Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Response to Teen Suicide

Yesterday our family received the news that two teenagers had committed suicide here in Rogers, Minnesota. Then today I received an e-mail from a family in our church who knows the family of one of the young men. He and his family were deeply grieved by this, as you can imagine, and after praying for some time here is how I responded (I've edited out some portions of the note). I hope these few words will help you in times of grief, as well.

Dear Brother in Christ,

It’s times like this when our belief in God, and our beliefs about God, are put to the test. And for us who believe so strongly in the sovereignty of God one particular question comes to the fore: how can God be good when he has the power and the right to stop things like this but doesn’t? If I could fully and satisfactorily answer this question I would be the most famous pastor/theologian in history. I do not have a full and satisfying answer to this question, but in times like these here are the things I strive to remember:

1. God is holy to the core of his being, and therefore he is faultless in all he does and all he allows (Lev. 11:44, Is. 6:3, Jam. 1:17, 1 Pet. 1:16, 1 John 1:5, Rev. 4:8).

2. God is good to the core of his being and therefore all he does is good, even if it appears to be evil (Ps. 25:8, 34:8, 100:5, 106:1, 107:1, 118:1, 135:3, Nahum 1:7).

3. God is wise, and though we don’t understand his ways, someday we will see and understand and worship him for every single decision he has made—yes, even those who hate him will acknowledge the infinite superiority of his wisdom in every single decision (Ps. 104:24, Pr. 2:6, 3:19, 21:30, Is. 28:29).

As one of my pastors used to tell me, “You can trust the heart of God when you cannot trace his hand.” You can trust the character of God when you cannot understand what he has done, or what he has allowed. Thus, my counsel to you, brother, is to read every one of these texts with your family and drive them deeply into your soul. Suffering is a kind of key that unlocks the depths of our hearts and it gives us, therefore, an opportunity to drive the truth deeper than we otherwise could. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with grief—in fact, something would be wrong if we did not feel grief. After all, even Jesus wept at the death of Lazurus. But his grief was not a hopeless grief, and if we will allow truth to carry the day neither will our grief be hopeless (1 Thes. 4:13).

Brother, I love you and your family very much, and I hope that my words will be a help and not a hindrance. May the God of all comfort be near you (2 Cor. 1:3-7). Please let me know if there’s anything specific I can do.

With grief and hope in Christ,

Pastor Charlie

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous6:40 PM

    Perhaps this is sound doctrine…I do not know. I have come to the conclusion that in order to know Christ deeply you must suffer. Surely suffering is relative. I am talking about major life changing events. Not fender benders or someone losing their temper with you, an unkind remark, but major events. Children getting sick and watching them nearly die, running a child to the hospital after an attempted suicide, living with a secretly abusive spouse, financial ruin…burying children and siblings when they are young, these are life changing events. I do not know how I could have come to know the Lord in the way I do today if it were not for these events. Do not get me wrong. I am not asking for them…however when they come now I have learned to be still and quiet. It is at these times that I can see God move amongst the stress, I have learned to keep my senses fine tuned and listen well. I would not trade what God has shown and taught me for any of the above. Knowing God is better than any earthly treasure, it is better than life itself. My heart breaks when I see tragedy come to others and to me. I pray that they do not come, but they do. I live in a fallen world how can I expect it to be perfect? This is life this side of heaven; I am not being callous just living life in reality. How I respond in the midst of these trials is what is going to define me and in the brokenness my life becomes life to others. Time does not heal, and the above events take time to sort out. What time does is help us come to know God more deeply if we stay obedient. I want my brother back today, I bear the pain of that in tears that comes sometimes out of nowhere…he has been dead 21 years now. When we come to know God deeply we can say “I know he has a plan and perhaps someday he will share it, but for today I know he loved my brother more than I ever could”, and that is satisfactory to me.