"Death gotta be easy 'cause life is hard." This line was uttered by 50 cent in his song, "Many Men." There are a lot of people in the world who have never heard this song, but would whole hearterdly agree with 50's premise. Look no farther than the December issue of Men's Health magazine. With a collection of readers who wouldn't hesitate to drop Bobby McFarren's name in a "greatest rapper ever debate", it's safe to say that 50's line wasn't the influence in the December 2008's article on male suicide. Regardless of inspiration, some of the figures are no less than alarming. The fact that the Golden Gate Bridge averages a jumper every other week since its construction in 1937 speaks volumes to the fact that there are alot of us who aren't handling our stresses well. Factor in addictions to alcohol, sex, pain killers, illegal drugs, and various other vices, and it furthers the fact that many of us have problems dealing with adverse conditions.
Even as I type this, I'm not immune to life's stresses. Like most other people, I have my frustrations with work, home, and everything in between. Hardships are a part of life. Stresses have a way of creating anxiety and the bible acknowledges that anxiety leads to depression. So if life comes with stress, and stress comes with anxiety, and anxiety leads to depression, how do we avoid becoming one of the Golden Gate Bridge's bi-weekly statistics? How do we deal with an overbearing boss who is quick to scold, but slow to give instruction? How do we cope at the funeral of a family member; a parent; a spouse; a child? Is the answer in a concoction of "happy drugs" and drunken stupors? How about simply going numb to cope?
The Men's Health article lists 7 steps of male suicide. I think the answer to dealing with life's stresses is actually found in the 7th step. The article lists the last step before suicide as a positive attitude change. The reason behind this is that the person contemplating suicide has found peace in a decision to terminate his life. In his thinking, he has regained power over the situation by deciding that it will end. It's similar to when a person gets frustrated with a video game. While a person may get frustrated with an inability to "win", he can avoid the shame of losing because he controls the power switch. The essence of step 7 is finding comfort in turning weakness into strength.
The Bible has given us a way to do just that without pulling our own plug. In 2 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul talks about a battle he has inside of himself due to attacks from the enemy. He is constantly wrestling with this "Thorn in the flesh", and pleads with God to remove this thorn from him. In another passage we see Paul describe the dichotomy in the pleasure of sin. He explains that he finds himself doing things that are not in his will to do, and not doing the things that are in his will to do. What we see is Paul painting a picture of himself trying but not achieving to live the life he wants for the Lord. In response to Paul's pleas to have the evil removed from his life that he feels is a hindrance to his mission to serve the Lord, the Lord says two things.
The first thing the Lord says is, "My grace is sufficient." This is very important to understand. The bible says that each one of us has been given a measure of Grace. What God is telling Paul is that we are prone to stumble even when we walk on the right path. As much as we may desire to be perfect, we can't. God understood that a long time ago, and gave each of us a measure of grace for those times that we fall short. Plainly put, God doesn't expect perfection from us. He's already measured out because we don't always measure up. Don't take this as permission to live buck wild, but understand that we are imperfect. We are corruptible. If God was angry enough at us to end our lives, then he would. At the same time, we have no reason not to work through our own errors. God has already assured us that his grace is sufficient for us to get through.
The second thing the Lord says is that His strength is made perfect in weakness. Think about that for a second. The more our weakness, the more God's strength will shine through. The bible tells us the weakness of God is stronger than the strength of man. This is saying that if there was any weakness to God, His weakness is stronger than the strength of mankind. Reading that passage makes me think of arm wrestling my children. I let them use both hands, and I use my left, but I beat them with no effort.
What God is telling us is that when we are weak, it is then that we are really at our strongest. When we reach the end of our own abilities and capabilities is when we become fueled with his divine strength. That's the strength to be victorious; the strength to be more than a conqueror, not just the ability to pull the plug. The irony in finding strength in suicide is that God still has the power over life and death. The Men's Health article starts off with the story of John Kevin Hines, one of the 28 people to survive a fall from the Golden Gate Bridge. He jumped to take power over his life. In the four seconds between jump and impact he changed his mind, but was powerless to back out of his decision. It was at that point where he finally found the true source of power requesting, "Oh God, Please save me." The Peace in the 7th step of suicide is an illusion. It makes the victim think he is back in control. True Peace can be obtained by understanding that God is in control. He is no less in control when we are being tested than he is when we are being blessed.
We can always find peace in the storm when we take the time to understand that God's in control. Sometimes the easiest task becomes the most difficult thing to do. In Psalms 46:10 God tells us to do two things in the midst of trouble. The first is simple, yet incredibly difficult. He tells us to be still. In the midst of storms, tests, trials, and misfortunes he tells us simply to be still. This is very much against our natural tendencies. Fidgeting when we are uncomfortable is so natural that we do it in our sleep. It's subconscious. Our body typically responds to stress in one of two ways. In school we learned about the fight or flight response. In this passage however, God doesn't tell us to fight or run, he simply says be still. Be still, and know He is God. Be still and let him handle it, because he will get the glory.
As Christians, we yearn to be with Lord in His glory. The bible speaks of our corruptible transforming to incorruptible. While we yearn for that day, we have work to do at the appointed time. We have to understand that we are ambassadors for Christ. God shows his power through us. He shows his strength through our weakness. He is our comfort in times of trouble. He is our guide when we are lost. He doesn't hurt us needlessly, but sets us up to be a spectacle of his power. When God shows his power to the world through us, he is using us to bring more people to him. He's collecting a return on his investment in us. Yes, God has invested enough in us to get us through the impossible. He will handle it all, because He is God. All we've got to do to get his power, is be still and know he is God.