by Bethany Kaczmarek
Such a tragic end.
And the effects can’t be measured.
This month, I walked through the shock and pain of this kind of loss with my fourteen-year-old. One of his teammates took his own life.
No note. No discernable reason. No clue that the boy had been in any kind of pain.
I guess that’s why the shock hit hardest at first. See, there are some people we know are struggling. They drift at the edges of the crowd, avoiding eye contact. Or they live loud and desperate–a cry for help obvious to those who take the time to SEE.
But there are also people around us who never give a hint that they’re struggling.
They’ve mastered their façade so well, others can only admire. Look to them for encouragement. Advice. Hope.
So when THOSE people fall, the rest of us drop to our knees in stunned silence, searching for breath. We ask ourselves how we missed their need.
How could we not have seen pain that ran so deep it caused that kind of desperation?
Could we have done anything to prevent it? Could we have reached out? Could we have helped?
We might even ask ourselves, if it could happen to them, could we ever go there ourselves?
Those of us left behind after the loss of my son’s friend wrestled with those questions.
I held my son as he cried and wrestled with his brokenness and confusion.
We sat in a room full of sobbing, stymied teens who wrestled with sudden, senseless loss.
And I wrestled with how to help, how to support, how to pray.
I had no answers but this: satisfying answers aren’t guaranteed.
And I wondered if that’s how the young man felt in his own most desperate moments. Needful for answers.
I learned by listening.
My son whispered this to me after a week and a half of grieving and mulling it over in his head and heart: “He always made the person he talked to feel like they were more important than anyone else. He always made us smile–encouraged us. So I think I get it. I wonder if he spent so much time being about others and helping others that when he needed someone, he didn’t know who to ask. But he knew Jesus would get it. Jesus could fix him–could take his pain.”
I stumbled over that one. He was right, but it terrified me. Jesus wants us to long for the day when things will be set right–when there will be no more pain. But–in His perfect wisdom–He allows pain now. I’ve always done my best to help my kids understand the need for an eternal perspective. But a fear that my son understood TOO well swallowed me for a moment.
And again, I wondered if that’s how the young man felt. Engulfed in fear.
Here’s what I heard the Lord reminding my heart:
Don’t assume anything about people. We cannot see into the deepest parts of anyone’s soul. We can’t know every burden they bear–even if we ask.
But we should still ask. We should never chalk someone up to Class Clown or Kid-Who-Has-It-All-Together.
We should share. Façades don’t do any of us much good. Those of us who follow Christ can expect pain, suffering, and persecution. But we’re part of a body. We’re not alone, and we don’t have to suffer in lonely silence. We can bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).
We’re not promised an end to pain in this lifetime. But we ARE promised an end to pain if we belong to Christ. We all hurt. We all suffer. There are moments of insurmountable obstacles, impossible pain. But it’s not permanent. Earthly pain–physical, emotional, mental, no matter how severe–is only temporary. In the scheme of things, Paul said our affliction is nothing compared with the eternal weight of glory being produced in us (2 Corinthians 4:17).
We should hold on–to Christ, to one another–and wait expectantly. Our pain will pass. Eventually. Press in.
And in the meantime, we should walk through this world mindful of the fact that others matter. How we live, how we relate, how we care, how we listen, how we serve, how we pray, how we cry out when we’re hurting–that’s all important.
Pain is real. Deep, scarring pain. Heavy, take-your-breath-away pain. Desperate pain.
But Jesus is real, too. He doesn’t promise to make life easy, but He does promise that He’ll never leave or forsake His people. And His shoulders can handle our doubts, fears, and pains.
I know this because of the way He suffered FOR us.
And for now, that’s something we can hold on to. Let’s point others in His direction, too.