He sat down under a broom tree and prayed that he might die. He said, “I have had enough! Lord, take my life, for I’m no better than my ancestors.”
1 Kings 19:4
Why was I not stillborn; why didn’t I die as I came from the womb?
Today, I dropped my sixth-grade son off at school and picked him up. Like most days, he endured school and came home. The greatest stressor in his life right now is a lost Chromebook charger. However, that is not true for a sixth grader in Perry, Iowa. As I approach this blog, I want you to know that I am doing it with a heavy heart and many questions about why people can't see the real issue.
I have been wrestling with what to write all day. I have seen people claim that God either doesn't exist or that He doesn't answer prayers. I have seen politicians immediately use the situation to call for gun reform. And yet, the true pandemic isn't physical. It's not a gun. It's not a violent video game. Heck, it's not even the social media that gives the platform for momentary "glory." The pandemic is hopelessness.
As I tried to process why someone would take the life of a sixth-grade child and injure others, I finally found the answer. Two people who knew the shooter spoke of the bullying that the shooter and now, his younger sister have endured. Making matters worse, supposedly, the shooter and his family had spoken to the school about the bullying that had and was taking place. Yet, it fell on deaf ears.
From our point of view, it is easy to criminalize the actions that took place today. Honestly, no amount of pain will ever justify taking the life of someone else. However, I also want us to see that this young man hurt for far too long. He hurt so badly that he felt the only way he would be heard was to hurt those who had hurt him. I can't help but think this event was his attempt to try to keep his sister from having to experience the same hopelessness he wrestled with.
This isn't an isolated condition. I can't help but think about my battle with hopelessness. The feeling that people only care about themselves. The feeling that people who don't even know me hold unfair opinions of me. The feeling of being overlooked because I am not always politically correct or willing to be a puppet for those who think they are superior to me. The feeling of trying my best and knowing that people will minimize my accomplishments and exploit my mistakes.
Truthfully, the battle with hopelessness is always a battle against lies we tell ourselves. Look at the lives of Job and Elijah. Both of them endure tremendous trials that leave them wishing they were no longer alive. These two juggernauts of faith are struggling with suicidal thoughts. In their moment of hopelessness, they are completely blinded by the reality that the situation is not as bad as they think.
However, Job realizes that God is the Creator of all things and that even though he may not always know why things are happening, he can trust God is always at work. For Elijah, he is shown that there are still some who believe in the mission that he was fighting for. These men had to endure excruciatingly painful life situations to gain a deeper insight into the truth. Through their suffering, they recognize a greater need for God and a home that isn't tarnished by sin.
I wish that young man would have woken up this morning and said, "I am going to spend the rest of my life being a light for someone because I know what it feels like to be trapped in darkness." But I also wonder who was trying to be light in his life.
I wish those people bullying the shooter would have been able to recognize the pain they were causing. But I wonder if they even recognize their role in this situation.
I wish the school administration would have taken this situation seriously. However, I work in schools and know the ongoing struggle we face.
More than anything, I wish hopelessness wasn't a thing. I wish we could see the problems of our lives from God's eyes.
If you are reading this and struggling with hopelessness, reach out to someone. Life is never as bad as it seems in the valleys. Life is never worth getting to the point where you feel there is nothing left to live for. God knows your pain, and he grieves with you. He knows rejection. He knows betrayal. He knows suffering.
The pain never justifies the evil and we can't change what happened. But we can change moving forward. There are people living their lives wondering if there is anything worth living for. Are we going to look for them and be the person that leads them to the Light? Or are we going to keep doing this same song and dance?
The choice is ours.