anything else,” he said. “I was 17 last time it happened. I wasn’t old enough to fight, but my dad and my friends were. I’ll never forget, it was awful. People who haven’t seen war don’t get it, and I would never want them to. All I could do was hope in God and pray, nothing else. And that’s all I can do now.

“I want to keep hoping that God cares and is with my family, that God is with them in the war. Even though people are so evil in the world, here on campus I want to bring good into the world.”

Yury and I talked about how LCC often feels like a place that gathers the pain of the world, and how we get to choose to be people who bring God's love and goodness to LCC, or people who create more harm and destruction.

Even when the evil around us makes it seem like all is hopeless, Jesus is still worthy of our hope, and we can partner with God to create peace in the midst of war, because Jesus is with us.

And we can pray, “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.”

Would you join me in praying for hope and peace in this week before Christmas? Please pray with me that God would give our community an ability to hope in the midst of the atrocities and devastation of war that affect so many of our students and their home countries. 

Come, Lord Jesus. Come, Prince of Peace. You are the hope of the world.

—Madison List serves as a missionary and resident director at LCC International University. A CCO student alumna, Madison served on CCO staff from 2018-2021.