Psalm 39:2 “But when I was silent and still, not even saying anything good, my anguish increased.”
When I was eighteen, I tried to kill myself and ended up in the hospital for three days in order to flush out the overdose of tranquilizers that I had taken. My family and friends were horrified and my parents hadn’t a clue about why it occurred. I remember they felt very guilty as if they were to blame, which was not the case. They didn’t know what to say or how to deal with it. Thankfully, my Aunt Sylvia came to visit me in the hospital and helped me through some of those dark moments. I had felt that my life was worthless and that I was powerless to change anything. I wanted to give up on life and surrender to death. It was a bleak time for me and the specter of suicide almost claimed me.
I was wrong, totally and completely wrong. If I had died when I was eighteen, I would never have found faith in Jesus. If I had given up completely, I would never have known Smithie, my wife, as well as Lynsey and Lauren, my two darling daughters. If I had succumbed to my own despair, I would never have become a pastor in Scotland or America. Forty-two years later, I know that my life has been full of hope and happiness, purpose and meaning that I could not see in front of me at that desperate time.
You see, I had kept silent about what I was feeling inside of me and it almost led to my untimely destruction. If I had talked to someone I could trust – like my Aunt Sylvia – I might have avoided the suicide attempt. If I had asked God to help me through those dark times, I may never have tried to kill myself. Thankfully, within a couple of years, my whole life changed and it’s only by looking back that I see how Christ was carrying me to a better time and a better place in my life.
Recently, our community has been shaken by a sad spate of suicides among our young people. Many of our wonderful High Schoolers have been emotionally impacted by the tragic loss of some of their friends. It feels so unfair, so unreal, and so unnecessary. It also makes all of us feel powerless, defeated, and confused. For me, church became the sanctuary and safe place that I needed to face my fears, listen to my questions, and give me a brand new hope that my empty heart so desperately needed. I still believe the church can do those things for our young people today. Our congregations have to be welcome havens of help and healing, encouragement and support to those who feel lost, lonely, and isolated. We cannot and must not be silent on this issue; we have to walk and talk with our young people who need to be heard; who need to be embraced; and above all, who need to be loved.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, walk with us today and let Your Spirit touch the hearts, minds, and souls of our young people. Be with them in their quiet times and deepest moments of concern. Help those who are emotionally stretched to find a safe space of acceptance, love, and support in our churches. In Your Holy Name, we earnestly pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee.