We live in a broken world. This Sunday, I preached on this very subject. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “they prefer death to life” (Jeremiah 8:3). The signs of brokenness are all around us – broken families, child abuse, substance abuse, unwanted teen pregnancies…the sad part is that these (and the more) have just become a part of accepted society. People are hurting and the creation is groaning.
I am extremely hesitant to use this as an example because of the hurt in our city, and yet nothing shows the brokenness more than a recent rash of teen suicides in our local community. Our students are hurting…
Here’s the unfortunate problem…in the wake of all this brokenness, there has been a two-fold response. First, the school was blamed. Second, everyone started asking how do we stop suicide. (Before you draw a conclusion…keep reading.)
You may read the above, specifically the second response and ask, “how can people asking how to stop suicide be a problem? Do you want more suicides?!” OBVIOUSLY NOT! My heart is overwhelmed with sorrow for these little lives and the family and friends are left behind. My contention is that it is the wrong question…
Illustration – About twelve years ago, I woke up one morning with a terrible rash. It was a pretty weird deal…I hadn’t been hunting in the woods (no poison ivy), I hadn’t changed my diet, my wife had not changed detergents, and we had made no changes in our home. We had pets…but I had always had pets. I have no known allergies…what could be the problem? First thing I did was go buy some Benadryl…nothing changed. Second thing I decided to try was waiting it out. As each day passed, the rash grew worse. Finally, after two weeks I was worn out with Kellie telling me to go to the doctor…and this was our first year of marriage…and so I set up an appointment and headed in. I introduced myself to the doctor, he looked at my arm, asked me the preliminary questions, and then proceeded to scold me for not coming in quicker. I explained I had it all under control and that I had been treating the rash. He said, “THAT’S THE PROBLEM! YOU DON’T HAVE A RASH!”
How do these guys get out of medical school?! I’m not a doctor…I did stay at a Holiday Inn once…but even I could tell I had a rash. After debating my options for changing doctors, I asked him to explain. It turns out that while I was treating a rash, my problem was deeper than that – I had strep throat. I had no fever and no sore throat…how’s that possible? He explained to me that some people don’t experience the same symptoms. Further, he explained that I could continue to treat the rash until Jesus comes back and it wasn’t going anywhere…because the rash was only a symptom of the deeper problem – an infection that needed to be cured.
With all the love in my heart…suicide is not the problem – IT IS THE SYMPTOM OF THE PROBLEM.
As religious people, we have too often treated symptoms instead of the root cause. What happens next is predictable – people find us cold and calloused, they think we don’t care. Further, we aren’t helping to bring healing…we just keep fighting a symptom when we need to dig deeper – the heart must be touched by the gospel of grace in Christ Jesus.
When we ask, “How do I prevent suicides?”, we are asking the wrong question. Suicide is the symptom…we need to dig deeper – we need to move to the heart. The question we should ask is “WHAT DRIVES MEN, WOMEN, OR CHILDREN TO SUCH DESPAIR IN THE FIRST PLACE?”
If we can solve what has driven men, women, and children to despair in the first place…we end a culture that (in the words of the prophet) “prefers death to life.”
Over the next several weeks and months people will offer every solution – more mental health programs, dollars, religious activity, motivational speakers, etc. None of these things are bad…in fact, they are certainly appropriate. But unless we dig deeper…until we get to the root cause, we will be dealing with rashes in an infected society for the rest of our lives.
The stakes are too high and the cost to much to get this wrong. The Church must awaken from our slumber. We must:
- Intercede on behalf of our community.
- Bring the gospel to the lost and hurting.
- Offer community service.
- Listen more than we speak.
- And be a voice for the voiceless.
Like the weeping prophet, we must be broken for what sin has destroyed in our community and society. We must not lash out in anger. We must choose our words carefully. MOST IMPORTANTLY, WE MUST BRING THEM TO THE PHYSICIAN (Jeremiah 8:22).
I look forward to working with our community to bring healing. From my heart to yours – let’s ask the right question, fight the disease instead of the symptom, and provide a better tomorrow for our posterity.
Held by Grace, Pastor Chris