The Coward Within

This morning I got a message that my Daughter-in-law’s Pastor is now the Father of a suicidal son.  I wish I could tell you he got help but instead he took his own life at just 28 years old.  This family will never be the same.  Every year when February ends they will be reminded of their son who destroyed the most precious gift ever given to them.

Suicide is so common in today’s world that it hardly registers the top ten list of bad things that happen.  School shootings, opioid abuse, meth labs, and somewhere down the list: suicides.  Pair this with a constant barrage of media reports about scandalous and earth-changing events around the world and you have the basic breakfast for the twenty-first Century mind.

This young man was afraid of something.  He may have been afraid of everything, even himself.  His Father is a preacher in a small church who I am sure had to have all the right answers and have the right clothes and demeanor.  He managed to be as perfect as possible when with his congregation.  He blessed their children, performed their weddings, and buried their dead.  He always had the right words and made everyone feel better.  He spoke out against sin and prayed for the repentant who would visit his church office.  He served communion to them, baptized them and wept with them.  Now his son is gone.

Today he tries in vain to comfort his wife of many years.  She shares his pain as she has shared his ministry all this time.  She had written many sympathy cards to parishioners and get-well cards to the sick.  She has served meals to help poor families and swallowed her pride countless times for the sake of her family.  Today she is stranded on an island and her husband is on one also.  She can see him, but his touch is too far away to comfort her.  They are alone and sick, and now will carry the disease we will call “suicide affliction” for the rest of their lives.

The church and community is also in mourning and disbelief.  Their words of comfort are appreciated but will never bring their boy back.  He went an a journey that only he and God knows where to.  The church folk talk about the tragedy around the dinner table and their children hear their commentary.  Some say he’s in Hell.  Some say he was deranged and God will have mercy.  Some say it was his parents’ fault because the preacher was too strict or maybe a hypocrite.  Young ears remember these words.  They begin to understand that for others the issue at hand was failure and someone needs to be blamed.  Someone should pay.  This is so wrong; who can make it right?  They are scared, confused and angry.  The seeds are planted, let’s just hope they don’t find fertile soil down in their hearts.

There is a pattern with us that points back to our sin nature: cowardice.  Those parents would never say those words to the family of the deceased, but behind their backs they enjoy free speech.  Have you noticed that no one in their right mind ever really says things unless he or she is joined by others in agreement?  This is why gossip, slander and back-biting are so popular.  Take a look at facebook rants: these are what is in the heart of someone sitting alone behind their keyboard with no one physically present.  The same is true for angry letters-to-the-editor in newspapers.  Why do suicidal people and school shooters post what they intend to do in a dark corner somewhere where no one can stop them?

Cowardice has met anger– extreme anger pent up for years and pushed down by society, the media, the government, religion, science and you-name-it.  A suicidal person has one thing on their mind: this is all I see, therefore that is all there is.  What they see is a darkness: a deep hole that cannot be climbed out of.  Life makes no sense and they get rid of it.  They have believed the ultimate lie: life is worthless.

The rest of the world keeps on going, spinning fear into the hearts of our youth.  The barrage of hate, evil, selfishness, greed and lies, lies, lies comes raining down like arrows in a medieval epic battle through the mouths and keyboards of people who are self-proclaimed experts on life.  Our children try new things to combat this but everything they pick up is tainted with the curse: from their video games to their vegan lives, nothing is protecting them from the vile world we live in.

So we pretend.  Why? We’re cowards too.  We pretend that guns will save us, and we pretend that guns are the problem.  We pretend that politics will save us, and we pretend that politics are the problem.  We pretend that a strong military is the answer, and we pretend that the military is the problem.  We blame drugs, alcohol, race, sex, schools, prisons, religion, food, medicine and everything we can think of except ourselves.  It is always someone else, or something else that is to blame.

But if there we no person around to pick up the gun it wouldn’t have happened.  If there were no person around to find the syringe, find the liquor, prescribe the medicine, none of this would have happened.  Of course not.  How ridiculous.

This young man who took his life may have considered all the options but behaving himself was not one of them.  In his mind the problem surrounded him, but the problem was actually within.  This is an option that few consider: I need to get things straight and own my problems like a man.  I must fix this or else I will hurt the people I love.

Behind all the lies and behind all the trouble are ten simple rules, that hinge on two larger ones: Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.  If you love God you won’t have any other gods in your life (just like a pure marriage); you will keep His Sabbath, you will not blaspheme His name and you won’t make images to worship (like porno, for instance, just in case you think we are too advanced for idol worship).

Then the last six commands are about how to love your neighbor, starting with honor your mother and father; don’t kill your neighbor, don’t lie to your neighbor, don’t steal from your neighbor, don’t covet your neighbor’s things, and keep your eyes and hands off your neighbor’s spouse.  These are meant for me to observe and keep to the best of my ability.  Do I fail? Yes.  But God also tells me why: I am a sinner and sinners fail regularly.  So I must stay in touch with God regularly, repent of dumb things I do and move on to improvement.  Improvement for me, my family, my community, my church, and my Country.

In the meantime we must do our best to help people like this pastor and his wife.  Their whole world has just fallen to pieces.  No one should talk of their failures (we all have them).  No one should try to judge the young man’s eternal destiny (though you may be right about it).  Words are very powerful. Be careful how you use them.  They can heal and they can hurt.  We’re made in the image of God according to the Bible.  God created by speaking.  Jesus rose Lazarus by speaking.  God will judge the world by speaking and only He has the right to do so.  You and I have His Word.  Pay attention to it, revere and obey it. You may be the only Bible some will ever read.

O God how the world needs you today.  Forgive our rejection of You and your ways.  Allow your mercy to fall upon us one more day.  You alone are our only hope.

 

Author: woodtic

Coal Region Pastor in central Pennsylvania. One wonderful wife, five remarkable children and three grandchildren (so far). Mid life, love wood, woodwork, wood tools, traditional archery and things that need to be restored. Always have a dog, pick-up truck, motorcycle and some sort of tractor. Play guitar, pretend to be talented, like to write, but don't care to journal. Quit facebook three times.

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