This is the time of year when seniors everywhere have one foot in high school and one foot in the future. Some of you may even know what it’s like to get a rejection letter from a college that you’ve applied to. Nobody likes disappointment, yet it’s a part of life—particularly as you get older and parents aren’t able to shield you from pain or rejection.
One senior who was rejected from the freshman class of Duke University decided to take action and funnel her disappointment into a response. Let’s take a look at what she wrote:
Share this article with your students:
“17-year-old rejects Duke’s rejection letter”
When you finish reading her letter, discuss the following questions:
- Obviously, this was a satirical response to her rejection. But why do you think it resonated with so many people? (Answers may vary: Often we feel like we’re at the mercy of an admissions committee or someone else—people we don’t even know are making decisions about our future. We sometimes imagine a fantasy world where we have the upper hand, able to choose our own outcomes.)
- Describe a situation where you felt deep disappointment. What happened? (Let students share openly.)
- How does our perspective change once some time passes? (Often our initial disappointments are replaced by acceptance—and then time reveals things we couldn’t see at first.)
There is no question that we will feel disappointment in life. But with our sadness comes the realization that our heavenly Father cannot and does not leave us in distress or trouble. He is eternally trustworthy. One particular young man had every reason to be disappointed in some horrible events that happened to him and his family. But as we’ll find out, God knew what He was doing all along.
Looking for Steps 2 & 3?
You can find Steps 2 and 3 in your teacher’s guide; your Step 4 appears below. To purchase a teacher's guide, please visit: Bible-in-Life or Echoes
- Timeline worksheet printouts (1 per student; template here)
Before class, print out a Timeline worksheet for each student (template here).
This step will help your students create personal timelines that illustrate their limited perspective on the events in their lives—whether happy, disappointing, or somewhere in between.
You know how in history class, you get to study timelines of the world’s big events? Sometimes it’s a good idea to get the same wide-angle view of our own personal history. We get so caught up in the events of the “right now,” that we fail to see how God is piecing things together for our good.
Give each student a Timeline printout. Tell them they will be creating a five-year timeline that shows the ebb and flow of their life from a wider perspective. (NOTE: You might want to create one for yourself ahead of time to use as a model for your students.)
For each year on the timeline, they should identify at least one difficult event and one encouraging event where God was faithful to them and list those in the box below the year. When they finish, students may be allowed (but not forced) to share their timelines with a partner or small group. If some do not want to share, keep this time brief for the others.
- Did anyone write down any big disruptions in life like moving homes, a shift in the family, a painful illness, or something like that? At the time, did you anticipate how life would feel now? What were your thoughts at the time? How did it really turn out? (Answers will vary. An example might be if someone moved away from friends they had all their lives, they might have anticipated that they would hate their new home and school and never make any friends—reality may be that they adjusted to everything and have great new friends. Or an event may have seemed like they would love the outcome, but it turned out to be a disappointment.)
- When was your timeline uneven or unpredictable? What does that teach us about life? (Life never works in perfect counterbalance between pain and happiness. Its events are organic and unexpected. The only thing we can count on for sure is that God is with us through it all.)
- If your 2018 or 2019 box contains a painful event, what about God’s character can be an encouragement to you? (Despite the difficult situation at hand, Jesus does not leave us in despair or hopelessness. Just like He’s done in the past, He will take care of us.)
Instruct your class to draw a big circle around the entire timeline. Encourage them to write today’s memory verse from Hebrews 13:5 around the entire perimeter of the circle.
As you move forward into the unknown parts of your future—especially you who are seniors or face more uncertainty—hold fast to this image of God encircling your life history. We see only partial or cropped portraits, but God has known it from the beginning. Take a specific step today by asking a friend or adult to be your “wide-angle lens.” Add them to your contacts if you haven’t already and remind each other of God’s faithfulness each week with a text or call.
If you want to create a visual reminder of today’s lesson, have students stack all of their timelines in a pile and form a circle around them as you close in prayer by thanking Jesus for His perfect and divine control over every event in your lives. Have them retrieve them before they leave to keep as a reminder this week of how dependable God is in the midst of our undependable world.
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