A suicide just happened. Somewhere out there, maybe down the street or across town or in the next state, someone just took his own life. By the time you finish reading this, someone else will be in his final moments. One hundred and thirty-two times today, someone in the U.S. is going to commit suicide.
Someone will hang himself. Someone will shoot himself. Someone will cut himself. Someone will swallow pills or drown or swerve into oncoming traffic and end her own precious life. Each of them will take permanent, irreversible action to solve a temporary problem. Most will do so out of despair.
The pandemic has not helped.
There is a striking moment in the second chapter of Genesis during the Judeo-Christian creation account. The God of the universe has made all things except humanity, then turns to create us. In his image and likeness he makes man.
This man, Adam, the first of us, gets the pleasure of walking with the God of all creation. The first and last will hang out with the man, answer his questions and commune with him. Still, though, God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18)
The God of all things knew it was not good for man to be alone, even though he could have a direct, tactile relationship with God himself. People need people. If only our public health officials and politicians had God’s wisdom.
For two years now, we have isolated ourselves from one another. Families argue amongst themselves over holiday plans and vaccines and masks. All of us are finding excuses to dislike or judge one another and to stay away from each other. We are not meant to be that way.
In our isolation, we have dwelled on the void, the nihilistic age, and the perfection we see on social media — the well-curated lives of others and the frozen smiles that mask the misery, dread and despair of those lives.
I had a friend who had that life. She had a high-end legal job. She drove the fancy car and lived in the fancy house and wore the fancy clothes. She had the cool factor that lit up a room. She drove into a crowded parking lot one day, swallowed pills, and the police found her body a few days later. The veneer of perfection masked the struggles and brokenness inside.
This time of year makes it worse. Our days are shorter and colder and darker. We wake up now before the sunrise and as we set out after work to enjoy time with friends, we head into darkness. Seasonal affective disorder is a real thing. Then there is the pressure of Christmas — financial and mental baggage held together with a desire to please others.
Social media is a great enabler of envy, covetousness, jealousy and depression. Far less acknowledged and more pernicious, social media helps enable our isolation.
We become digital friends with those we really do not know. We shut out real people for digital figments. We are not meant to be alone. We are not meant to commune with our phones. We are to be physically with others to see, smell and feel.
In this darkness and despair, we have hope, though.
A child is coming. He will be born in squalor. Flee for his life. Grow up in wisdom. And die innocent in a shameful, painful way. But he will conquer death because he wants a relationship with you. And you can turn to him and find peace in him. He can dry eyes, mend spirits and comfort the afflicted.
The real Christmas is coming, the one that needs no present because it is the gift. The world brings despair. God brings hope.
If you are broken, cry out to Jesus. In the darkness, there you will find light.
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