The recent death by suicide of two celebrities, one a designer and the other a chef, together by the decision by a 104 year old professor to end his life has had the media world buzzing with commentary and expressions of regret and sorrow. In some cases, even anger.
In the United States reported death by suicide became the second highest cause of death in the 15 to 34 year old group and 10th overall in 2016. There were a total of 45000 suicides that year. In Australia there were 3000 in 2017, but that is from a population of 25 million. Why has suicide become such a crisis?
Without minimizing the pain and struggle of those who find life intolerable, or even discussing the ethics of prematurely ending one’s life by choice, I suggest there are two fundamental reasons. The first is that for some, life has no meaning or purpose and the second, there is nothing beyond the grave, no eternal state.
The Gospel answers both of those implied questions.
The highest point of God’s creative act is you. Every human being has been made in His image and carries within them the divine imprint of their creator. In Genesis 1:27 God states that He created male and female in His image. Nothing else in all of creation can make that claim, In fact in Psalm 8 the writer asks in wonder “what is so special about mankind that you not only think about them, but you care for them. In fact you have made them superior to all of creation and given them authority over everything!” (my loose paraphrase!). Back in Genesis he gave further meaning to the life of those he created by telling them to manage the rest of creation, to look after it on His behalf. A job, sadly we have not been particularly good at.
The writer of Psalm 139 states emphatically that God was active in our lives before we drew our first independent breath. So much so that he designed us and put us together exactly the way he wanted to. In Ephesians 2:10 we are told that God had prepared work for us to do even before the world was created. All of life has meaning, no matter how dark and dismal it may seem.
Our life is also valuable. Sadly some people question their worth when they are no longer able to do what they once did, or their relationships fall apart or they lose their job. In fact when any of the many things we use to determine our significance fail us. They may ask, ‘why am I here?’ ‘What’s it all for, why bother?’ What is our value? It may be seen in the affection of others, the contribution to those we have influenced, our place in society, even our success at work or sport or academic achievements. But God puts a much higher standard on your value. Th Cambridge Dictionary states that value is: the importance or worth of something for someone. Your worth to God is measured first of all in the creative activity that made you who you are, but more significantly by the fact that he exchanged the life of His son for yours. He estimates your worth to be that of His son, he was prepared to exchange the life of one for the other.
Your life has meaning, and you are valuable, but you are also unconditionally loved. God loves you so much that he sent His son to die in your place. Now he declares (Romans 8:31-38) that there is absolutely nothing that can separate you from His love, if you have committed to Him in faith. He loves you, he will keep you eternally safe and there is nothing you can do about it!
A number of years ago I conducted the funeral for a 94 year old gentleman. Many years before he had committed murder and served 30 years jail. Now he was in an aged person’s home. At the end of his life on earth he had few friends, was unable to leave his room and lived with his memories. But even there he discovered and received God’s forgiveness and when he died shortly after, he did so with hope and peace. I should add that at the funeral I met a relative who unknown to him, and me, had been praying for him for 30 years!
Victor Frankl was a prisoner during World War II and held in a concentration camp. He was able to discover meaning in the suffering around him and later wrote: “Life retains its meaning under any conditions. It remains meaningful literally up to its last moment, up to one’s last breath.” God has imbued your life with purpose and meaning, he estimates your worth beyond any measure that this world can suggest, and he holds you in the iron grip of His love. You are pretty special!
What of the second issue? Does life continue beyond the grave? The apostle Paul wrote that if we (Christians) live only for this life we are most to be pitied! The writer argued that if there is no God ‘we might as well eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we might die’. Why live a life of commitment and sacrifice if there is nothing else? Why bother? Dostoevsky claimed that without God, everything is permissible. Other philosophers argue that it would be unethical not to pursue personal pleasure, because that is the only meaning to life. To deny your self is not only stupid but morally wrong.
The grave is not the end. Eternal life does not start at the grave either. It begins the moment you and I enter a relationship with God through faith in His son and continues beyond the time that our physical life ends. While we live here we suffer the effects of sin in the world with all of its corruption and suffering, but we wait along with the rest of creation to be set free to obtain the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:27).
You are special. You are created in His image and designed for a purpose. You are the pinnacle of His creative acts, you are of inestimable value and He loves you. You are made for much more than this.
The words of the title of this piece are taken from a song by Mercy Me. Great song, click on the link.