Yesterday was Memorial Day in our nation, a day to remember those who gave their lives for the cause of freedom and to ensure our safety. Over the weekend a few of the news programs did stories about the struggles of veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the high number of suicides. The accounts of hopeless struggles that many silently go through were heart breaking. Beyond those who have served our nation in the military, this week I had a pastoral colleague who was preparing for a memorial service for someone who committed suicide. He sorrowfully expressed that this was the fifth such service he had led.
I cannot imagine the immense sense of loneliness and despair that causes a person to be drawn to the decision to end their life. Yet, day in and day out, people are drawn to such a dark place that this seems to be the only relief they can find.
Then we have the response to such a tragedy. Often the response people give to such a loss is one of condemnation. I have been in conversations with folks who talk of the weakness of a person who commits suicide. Given the stories of bravery and courage under fire that were told about some of the veterans that committed suicide, they clearly weren’t weak or filled with some sort of moral defect. In fact many who find themselves in this dark situation are successful and strong.
Where is the church’s ministry in the midst of this social concern? This past Sunday we explored Romans 5:1-5 during worship;
“Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
We looked at the love of God that is being poured into our hearts and how that love fills an emptiness inside us. This place of emptiness is a sacred place. A place that can only truly be filled with the love of God. Emptiness is often a feeling that is expressed by someone contemplating suicide. How is it that the Holy Spirit works to fill the emptiness in peoples hearts and lives?
Paul talks about the sufferings being a way that we are strengthened. His words are wonderful and hope-filled. That is unless you are truly hopeless. I know that somewhere right now someone is being told that God will take their suffering and make it blessing. Tornado victims who lost loved ones and all their possessions will hear good and well-meaning people express this platitude over and over this week in Oklahoma. For those who are suffering, these words which we find to be quite heartening, actually are defeating and deflating to others. Why? These words can be empty if they are not coupled with testimony and action.
As believers in Christ, we have had our hearts filled to overflowing with the love of God by the Spirit. How are we taking that love and sharing it with those who find themselves emptied? I hear a lot of people talk about their fear in sharing their experience of God with friends, family and others. As I hear of those who find themselves in such a place that they have no hope to the extent that they feel that death is the only answer I have to say that the time of excuses is over. We have been given a gift in our lives that is a ever-flowing spring of hope and love. This week I want to remind you of your calling to share that gift. Ours is not a life of hoarding, but is a life that is called to share. Let God’s love flow through you to those who need it the most.
- How have your experienced the hope of God’s love filling you?
- How would you share that reality with someone who is in need of such love?
- Are their people in your life that are experiencing hopelessness?
- Can you share God’s love with those who find themselves in places of hopelessness?