For the past month we’ve been looking at people in the bible that were so depressed, stressed or angry that they wanted to die. Sadly, such despairing thoughts are still prevalent. I just read this week that three Navy sailors on the USS George H. W. Bush took their own lives in separate unrelated incidents.
Here's what we’ve seen.
Bitterness - Jonah had so much anger towards the Assyrians that he said he’d rather die than share God’s forgiveness with them.
Burnout - Moses wanted to die because he was assuming unrealistic amount of responsibility and expectations and couldn’t delegate.
Depression - Elijah wanted to die because he lost his perspective and focused only on the defeats and threats, forgetting all God had done.
Pain/Loss - Job had experienced so much pain, loss and despair that he said ““Why did I not die at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?” (3:11).
Let’s face it - life is difficult. Whether it’s anger and bitterness, burnout, depression or pain and loss, we all have, and we all will face difficulty. Jesus warned us about trials, trouble and suffering; “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering, but take courage – I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).
But the real problem comes when, rather than expecting difficulty, we expect comfort. When we adopt our cultural premise that comfort is king, we become confused. We no longer have a framework through which we can correctly understand and interpret suffering.
If comfort is primary, why does God allow such suffering? If God is all knowing, and he knew my mother would die of cancer, or a family member would be killed in a car accident, why would he allow that? Here’s an erroneous, but common, thought process through the comfort lens: If God knew this tragedy was going to happen, and didn’t do anything to prevent it, I’m not sure I can follow a God like that (or they’ll say that God doesn’t know the future). Such reasoning reveals that they have bought into the Comfort over Kingdom mentality.
Paul demonstrates another way to approach life, even though his life was far from comfortable.
Paul had a rough life – in his ministry he was beaten three times with rods, stoned, shipwrecked and adrift in the ocean, in danger from rivers, robbers, the Jews, Gentiles, in danger in the city, in the wilderness, from false teachers, experienced hunger, thirst, cold and exposure (1 Cor. 11:5).
Yet listen to his perspective:
Phil. 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.
Paul did not wish to die because of anger, burnout, depression or pain and loss. He loved Jesus so much that he seriously thought it an advantage if/when death comes that he is with Jesus, yet he loved the people in Philippi so much he was willing to remain, even through that might mean more suffering, as he invested in God’s kingdom.
Kingdom vs Comfort.
After you decide what to do with Jesus, the most important question you can answer is: Will you live for your comfort or God’s kingdom? Here’s what I know: Living for your comfort guarantees confusion in the face of suffering, and living for God’s kingdom guarantees suffering, and the possibility of viewing it through an eternal lens of significance and gratitude. Jesus has overcome the world and through Him we can have peace in the midst of the storm. Stay close to Him.
Enjoy Walking with the Savior Today,