Hatred and enmity are like agar in a petri dish, but instead of breeding bacteria, they reap a harvest of despair. And this hopelessness exacts a cost. A price that is often paid by the young, the vulnerable, and the impressionable in our society.
Recently, my dear friend’s eighteen-year-old son died. The cause of death: depression. The method: suicide. And then I spoke to my sister, and her friend recently lost a child in much the same way. And yesterday, I talked to yet another friend who was mourning the loss of a sixteen-year-old to suicide—the third child in their high school this year.
The truth is that despair is not a new concept or unique to modern America. And it is also true that every victim of suicide cannot be saved by the choices that we make.
But what if you could save one?
What we say and do impacts our environment. Like spores, our words and actions can perpetuate a plague of ill will, or like seeds, they can cultivate hope.
God warns us of the incredible power that resides in each of us to harm or to nurture the human spirit. Through His people, He implores us again and again to understand that the way we treat one another is of utmost importance … and He takes it personally. (Matthew25:40)
“…Be at peace with each other…” (Mark 9:50)
“…Love one another…” (John 13:34)
“Live in harmony with one another…” (Romans 12:16)
“…Stop passing judgment on one another…” (Romans 14:13)
“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you…” (Romans 15:17)
“If you keep on biting and devouring each other…you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15)
“Carry each other’s burdens…” (Galatians 6:2)
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)
“…In humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
“…Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” (Colossians 3:13)
“…Make your love increase and overflow for each other.” (I Thessalonians 3:12)
Love. Peace. Acceptance. Submission. Humility. Forgiveness. What if these were the seeds we sowed freely into our homes, our schools, our online communities? What if we chose to be bastions of hope rather than harbingers of fear, or anxiety, or anger? What if the vulnerable among us saw life, and light, and possibility as the fruit of our lives?
I’m of the opinion that we should treat others as if they are “at risk.”
At risk of feeling unlovable.
At risk of being marginalized.
At risk of suffering a mental crisis.
At risk of being overwhelmed.
At risk of mistreatment.
Because—in a very real sense—we are all in danger of suffering the everyday wounds of life. And sometimes these wounds prove fatal.
Eighteen-year-old Connor didn’t end up on a bridge with a gun, contemplating the end of his life because he was unloved. On the contrary, his vigilant parents did everything they were supposed to—recognized the signs, sought treatment, and poured out unconditional love. Sometimes, even our most helpful words and our best love aren’t enough to overcome the damage of living in a fallen world.
But some of Connor’s final thoughts hint at the hope that it’s possible for us to make a difference for someone:
“…If I was to say one thing it would be the following: aim to try to treasure everyone you meet in your life. If everyone accepted each other with open arms and loved one another this would be a much much much better place. Work to make others’ lives better.”
But what if you could save one?
I’m willing to serve a little more selflessly, to love a little more freely, and to speak a little more kindly to find out.
How about you?
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, contact CityCare Counseling’s confidential suicide hotline at 1-800-448-3000 or dial 911 in case of emergencies.
If we belong to Christ, God has made us His ambassadors—His representatives in a hurting and sin-ravaged world. We are to speak life, hope, truth, and love. Through us, God longs to shine His light into the darkness. This is a life-saving, life-giving mission. Will you accept it?