Hope, in the Face of Suicide
20 November 2012
It is difficult to understand, fully, the hopelessness that can so grip a person's heart, so as to lead them to want to end their life. I have found, though, that once we lose sight of the eternal Hope-giver, we lose the ability to believe that "this too shall pass." The enemy would like nothing more than to "steal, kill and destroy," and we must lean on the one who has come to "give life, and that in abundance" when facing circumstances that would attempt to rob us of joy, hope and the belief that we are loved.
You are loved, you were created with purpose, fore-thought and intentionality. Your life is no accident, no random cosmic collision of atoms that just happen to come together at the perfect moment in the perfect manner. You were known before you were formed. And you are immortal, your self will continue eternally after this frail shell, this transient form passes away. And that existence will be more real and authentic, than this. And you will remember this life with the clarity with which you remember the fifth day of third grade. On some level you are convinced that it occurred, but the details remain sketchy and by-and-large have little impact on your present state of being.
But be that as it may, this life is not intended to be an exercise in futility, where you navigate through difficulties with frustration and angst, merely surviving, constantly stumbling about blind and desperate. No, this is not a divine obstacle course, no pass-fail test meant to cause turmoil and strife. It is a fallacy to look at your surroundings and conclude that God is malevolent, a careless deity either operating with the capriciousness of a misguided child with a magnifying glass on a sunny day, or disconnected as a watch-maker who has wound up the universe and walked away.
He is present. He is near, and he grieves because of pain the world. He desires to draw near to you, to converse with you, to lead you and guide you in eternal ways, to give you wisdom, not merely knowledge and to enlighten you and give you a peace that passes all understanding. He is in control, but he has also abdicated full control over your life in order that you may enjoy the gift of free will. He does not desire automatons who simply carry out his will, but conscious beings that dynamically grow in relation with Him.
But if you have ever felt hopelessness in life, you are not alone. One of the most powerful kings in history, who was accounted as a friend of God felt a depth of abandonment that has resonated with me when I have found myself in despair and solitude. As I read earlier from Psalm 77, you heard that he felt alone and in despair, as if God had abandoned him. But in the midst of his anguish, he steps into the peaceful eye of the hurricane and reminds himself, “then I thought, to this I will appeal, the years of the right hand of the Most High.” The same right hand that separated the depths in the beginning of creation to prepare a place for his people. The same right hand that parted the red sea to lead those people to a land of abundance to fulfill his promise. The same right hand at which his son sits to advocate for us because he has endured suffering and defeated death, and given us hope. David finds hope in despair by focusing his mind on God.
How is it that you find hope in despair? Do you search out the answer from within? Do you turn to a form of escapism or self-medication, be it entertainment, alcohol, work, exercise or sex? Anything that you can grasp which temporarily alleviates the tension of the unresolved. What do you treat as a god in your life, besides God? Who sits on the throne? Because I can assure you that in a time of testing, you will turn to that throne and worship. And anything other than God, will disappoint you as a insatiable malevolent task-master. Even James Hetfield of Metallica expressed this sentiment in one of my favorite songs that exposes the lie of a false god, writing, "master, master where are those dreams that I've been after, master, master, promised only lies. laughter, laughter, all I hear are screams and laughter, laughing at my cries." This is the kind of hope that the world provides, fleeting and indifferent.
But the king of men knows exactly where to turn, he knows what to set his mind on. Not on himself, or the world, but on God. He writes elsewhere that when he feels besieged with doubt, he looks up to the hills, to God, from where his strength comes. That even when he feels like he is walking in the valley of the shadow of death, he fears nothing, for he knows that God is with him. And it is in these moments of remembrance that we can imagine exactly what he may have felt walking through that valley. For the writer, as the canyon walls enclose him into a terrifying corridor through which he must walk, he focuses his mind and hardens his resolve that he is not doing so alone. The greatest consolation to him is the presence of God. It is not the intellectual knowledge of the existence of God that comforts the writer, but the fact that God would not allow his creation to navigate the pain of this world without Him. The presence of a God who would not subject humanity to undergo that which he did not himself experience. That same God who would submit himself to an agonizing execution, in order to remove the finality of death through resurrection. That is why his faith does not waver in the face of tremendous tragedy. C.S. Lewis was correct that where fear and pain exist, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the presence of God more than anything.