A Brand Plucked from the Fire
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. -Matthew 11:28-30
The headlines blared, and all the news networks were frantic with the unbelievable report: “45,000 US citizens killed in biggest terrorist tragedy in human history! You say you missed this? How could you miss it? Did you black out for several days?
45,000 are as many people who live in a whole town; in fact, a small city. Well, those headlines might be almost accurate in reporting this news because nearly 45,000 US citizens took their own lives in 2016. Just in one calendar year – nearly 45,000 suicides in America in just 365 days! Suicide has become the SECOND leading cause of death among those aged 15-34. In fact, there are more than twice as many suicides as there are homicides. In just the last two decades the suicide rate in this country has risen 25%! That is an epidemic of gargantuan proportion!
The recent well-reported suicides of celebrity fashion designer Kate Spade and chef and successful author Anthony Bourdain have served to point out that suicide has infected and impacted all levels of society. And it is not only an American problem. As we were returning on a train from Phan Thiet, Vietnam to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) last March, a Vietnamese person purposefully stepped into the path of our fast-moving train, immediately ending their life. Suicide is a human condition of most every tribe, nation, race, language, and people, but it is a disease which especially affects the successful and prosperous among us who are by no means struggling to put food in their mouths or clothes on their backs.
As culture changes and the merely-surviving-tasks of providing food and lodging take less of our time and finding continuous entertainment more of it, social isolation, lack of connectivity, loneliness, psychiatric needs, epidemic use of prescription drugs, and far less attention to meeting spiritual needs have all skyrocketed in society. This has resulted in a milieu, an environment ripe for unmitigated pain, creating a much greater desire to die than to live. This is a mouthful, but its conclusion is more and more suicides as the answer for what are thought of as insurmountable problems and mind-numbing pain. Satan rejoices in seeing one suicide after another. How can this careening train be slowed down?
If Jesus asked the question in the first century, “When the Son of Man returns will He find faith on the earth? what are we to expect in our day which is ever closer to His return? Is the increasing incidence of suicide due to the ever-greater impact of a fallen world on the current society and the continuous attack of the evil one on the kingdom of God? A kingdom which Satan hates, just as much as he hates the world which his greatest enemy created? The pain which drives most to suicide has an offered antidote if the sick reach out for it in faith. What does faith cost them? Nothing. Faith is free!
Why not take advantage of a free antidote when nothing else has worked? What does finding faith require? It often requires a sympathetic messenger, someone who can transmit the message of peace – transformative peace to a depressed soul, a hurting spirit, an anxious psyche, a heart full of pain. “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light, Jesus promised.
You can be that sympathetic messenger. You who have been loved by Jesus can show the love of Jesus to a hurting soul. But you require the antennae of Jesus to find, to discover, to recognize hurting souls. They can be right beside you or they may need searching out. Your prayer needs to be “point them out to me, Jesus, and make me Your messenger of peace.
Jude encourages you, “Have mercy on those who doubt, save others by plucking them out of the fire! It is surely plucking a brand from the fire when you reach out with compassion to one who is ready to end their life. 45,000 seems like an impossible mountain to climb, but reaching just one is worth all the effort!
“The Shepherd sought his sheep, the Father sought his child; they followed me o’er vale and hill, o’er deserts waste and wild. They found me nigh to death, famished, faint, and lone; they bound me with the bands of love, they saved the wandering one.
(2nd verse of Horatius Bonar’s hymn, “I Was a Wandering Sheep, 1843)
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