What the reported  suicide of nine year old Jamel Myles Suicide in the news this week [https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-us-canada-45343337/us-mum-s-anguish-over-son-s-suicide] highlights most poignantly is the sobering reality that suicide is being resorted to by younger and younger age groups. One can only imagine the acute grief felt by his family, friends and all the loved ones left behind. As one mother, whose daughter took her own life at the tender age of 22,  decried –“the reality of suicide is that all it does is transfer the pain to someone else…My daughter is out of her pain – which was probably temporary but myself, her brother and her nan are now in absolutely incredible mental anguish that will last until the day we die.” [http://www.worcesternews.co.uk/news/16595360.mums-plea-to-euthanasia-man-after-hell-of-daughters-suicide/]

Suicide is now viewed by many as a legitimate means of escape from problems. Although life was not meant to be easy, we can rest assured that it was meant to be rewarding and fulfilling. So, it stands to reason that the degree to which we overcome its obstacles, is the degree to which we will experience fulfilment. But how do we develop in ourselves and our children from an early age,  the backbone to cope with life’s vicissitudes, tragedies and heartaches?

Each human being, provided he or she lives long enough, will eventually witness and experience these elements of being human – that life can be wearisome, lonesome and disappointing. We must teach them to accept these as ‘givens’, but also recognise that these make up some threads but not the whole garment. Without this acceptance, we fall prey to escapism, and end up retreating from reality instead of confronting it and dealing with it.

We humans are so skilled at avoiding trouble that we have developed diverse ways of doing so, from hypochondria to avoiding responsibilities, drowning our fears in drugs or alcohol, to escaping through mind-numbing entertainment and the fantasy world of television, films and make-believe. We’re so afraid of trouble that we imagine it when it’s not there, or so blow it out of proportion as to end up in hospital with hypertension, ulcers or cardiac arrest. Ironically, we are very good at bringing trouble on ourselves even though it is the very thing we are seeking so desperately to avoid.

When young people are told that the sky is the limit or they can be anything they want to be, this sets them up for unrealistic expectations of life. We may think we are doing them a favour by being positive or bolstering their confidence. What they need most to hear is that:

  • “life won’t always be easy but each time you overcome something, you become a bit stronger and less fearful.”
  • “that which doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”
  • “people can do things to us on the outside, but we get to decide the person we will be on the inside.”

Nevertheless, it remains an indisputable fact that most human beings, when they see trouble coming, head in the opposite direction. That would seem the most sensible thing to do. Yet, trouble is not just an inevitable aspect of living, it is a constant. If we spent our whole lives running away from life, what quality of life would we have? It is unrealistic to expect to be happy all the time. There are those who attempt to achieve this state artificially but this can only yield a temporary high. If we hold these false expectations, then we set ourselves up for constant disillusionment. The slightest failed expectation, for example, could tip us over the edge to a state of melancholy or a death wish.

But God is so unperturbed by trouble that He went ahead with creating humankind even though He foresaw their rebellion and the need for a painstaking and bloody salvage operation by way of Jesus Christ’s atonement on the cross for the sins of humanity. And whether atheist or humanist, we cannot deny the unsavoury truth that all have made mistakes and human nature is capable of the worst of evils. Try, as we might, we veer unto the selfish path sooner or later; in fact, most live quite happily on that path, seeking their own selfish ends.

As recorded in the Old Testament, Job asked the ultimate existential question –

“Why is light given to him who is in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, who long for death but it does not come…?”

I often think that if I were in God’s shoes, I would surely have shelved plan A – the creation of humankind, and proceeded with plan B – computerised puppets; or better yet, I could have the angels stage plays from time to time where they could pretend to be human, and so when the drama got too dicey, God could issue a curtain call and normal, trouble-free life would resume as normal. But, thankfully, I’m not God.

Perhaps, trouble is a tool God allows, for a higher purpose. Perhaps, if there were no trouble, we would not seek God and yearn for a perfect world? Perhaps, that is the purpose of each life – to pursue and accomplish something which will make the world a bit more like the place it was always supposed to be. Perhaps, we must pay a huge price, just as God paid a huge price, before the perfect world He intended, can be restored. Perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, trouble was never meant to defeat us but define us.

Carla Cornelius

Dr Carla seeks to bring a fresh and thought-provoking perspective to today's popular culture. With her Ph.D. in Biblical Counselling, she invites readers to see the relevance of the Bible in addressing the difficult and disturbing issues of our times.