Posts Tagged ‘suicide prevention’

Tonight was one of those nights when I have to pinch myself and say, “I can’t believe what I get to do.” I painted and preached a message on forgiveness. I claim no credit for it. God gave it to me, and I am grateful and I saw fruit from it. I’ll leave it at that. I am so blessed. I get to travel, serve a great church, paint pictures and tell people about Jesus. On the homefront, I have a wonderful wife, two great sons, a wonderful daughter-in-law and a grandson that just fills my heart with joy. I have a slew of great brothers in law and sisters in law. I have a lot of great friends, awesome opportunities. In short I am extremely blessed.

And I almost missed it all.

You see when I was 22 years old, I was at the end of my rope. If I wasn’t an alcoholic, I was extremely close and I was on a self destructive spiral that was about to end badly. I thought about ending my life many times and I tried at least once. That was the first time I remember crying out to God for help. I am here because he helped me. I call what I live now, the bonus life. You see there are other people in my life who are very important to me, my parents, my brother and sister, cousins, and aunts and uncles and other friends that I failed to mention. This doesn’t indicate their lack of importance, it’s just they were in my life before that day, the day it all almost ended. All the people in the paragraph above would have never even been in my life, had it ended that day. All the amazing opportunities I’ve had since then never would have happened, and anyone I’ve been blessed to help in the last 33 years would not have been helped (at least not by me). All these people and all these things are part of the bonus life and I am forever grateful.

Why do I share this? Because suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. When I think of all I might have missed, I shudder. Friend, if you’re in a dark place today, you need to know, it gets better. Give it to God and trust in Him.

The bonus life is so worth it!

Before I go any further, you should probably know that as the son of a Vietnam era soldier, I’ve never been a fan of anything that involves marching and carrying signs. That being said, I will acknowledge that great good was done in the civil rights movement and a few other things and will concede that some marches have value. As I watched the news this morning at the gym, i saw students from a Philadelphia area school wearing T-shirts that said “ENOUGH.” on them for the nationwide demonstration being held today. I found this amusing since that is the title of my latest book. I’m not sure how I feel about this protest, but I do understand the heart behind it and wish these young folks well. No one should be afraid to go to school.

But I think that just might be my problem. Every time a school shooting occurs, the response is predictable. The media and a whole slew of politicians will once again go after the second amendment and the NRA. I guess I am always a little skeptical when politicians go after the second amendment since the second amendment was given largely to protect us from politicians. That being said, if they could promise me there’d never be another school shooting, I might still get on board. No one should be afraid to go to school.

But now that the protest is over, I need to tell all my young friends something. There are hundreds, no thousands, no tens of thousands of your peers, your classmates who are afraid to go to school every day, and if all the guns were melted into a statue of (fill in your favorite celebrity here) tomorrow, they would still be afraid. See they’re not afraid of guns, so much as they’re afraid of you. Okay maybe not you personally, but of the peer that is abusing them day after day after day. They’re terrified and they feel like no one cares. They need a friend and they need one badly. They need someone to care. They need you. The question was will you say “ENOUGH.” for them? Will you stand up for them? Will you break the cycle?

Did you ever notice that almost every single one of these shooters was bullied brutally before they did what they did? No I’m not saying they were right to do what they did, and I will never even attempt to justify their actions, but I will ask a question? Could have any of these situations been any different if someone showed them they cared? Of course, most bullied kids will not take this kind of action. Most don’t want to hurt anyone, they just want it to end, and while tragedies like Parkland are a national tragedy, about 14 teens in America every single day die by their own hands, because they just want the bullying to end. Someone needs to show them they care and if we do, it will turn the tide in ways the legislation you hope to see this day, cannot hope to come close to. If you want to make a real difference, it starts by being really different. If you really want to save lives, be a friend to the friendless. I take this a little personally because I was one of these people.

No one should be afraid to go to school. #sharehope

purposeinthepainToday I am a very happy person, but it wasn’t always that way. I can be the typical melancholy artist if I’m not careful and there was a time where it was much worse. In my late teens and early 20s I was so depressed that I often became suicidal (a pretty bad drinking problem didn’t help this) as a matter of fact it was in the midst of an attempt that I cried out to God and He began the work of turning me around. Why do I tell you this? Well first of all because I can. I’m still here. I think of all the things that happened since that day. Every single day since that day has been a bonus. My wedding, my sons, the birth of my grandson, my call to ministry, hundreds of opportunities to preach and paint and a million significant moments. All of those would have been missed if I had gone through with it and all of them are a blessing because I didn’t.

Secondly, I just have to say it. If you’re in a dark place today, you need to know something. It gets better. The worst day of your life is just that, the worst day. From there, it gets better. If you’re in a tough time, you need to know, it will turn around. You will make it through this and there will be a time when you will be on the other side. You’ll be a little stronger, a little more experienced and a little more able to help someone else through their darkest day. By the way, that is the quickest way through depression, to take your focus off yourself and apply your energy to helping someone else. I am not saying there is not a clinical element to depression and you may need professional help, but one of the real dangers in depression is you can internalize everything and become withdrawn looking at everything only has to how it effects you. No wonder we get depressed, we feel like the world is against us. Helping someone else actually gives us something to focus on beyond our own situation. Finding this, radically changed me.

For people of faith, it’s even better, because we have a hope beyond this life and help in this life in the form of a God who cares for us, loves us deeply and is always good, sometimes in spite of our circumstances. On a dark day we can look at God and His goodness and realize there is a purpose to what we’re going through. We believers can claim the promise that “in ALL things God works for the good of the who love Him and have been called according to His purpose.” In everything, God can and will work for our good. Trust Him.

The third thing that inspired me to share this was over the weekend, I was asked to speak and paint at a suicide prevention event. I am so excited to do this, because I am a living testimony to God’s goodness. Beyond that, every time I get to help someone who is in a dark place, every time I get the call to speak to someone who is where I was, I think back to that dark day, I realize once again how good God is. It doesn’t lessen what I went through, but it helps me to find…

The purpose in the pain.

Think about it, the very fact that I went through that hard, dark time, qualifies me to speak of the God who brought me through. I am seeing the verse lived out in my life. He is at work in your life too. There is a purpose in your pain. Push through with God and one day you just might see it all come to pass, and when you do, it’s awesome!

God is good. Trust Him. This will work for good.